With Sweden still basking in the royal glow of the birth of Princess Estelle, The Local’s Peter Vinthagen Simpson talks to a US architectural conservationist who claims that his family, and not the “immigrant” Bernadottes, should be on Swedish throne.
The birth of Estelle Eva Silvia Mary in February secured the Bernadotte
family line for the next century or so, and has been tipped to provide a timely boost for the Swedish royal family after a period of turbulence surrounding the King’s leisure pursuits and the Queen’s family history.
However, almost two centuries after the Bernadottes were imported to fill the regal vacancy left by the ousting of the last of the Holstein-Gottorp monarchs, Gustaf IV Adolf, one American family is waging a campaign to gain recognition for the claims of the “Rightful Swedish Royal Family”, namely themselves.
“I think it is important that whenever history is inaccurate in any way it needs to be corrected. The reasons for Gustaf IV Adolf to have been removed from the throne were unfair,” the self-proclaimed “HRH Crown Prince Alexander” tells The Local.
The campaign consists of a series of Facebook
pages, one of which is entitled “Restore the Crown”, a Twitter account entitled “Royal Family in Exile”, and an ancestry webpage claiming descent from Amalia Maria Charlotta, the fourth child of Gustaf IV Adolf.
In a feisty op-ed published in a France-based online newspaper in November, “HKH Kronprins Alexander” gave a public voice to his family’s claims, arguing that the Swedish people had never taken to the Bernadotte dynasty and regarded King Carl XVI Gustaf as an “immigrant king”.
Royal commentator and former information secretary at the Royal Court, Juan Navas, however described these claims as ‘outrageous’.
“In situations like this it is up to the claimant to find the proof. Even if history is written by the winners it tends to have been scrutinized, analyzed and speculated upon by teachers, professors and experts,” he tells The Local.
Navas argues furthermore that the “immigrant” status of the Bernadottes, is not a common feature of any opposition to the King as an individual or the institution of monarchy.
“People who have issues with royalty tend to base these on the principle of monarchy more than who they are or where they are from,” he says.
“I mean, do people in the UK care that the royal family has German ancestry?”
Alexander explained that this opinion was based on “things I have heard from Sweden”, while conceding that he would be no less of an immigrant, having never actually set foot in the country of his ancestors.
Like many 19th century European emigrants to the “new world”, Alexander’s own family history long remained shrouded in uncertainty.
“My family came to the US from the Germany-Austria-Hungary area. When we arrived, and depending on which boat you were on, affected which name you were given,” he says, explaining that comparing pictures of the deposed Swedish royals and his own family piqued his interest.
He furthermore claims that the Holstein-Gottorps and his own family share an androgen insensitivity syndrome, a genetic marker which affects testosterone levels and thus reproductive capabilities.
Navas observes however that with the scale of inter-marriage among European royals, claims of distant royal ancestry are not uncommon.
“Almost anyone can claim to have some royal connection in their ancestry. I think it takes a little more than a similar nose in order to build a claim,” he says.
Gustaf IV Adolf reigned until his abdication in 1809 following an army-led coup. Parliament later declared that the ousted King’s family had forfeited the throne amid rumours purporting to the illegitimacy of his son and heir.
The parliament set about finding a replacement monarch and settled on Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a general in French emperor Napoleon’s army. Bernadotte was subsequently adopted by the ailing King Charles XIII and ascended to the throne in February 1818.
“The ultimate installation of Bonaparte's lieutenant Bernadotte to the throne was a concession to the French dictator for the Swedish nobility being allowed to return to their abusive ways,” Alexander claims, arguing that the Swedish people deserve better.
In fact the ambitions of the campaign stop short of wanting to actually move to Sweden and perform the duties of a constitutional monarch and he bears the Bernadotte family no grudge.
“I have tried to contact the royal family and the Swedish consulate but to no avail. This is no hoax, but there is no agenda other than to fill in gaps or inconsistencies. If it can clear the family name and explain why we turned up on these shores with a coat of arms...”
“I have no issue with the Bernadottes - if someone offered me a king's fortune, I might take it, too,” he says.
Either way Alexander’s claim to be descended from Amalia, who the historical record shows died childless and unmarried in 1853, is undermined by the fact that the reigning King Carl XVI Gustaf is directly related to the Holstein-Gottorp line through Sofia (the mother of Queen Victoria of Sweden and Amalia’s elder sister), so would therefore hold the more senior claim.
Alexander however disputes the official version of events, claiming that “history has bias. Poor, crippled Amalia had a child”, and arguing that it doesn’t matter anyway because the main goal of the high profile campaign is to account for his own family history.
“Sometimes you have to make a little noise to be heard. I have a son who is a teenager and I’d like to tell him who we are. He has a right to know.”
When “Alexander” is not cultivating his online alter-ego, he is employed as an adjunct lecturer at a US university and describes himself as an “architect, conservationist, philanthropist and champion of impossible causes”.
He concedes that the style and content of his latest “impossible cause” might not be viewed sympathetically in all quarters, and has therefore decided to retain his anonymity.
As justification, he references the case of Anna Anderson, whose claim to be the youngest daughter of Nicholas II and Alexandra of Russia gained widespread notoriety in the post-war period before being dismissed by a German court.
"I am a professional," he explains.
"You always run the risk of being dubbed the next Anastasia - claimed to be the youngest Romanov daughter. She was branded a kook."