In Sweden on October 6th, a motion was filed with Parliament calling for the abolishment of the monarchy. While these motions are certainly not new, the latest is significant in that for the first time in modern history, a joint motion across party lines was filed.
The justification for the motion stated in part that, “We in Sweden have long fought for equality and it has created a society in which success is based on the individual merits rather than on the privileges and kinship… The monarchy is incompatible with democracy, equality and civil rights. We believe that the right to represent Sweden not to be inherited. It can only be given through democratic processes…”
Monarchies in today’s society are like park statues, they are reminders of historical figures, serve no real practical purpose beyond the decorative, some people enjoy them, some people think they’re a waste of money, some don’t even notice them but they tend to get crapped on a lot.
It’s always struck me as odd that Sweden still has a monarchy, as a society Sweden is evolved in ways I greatly admire but still maintains its rich cultural charm.
As Sweden’s official website notes, “Staunchly opposed to privilege, Sweden has always sought to avoid ranking people which is why beauty contests and ‘homecoming queen’ events are rare.” No homecoming queens, but taxpayers are still expected to fund the privileged existences of actual kings and queens? The member of the Swedish Royal Family who best represents Sweden’s societal beliefs is British American Chris O’Neill who refused a title.
The king is a ceremonial figure but he does still have influence and the power of course to get millions from Swedish citizens for the weddings of two of his children who aren’t in the direct line of succession, cost he could easily cover from his own personal fortune, estimated to be around the $50 million mark. As a representative of Sweden, King Carl Gustaf’s views on women are unsettling. He objected to changing the rules of succession to absolute primogeniture in 1980, stating, “I would prefer that my son Carl Philip be my successor, and I’m sure the majority of the Swedish people would prefer to have a king on the throne.” And in 2003 when asked if he still thought the succession change was wrong, he responded, “Of course.” But the reason offered in 2003 had to do with the succession change being retroactive, his son was seven months old when the throne went back to his first born, Victoria. The statement still raised enough eyebrows that the following day the court had to release a statement that the king thinks Crown Princess Victoria is doing a fine job. Commenting on the king’s sex scandal, Katrine Kielos noted in an Aftonbladet article, “Women were simply desserts, used as sweets to be served with the coffee.” When all three of his children married, the bride was given away by her father, a sexist tradition not observed in Sweden because it represents a property exchange. One of the latest additions to the Swedish Royal Family is the anti-feminism figure Miss Slitz 2004 whose work history promotes a view of women as sex objects elevated to the status Her Royal Highness Princess Sofia. Members of the Royal Family are official representatives of Sweden and yet nothing about the Swedish monarchy reflects the egalitarian beliefs and progressive views of Sweden.
As noted on the website for The Swedish Republican Association, the monarch’s powers extend being duties as head of state outlined in the 1974 Instrument of Government. “By making statements in political questions he or she influences the debate through his or her unique position without having to take political responsibility. Due to the massive medial attention they receive, the royal family has a decisive influence on the public opinion.” Some of Sweden’s citizens are afraid to openly criticize the Royal Family, believing harm will come to them or their families. In a 2010 Svenskdam article on Carl Philip’s relationship with Sofia Hellqvist, one commenter responded to another’s urging that Svenskdam readers complain to the Court about Sofia’s unsuitability with the comment:
Similar fears have been expressed to me by Swedish citizens, who are also frustrated by the influence the Swedish Royal Family seems to have over the media.
I’m beginning to understand why some people feel paranoid about criticizing members of the Swedish Royal Family. While working on this post, my apartment was buzzed by a man in a baseball cap standing with his back to the door so I couldn’t see his face and shortly after when I got thrown off my Wi-Fi, this came up under diagnostics where I expected to see my own network:
Likely an eery coincidence, but my mind began to wonder if Sofia is aware of my blog and has figured out the identity of the anonymous source to which I’ve eluded in some posts. Although, really, due to Sofia’s lack of discretion, there’s little I could add about her character that wasn’t summed up in this Svenskdam comment five years ago:
For clarification, the above point was about understanding paranoia which by definition is an irrational belief caused by anxiety or fear. When a king causes anxiety or fear by virtue of the shady characters he has consorted with as revealed by his sex scandal, his effectiveness as a country’s representative is compromised. A formal investigation was never made into the strip club visits and blackmail photos because the monarch is immune from criminal charges. As Sven Erik Osterberg, a member of Parliament and the constitutional oversight committee noted, “The only person who can look into this is the monarch himself, [he] who wishes it to blow over.” While considered a ceremonial figure, the monarch has absolute immunity from criminal charges and cannot be prosecuted or held accountable for his or her actions in judicial proceedings. It’s not difficult to understand why some Swedish citizens have expressed fear of someone who has had dealings with criminals and cannot be charged with a crime.
Supposedly King Carl Gustaf believes the monarchy is nearing its end. Were it not for the popularity of Crown Princess Victoria, likely the end would come sooner than later. I believe Victoria will likely be Queen, but only if she ascends the throne in the next decade and only if reforms are made.
As the motion filed with Parliament indicated, “The current form of government are over 40 years old and was in his time a political steps that deepened democracy by limiting the monarch’s power. The Democratic reforms must continue, and in this direction is the abolition of the pre-democratic system that monarchy is an expression. It is high time to look again the monarchy’s role in modern Swedish society.”
The monarchies of Europe are looking for ways to evolve for the sake of self-preservation. Prince Charles envisions a streamlined monarchy when he becomes king while newly kinged Felipe promised financial transparency and the opening up of the palace’s accounts following his father’s abdication. While reports in the last few years have listed the Dutch Royal Family as the most expensive to taxpayers, no one really knows how much each monarchy costs to run because of costs that are hidden from the public. With an estimated additional undisclosed $300 million in security, the British Royal Family likely is the most costly while Spain’s monarchy is probably the least expensive. But no one really knows which is pretty astounding in modern times that the taxpayers have provided these hereditary institutions with blank checks. Recently an extra $1 million was granted to King Carl Gustaf for “security”. Likely the increase was for protection officers for its latest princess, Sofia, although it could be for new security cameras or it could be for a different kind of security for a king whose past scandals have required the purchasing of incriminating photos.
If Sweden’s monarchy is continue, it should follow the streamlining trend of limiting the Royal Family to current king/queen, heir and heir’s children and Spain’s lead with its operating costs. According to the Swedish Monarchy’s royal finances page which lists 2013’s numbers, included in the budget for the Court Administration was Princess Lilian’s Household. While Princess Lilian who passed away in March 2013 was obviously a beloved member of the Swedish Royal Family (she was the wife of the king’s uncle), I don’t understand why she continued to have a household staff covered under the appanage since it was announced in 2010 that sadly due to Alzheimer’s, she would no longer be able to make public appearances. She was no longer undertaking royal duties so shouldn’t any expenses related to her care been covered out of her family’s personal finances? Additionally, on the Royal Finances page, it lists budget and staff in terms of “approximately”. When it comes to taxpayer money, shouldn’t there be complete transparency?