• Sweden edition
 
Royal Wedding
How the French Revolution gave Sweden its royals

How the French Revolution gave Sweden its royals

Published: 23 Apr 2010 11:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Apr 2010 11:50 GMT+02:00

It is nearly impossible to escape the fact that there will be a royal wedding in Sweden this year. The marriage of Crown Princess Victoria to Daniel Westling is in the news almost daily and pictures of the happy couple beam down from billboards at passengers arriving at Arlanda Airport.

What has not been so widely discussed is that this royal wedding coincides with the 200th anniversary of the election of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte as Sweden’s Crown Prince. One can only speculate over whether the timing of the wedding is merely coincidence or careful and thoughtful planning to help commemorate the foundation of the current Bernadotte dynasty.

So how did it come to be that an ambitious middle aged man from southern France was able to be proclaimed Crown Prince of Sweden? Ironically, it was thanks to the revolution in France, and the overthrow of their monarchy, that the Bernadottes became Sweden's royal family.

By the first decade of the 19th century the face of Europe had been scarred by war and revolution. Borders and territories had shifted and in what seemed like a strategic game of chess the Emperor Napoleon played his pieces by installing his own family members on many of Europe’s thrones. At the same time the once mighty war machine of Sweden was but a faded memory. Sweden’s King Karl XIII's two children had died in infancy and his adopted son, and successor, Prince Karl August also died suddenly. The country was in political turmoil and without an heir.

In a feat that would have been impossible before the French revolution and the fall of the Bourbon monarchs, the non-aristocratic Bernadotte rose in the ranks of the French military to become an officer. His military expertise brought him to the attention of Napoleon who eventually made Bernadotte a Marshal of France. This was one of the highest honors of the time.

There is however a parallel storyline to the life of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte which may also explain his rise in the ranks. In 1798 Bernadotte married Désirée Clary, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant from Marseille. She also happened to be the first love of Napoleon. Despite Napoleon’s love for the young Désirée their relationship came to an abrupt end when he married the widow Joséphine de Beauharnais.

Being a man of strategy Napoleon knew that a woman of society, such as the aristocratic Joséphine, would help him to realise his ambitions. Napoleon however always kept an eye on Désirée, even after her marriage to Bernadotte. This was simplified by the fact that his own brother Joseph Bonaparte married Désirée’s sister Julie.

No matter which way you look at it, Bernadotte became a well regarded man during the French Republic and later Empire. His reputation spread all the way to Sweden where a dynastic crisis was occurring. There is a lot of speculation on how the name of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte ever made it into the running, but most historians agree that it was in fact a lone Swedish nobleman who encouraged Bernadotte to contend for the position of Crown Prince.

The choice was not immediately popular, and the nobleman was actually imprisoned for a short time because of his tactlessness in suggesting the position to a mere French marshal. In time, Bernadotte became more accepted and in 1810 he was proclaimed Crown Prince by the Swedish Parliament meeting in Örebro. A few months later the country’s heir apparent arrived in his new home. Eight years later Bernadotte became King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden and Norway.

The acceptance of Bernadotte as the new ruler of Sweden by Europe’s other monarchs was not instantaneous. The new Swedish monarch was not of royal birth, and the turmoil the now exiled Napoleon had thrown the continent into was not forgiven. Napoleon did not install Bernadotte on the Swedish throne, but their names were still closely associated. It was through a marriage that Europe’s royal families finally would acknowledge their new cousins in the North.

In 1823 the son of King Karl XIV Johan and Queen Désirée, Crown Prince Oscar, married Joséphine of Leuchtenberg. The German Princely House of Leuchtenberg helped bring legitimacy to the House of Bernadotte. The affiliation to the Napoleonic Dynasty was however never completely severed. Joséphine of Leuchtenberg also happened to be the grand-daughter of Napoleons former wife, the ex-Empress Joséphine. Needless to say Désirée kept a close eye on her daughter-in-law.

Today the Bernadotte Dynasty is closely intertwined with Europe’s other ruling houses through a series of dynastic marriages. Amongst other notable ancestors, Sweden’s future Queen can claim Britain’s Queen Victoria. After two hundred years the royal legitimacy of the Bernadottes is no longer an issue.

Besides the Royal Wedding the Bernadotte bicentenary will also be commemorated in the late summer and autumn. On August 21 the Royal Family will visit Örebro to commemorate the election of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte as Sweden’s Crown Prince. On October 20 the Royal Family will visit the port city of Helsingborg – where Bernadotte first stepped onto Swedish soil.

Juan Navas, a journalist and former information secretary at the Royal Court, will be writing a series of articles about Swedish royalty in the run up to the royal wedding on June 19th. From next week he will also be writing a royal wedding blog.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

18:37 April 23, 2010 by Henckel
The House of Bernadotte, through dynastic marriages, has become quite considerably nordicized in ancestry. Besides being kin to the House of Windsor (formerly Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha), they are also king to the House of Hohenzollern, the formerly ruling house of Prussia and of Germany.
16:22 April 24, 2010 by frey
if you go back far enough, we are all related.
04:13 April 26, 2010 by vonrudenborg
"if you go back far enough, we are all related."

That's a frightening thought! Ha, ha. I'm an American and we're not "plagued" with or by royalty but I find the history very interesting. In this day and age it's kind of quaint.
00:18 April 28, 2010 by glamelixir
Monarchy, obsolete concept.

Can't believe that they are spending so much of our tax money in that stupid wedding, neither that the front page of the newspapers are showing off the king's expensive champagne party while more and more Swedes are unemployed!

SHAME ON THEM, how can jäntelåg even existi under this dicotomy? pfff what a joke.
15:44 April 29, 2010 by arlene wise
Having read a little about the Huguenots of France,would like to ask if Bernadotte was a Huguenot?/ Huguenots were treated the same as the Jewish people in Germany except they were protestants and [?] the Catholics were [?] ruling and wanted all of France [?]to be catholic??
15:40 April 30, 2010 by dmj123
A constitutional monarchy, if properly administered, can be a very effective form of government. It adds an extra layer of restraint on the ambitions of politicians as a Monarch by birth has a different outlook on the welfare fo the country as a whole when compared to the ambitions of a one hit wonder which most politicians are. The monarch knows that what they do will impact what their children will inherit. This includes not just in the form of a palace or money but also in the form of natuional prestiege and standing. No politicaian has these sorts of motivators and therefore rarely looks farther ahead than the next election. This in many ways has lead to the political crisis situations which many countries have found them selves in. The only true danger of a monarhy is in an absolute monarchy. These tend to cause the types of problems which lead to WWI. But all know of the old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is a truism.
Today's headlines
Swimrun
Record win at Sweden's tough island race
Photo: Jakob Edholm/ÖTILLÖ14

Record win at Sweden's tough island race

Two Swedes crushed last year's course record at the Swimrun world championship in Stockholm's archipelago on Monday. READ  

Sweden reveals Academy Award submission
Swedish director Ruben Östlund on set. Photo. TT

Sweden reveals Academy Award submission

The movie set to represent Sweden at the 2015 Academy Awards was revealed on Monday, a film that has already won awards abroad. READ  

Amphetamines
Hidden forest drug stash leads to prosecution

Hidden forest drug stash leads to prosecution

A 53-year-old man has been prosecuted after police in western Sweden made one of their largest drug seizures in the area. READ  

Man shot dead in hunting accident
Photo: Hunter Desportes/Flickr

Man shot dead in hunting accident

UPDATED: Police in northern Sweden say a man was killed on Monday morning after what they described as a "hunting accident". READ  

Pirate Bay Swede's trial set for final stage

Pirate Bay Swede's trial set for final stage

The mother of Swedish Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has told The Local about her son's "suffering" in jail ahead of the final stages of his trial. READ  

Suspected Ebola case ruled out in Sweden
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Suspected Ebola case ruled out in Sweden

UPDATED: Officials at a Stockholm hospital reported that they had found a suspected case of the Ebola virus on Sunday night. But the case was dismissed on Monday. READ  

Murderer on the loose after breakout

Murderer on the loose after breakout

A 34-year-old man who killed a child is on the run after he broke out of a psychiatric ward in central Sweden. READ  

Skåne floods
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
A Malmö bus under water. Photo: Stig Åke Jönsson/TT

Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods

Flood waters subsided in the southern Sweden region of Skåne on Monday, after flash flooding saw chaos on roads and trains at the weekend. READ  

Elections 2014
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto

UPDATED: Leaders of the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats have announced their complete list of election promises in Stockholm's Nacka. READ  

Zlatan scores hat trick in PSG thrashing
Photo: AP

Zlatan scores hat trick in PSG thrashing

Champions Paris Saint-Germain thumped Saint-Etienne 5-0 as Bordeaux saw their 100 percent record at the start of the Ligue 1 season ended on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Bastia. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Society
Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
Blog updates

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 

25 August

The Dollar Store (Blogweiser) »

"A dollar store in Sweden. Blog post: http://t.co/tNuuvcP1q0 #USD #greenbacks #sweden #sverige pic.twitter.com/RHFAYf7U1k — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) August 23, 2014 There’s a chain here in Sweden called The DollarStore. This name always stood out to me in a country where they don’t use dollars. I went there for the first time this weekend. They actually accepted greenbacks..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Gallery
See the destruction from the southern Sweden floods
Politics
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Society
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

754
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se