The Royals: ‘A living touchstone to the past’

Sweden's royals remain popular because they provide an invaluable link to the past, writes Gene Oberto, in response to an article critical of the country's constitutional monarchy.

I was a little confused by the article written by Noel McCarthy. From the title, “A royal mess: Why Sweden can’t have its own Obama”, I was prepared to read a discourse on how diversity needs to be brought into the lawmaking and, more to the point, the lawmakers of Sweden. It, instead, was a complaint that while Sweden’s foreign policy demands democratic diversity in other countries’ elections, that it does not hold itself to such a demand.

Fair enough, while Sweden does hold free and democratic elections, it still holds on to its monarchy, at least in “ceremonial functions.” So the Swedish Constitution allows the King to hand out some medals and make a speech on National Day. But there doesn’t seem to be any sinister “huge amount of informal power for which he cannot be held to account by the electorate”.

The author also seems to miss his point by using the idea that not being of the “pure evangelical faith” prevents someone from being the royal leader. I would think that if my mother and father weren’t already the King and Queen, I would have a less than outside chance.

My belief as to why Sweden keeps the royals around is that Their Majesties provide a direct link to Sweden’s past. If one were to take into account that when you listen to the King speak about the goodness of the Swedish people, you sense that your father, grandfather, great grandfather and so on also listened to that kind of reinforcement.

It’s the idea that this King is related to your descendant’s King that is the comfort. He is a Swede as you are, and that generates the pride in being Swedish. The King (or Queen) is the living touchstone to your nation’s past.

As an American, with the disposable leaders we have, one gives deference to the Office of The President, not to the guy who warms the chair.

While the future Swedish Obama might have a problem being elected as Prime Minister (and that would be the better discussion), he could be. His being elected King is a moot point. We can’t choose who our parents are.

For members


What is Sweden doing to celebrate the King’s 50th year on the throne?

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf marks his 50-year jubilee next year, while the nation will mark the 500th anniversary of the year Gustav Vasa ascended to the throne after liberating Sweden from Danish rule. So, how is Sweden celebrating?

What is Sweden doing to celebrate the King's 50th year on the throne?

Carl XVI Gustaf was only 27 when he became king following the death of his grandfather, Gustaf VI Adolf in 1973, and he had been Crown Prince since his father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, died in a plane crash when he was just four years old. 

In 2018, he became Sweden’s longest reigning monarch ever, and he’s currently showing few signs of slowing down. 

Here are the main events planned for 2023 to celebrate his rule. 

January 27th: the Sweden Dinner

Jubilee celebrations will begin shortly after the New Year’s celebration, with a Sverigemiddag, or “Sweden Dinner”, planned in Stockholm at the Kungliga slottet, or Royal Palace, for January 27.

Leaders from each of Sweden’s 21 counties are invited, and those leaders will also select significant people from their counties to “set the tone” (tongivande människor) for the event.

February-September: Tour of Swedish counties

Throughout the year, the King and Queen will travel to all of Sweden’s counties, riding in a horse-drawn carriage wherever possible. These visits will take place between February and September.

June 6th: National Day celebrations

As mentioned above, on June 6, the royal couple will be in Strängnäs to mark the anniversary of the founding of modern Sweden under Gustav Vasa.

After visiting Strängnäs, the King will give a National Day speech at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, which has its own statue of Gustav Vasa, and which will itself be celebrating its 150-year anniversary next year. A National Day reception will also be held at the museum.

September 15th and September 16th: Main jubilee celebrations

September 15, 2023, officially marks 50 years from the day when Carl XVI Gustaf became Sweden’s king. 

A Jubilee dinner with international heads of state and royals will be held that evening in the Rikssalen at the Royal Palace.

The next day, on September 16th, the King and Queen will travel through Stockholm in a Jubilee Cortege. This will be followed by a Jubilee Concert, which will be open to the public and may also be broadcast live on TV and radio.

While not all these events will be open to the public, there are plenty of opportunities for regular civilians to get caught up in Jubilee celebrations. In March, an exhibition titled “Vasa to Bernadotte – Culture in the service of the kingdom 1523 – 1973 – 2023”, tracking the history of the Swedish monarchy, will open at the Royal Palace. And in June, an outdoor photography retrospective on Carl XVI Gustaf’s time as King will open at Slottsbacken, by the Royal Palace. 

Gustaf Vasa led a rebellion against the Danish King Kristian II, led Sweden’s reformation, and established Sweden as a unitary kingdom. Photo: National Museum of Sweden

So what’s planned to celebrate the the Vasa anniversary? 

Next year isn’t all about contemporary royalty, there’s also a historical king to celebrate. 

Gustav Vasa, or Gustav 1st, is seen by many Swedes as the country’s greatest ever ruler. During his rule, Vasa did away with the tradition of elected monarchs, replacing the system with a hereditary monarchy, then ruled by the House of Vasa.

The day he was elected king, June 6th, 1523, is now celebrated as Sweden’s national day.

So on June 6th, a full day of festivities is planned in Strängnäs, the city where Vasa’s election was held, with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia presiding over the day’s events.

The Royal Castles will mark Gustav Vasa’s election with a variety of events, including lectures, concerts, and park walks planned throughout the year at Vasaborgen Gripsholm, or Gripsholm Castle, in Mariefred. The castle itself is an important historical site, dating back to the era of Sweden’s Vasa rulers

You can apply for tickets here from March for the events at Gripsholm Castle.