Dismay after Victoria asks to be given away
Published: 20 May 2010 19:23 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 May 2010 19:23 GMT+02:00
A split has opened up between the Church of Sweden and the royal family over Crown Princess Victoria’s wish to be ‘given away’ by her father, King Carl Gustaf, at her marriage to Daniel Westling next month.
In Swedish tradition, the bride and groom walk down the aisle together, but Victoria plans to follow the Anglo-Saxon tradition of walking down the aisle with her father at her side. The church, which views the practice as a foreign anachronism with sexist overtones, fears Victoria’s decision will lead to an unwelcome new trend.
The head of the Swedish church, Archbishop Anders Wejryd, who will be conducting the marriage, has taken the unusual step of making his disapproval clear in a public statement:
“Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden. I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses’ equality. The couple know where I stand on this matter.”
Priest and theologian Annika Borg says that while about one in ten Swedish brides is now given away, the practice is un-Swedish and has been imported by American films and television series.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Sweden’s future head of state has chosen to follow a practice that is not Swedish tradition. The idea of the couple entering the church together symbolizes that the man and the woman are entering the marriage of their own free will,” she said.
Victoria’s decision could strengthen the trend among Swedish brides, Borg fears:
“We’ve got a carefully worked-out position on this matter in the Swedish church, and in the future it is going to be very hard for us to resist requests from brides who want to be given away.”
When King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia married in 1973 they followed Swedish tradition and walked down the aisle together. However, the king's sister Princess Margaretha was given away by her grandfather, Gustav VI Adolf, when she married Englishman John Ambler in Stockholm in 1964.
Nina Eldh, spokeswoman for the Royal Court, underlined that the decision was up to Victoria. The marriage of the heir to the throne has an extra element, she added:
“This has a bigger dimension - this isn’t a father giving away his daughter to another man. The symbolism is that the king is leading the heir to the nation’s throne to the altar - and to the man who has been accepted."
But historian Dick Harrison from Lund University dismisses the idea that being given away has any significant royal pedigree in Sweden:
“By far the most common practice in Sweden is that the couple walk to the altar together. But then if you are looking at royal tradition, the normal situation would be for her to have married a foreign prince - and in previous centuries that would have meant two marriages in two different countries.”