40 years on the throne


Last Sunday on September 15th 2013 it was exactly 40 years since our present monarch, Carl XVI Gustaf, of the Bernadotte Dynasty, became our new king in 1973. He had then been sitting by his grandfather’s death bed in Helsingborg. Our present king was born at Haga Castle, Stockholm, on April 30th 1946 by princess Sibylla of Sachsen Coburg-Gotha. His father, the crown-prince Gustav Adolf, was happy to get a son who might succeed him and the new prince’s older sisters, “the Haga princesses” spoiled the little boy. On June 6th the baby was Christened in the Castle Church and given the names Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus. In January 1947 crown-prince Gustav Adolf was killed in an airplane accident at Kastrup, Copenhagen, and the Royal children were suddenly fatherless. In 1950 our present king’s great great grandfather Gustaf V died after having ruled since 1907. Gustav V was the first Swedish king who didn’t have himself crowned, so the last king seen in the royal crown, at least during coronation was his father Oscar II, (1872-1907). Now the little prince and his sisters had lost both their father and great great grandfather. The new king, their grandfather, took care of their upbringing and entered the throne as Gustaf VI Adolf with the motto: “The Duty first and foremost”.

As a young boy he went to school in Sigtuna among children to aristocrats, diplomats and wealthy bankers and merchants etc. In upper secondary school he learned fencing, and battled his school mate Rolf Edling, who in the 1970’s and early 1980’s became world champion in fencing during the Olympic games. Carl Gustaf graduated from upper-secondary school in 1966. Then he made military service for two years, and in 1968 the crown prince took his naval officer exam, and also a leadership course at the University College of Defence. 1968-1969 he also took courses in history, sociology, political science and economy at Uppsala University, as well as  financial law and economics at Stockholm University. The young man suffered from dyslexia and had problems with reading and spelling, but succeeded nevertheless.  He made educational journeys to the UN in New York, SIDA in Africa, Hambro’s Bank in London, The Swedish Embassy, and the dairy engineering company Alfa Laval in Nevers, France. The crown-prince was very interested in environment issues and already in 1972 he participated in the first global UN conference about environment issues in Stockholm. He also went to the Olympic games in Munich, Germany that year. There he noticed a beautiful brunette working as Olympic game hostess, Silvia Renathe Sommerlath. She was daughter of the German businessman Walther Sommerlath and Alice de Toledo from Brazil. During those Olympic Games Palestinians took the Israeli team hostages and killed some of them.

In 1973 the old king, Gustav VI Adolf became mortally ill when he was staying at Sofiero Castle just north of Helsingborg in Scania. At the same time a kidnapping drama took place in Stockholm. Some robbers took bank staff as hostages at Norrmalms Square, and the state had to intervene. On September 15th 1973 the old king passed away at Helsingborg Hospital with the young crown-prince by his side. The next day, the new king came back to Stockholm and was met by the government led by Prime Minister Olof Palme, (the aristocrat who became Social Democrat during his journeys in the USA).  On September 19th the young king, aged 27, was officialy made king during a cermony and took the oath. His name as king would be Carl XVI Gustaf and his motto as king: “For Sweden in the changing times”. In my drawing above from yesterday you see the king from that day to the left.  The king’s first state visit in 1974 went to Norway on October 8th.

His relationship to the young German-Brazilian beauty Silivia Sommerlath deepened, and on March 12th 1976 their engagement was declared and the king pronounced the famous words: “It just said click”The marriage was held in Storkyrkan/The Grand Church in Stockholm, on June 19th 1976. The evening before the wedding the Swedish pop group Abba dressed in 18th century costumes performed their new song “Dancing Queen” in honour of the Royal Couple.  Their first child was a girl who recieved the name Victoria. She was born on July 14th 1977. In the beginning she was “just” a princess since we still had male succession to the throne and when the next child, a boy called Carl Philip was born on May 13th 1979 he was proclaimed crown prince. But that would soon change. When the king entered the silver throne in 1973 the attitudes in society were quite unroyalistic. Socialists and Communists especially despised the Royals, and still do. The Royal Family was seen as distant from the people, sucking out the strength and money of the people and some debaters wanted to see a Republic instead. The male succession order also provoked democrats and more modern people who wanted to see a more gender equal society. Our present Royal Family have tried to adapt to the new order of things, has become more popular in their approach and more modern.  In 1980 the succession order was changed to make the first-born heir to the throne, in this case Victoria who now became our Crown Princess.  She has over the years also become the most loved of the members of the Royal Family for her charm, down-to-earth approach, nice manners, wisdom and healthy radiance.  On June 10th 1982 Princess Madeleine was born.

King Carl XVI Gustav has many interests and a role in society which gives him many advantages in life. He loves an active life, sports, wild life, techniques, motor sports, cars etc. He was an active boy scout in his youth, and since 1977 he’s honorary chairman of the World Scout Foundation, and since 1988 for the Swedish branch of the World Wildlife Fund, WWF.  He has also initiated the Royal Colloqium, which is an international environment symposium for scientists in environment issues and durable development. He’s an athlete and participated e.g. in the Vasa Race on skis in 1977, 1987 and 1997.  Between 1973 and 1989 the king made his official trips around the country, a Royal custom since the Middle Ages, called Eriksgata.  In 1976 he went to the USA and as first Swedish monarch met the residing American President.  In 1976 it was Gerald Ford. In 1978 the king met Brezhniev in the Soviet Union and Tito in Communist Yugoslavia. His interest for technical development has led to his participation at the Royal Technology Mission, arranged by the Engineer Science Academy, IVA.  The king is also a member of the Gastronomy Academy, because of his taste for good food.

He is our Head of State, and his work includes leading the cabinet meeting after change of government, and he opens the annual Kingdom Assembly. The king is also the Prime representative for the Swedish Military Authorities, and he accredits foreign ambassadors. Apart from this he makes journeys, represents Sweden on openings and fairs, visits and recieves world leaders and public officials.  When he can’t he’s replaced by Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip or Princess Madeleine.

In 1974 the tabloid magazine FIB Aktuellt published an article about the then new king called “The king’s secret love nests”, an article which led to lots of discussions. Some of the people mentioned there also appeared in the book “The Reluctant Monarch” from 2010.  In 1977 the cartoonist Janne Lööf made a comic strip album called “Ville” where the Social Democrat Prime Minister Olof Palme and the young king appeared as cartoon heroes or anti-heroes. This made Olof Palme very angry, but the king found it amusing. King Carl XVI Gustav also admired Olof Palme, despite their different values, and when  the Prime Minister was assassinated in February 1986 the king ordered the Swedish flag to be lowered on half pole in grief.

In 1984 the Swedish king critisized the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland for the cruel treatment of seals during the seal hunts, a statement which provoked anger in Norway, but also among Swedish politicians and other officials, since the king is not allowed to make political statements, but nowadays is reduced to a cermonial role. In 2004 he had been to a visit in Brunei, and then said in his Christmas speech that year that he saw an openess in Brunei that was unexpected. Carl Söderberg, Head of Swedish Amnesty protested angrily and said that the king destroyed the work for Amnesty and the like who work for Human Rights, and the scientist Olof Petersson said that this was the beginning of the end for the monarchy. Later that year, in December the disastrous tsunami hit Central Asia and also Swedes died in it. In a speech on January 10th 2005 the king said: “I wish that I had a good answer. If I only as a king, like in the fairytales, could make everything right and end the tale with “and so they lived happily ever after”. But I am just like you, simply a grieving, searching human being”.  This speech was moving and much appreciated here in Sweden. The Royal Family has since then grown. Crown Princess Victoria fell in love with her gym coach from Ockelbo, Daniel Westling and they got married on June 19th 2010, a wedding which was very much noticed both here in Sweden and internationally.  Victoria’s and Daniel’s first child, Princess Estelle, saw the world for the first time on February 23d 2012. Also Princess Madeleine is now married to the finance counselor Chris O’Neill. The conflicts in the Royal Family is though, (real and/or imagined), often mentioned in media. 

The attitude to the Royal Family varies in the Swedish society. For Royalists it’s very important to keep the Swedish colours and the Royal Family intact as representatives for Sweden. The left wing in Sweden wants to get rid of them. There is also a variety of views inbetween these two extremes. The king’s appanage, the huge amount of money he gets for his work is a red sheet for many. Also his castles, hunting cabins, and privileged life is hated especially by people to the left. The youngest princesses’ lack of respect for traffic rules, the king’s adultery and love affairs etc. has provoked anger and resentment among people. The Republicans want a Republic state instead, like Finland, USA, Iceland or France for instance.  The problem is that also a government in a Republic costs lots of money too. History has proven that even Communist States keep a leadership that live a life in luxuary and oppress their populations. We see the same phenomenon all over the world, generation after generation, and independent of which religious belief we have, what ethnicity, social background or political system.

King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 40 years on the throne was celebrated last weekend. On Friday September 13th the exhibit “40 years on the throne – 40 years for Sweden” was shown at the Royal Castle. Last Saturday the Government gave the king as present a dinner at the Nordic Museum, and a Jubilee Concert at the Concert Hall/Konserthuset. Last Sunday on September 15th there was a Thanksgiving Service with Te Deum and dance at the castle. At three o’ clock the king proposed a toast and then there was dance on the Inner Courtyard. This last Thursday the 19th there was a reception in the Kingdom Hall. The last event which will celebrate the king’s 40 years on the throne will be the event “The environment for the times to come” on Saturday November 23d 2013.

We have a king who tries to do his best according to his upbringing and given role and change of time. Irrespective of what we think and like we live in a society which is fairly open, and within a democracy where we are more or less allowed to express our views and struggle to keep the democracy. We do not always agree or have the same ideas and values, but still it is a democracy. That democracy also ought to be preserved, or as our king says: “For Sweden in the changing times”.

Anders Moberg, September 22d 2013

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