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ROYALTY

A Svensson in the palace? Pass the smelling salts

The engagement of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling has underlined, rather surprisingly, that Sweden is still a society that divides along class lines.

A Svensson in the palace? Pass the smelling salts

A royal wedding is the perfect chance, you would think, for royalists to drag out the bunting and warm up for a bit of patriotic ceremonial. But the idea of the princess marrying a middle-class gym owner from northern Sweden has had both über-conservative royalists and metropolitan liberals reaching for the smelling salts.

Dick Erixon, a leading centre-right commentator, argued on his blog that “for a Svensson family to sit on the throne breaks the principles of the monarchy.” He declared that the princess’s decision to marry a man of the people had put him off the royals.

This is an argument articulated surprisingly often in modern Sweden. Presumably Erixon thinks Victoria should enter into an arranged match with some rubicund German princeling with an oversized adam’s apple.

Erixon seems to forget that Sweden’s royal family has always admitted commoners – including the current queen. Was Victoria trying to remind us of this by giving her post-engagement audience under a portrait of Jean-Baptise Bernadotte, the founder of the current dynasty and a provincial lawyer’s son from France?

But Erixon’s problem with Westling is that he is one of that dreaded breed – a Svensson. With a foreigner you can ignore a regional accent; with a Swede, the ordinariness (shudder) is more apparent.

Erixon’s view, while by no means unique, is perhaps somewhat eccentric. But he wasn’t the only one having a dig at the royal engagement.

Indeed, the most common reaction from newspaper leading articles was one of opportunistic snarkiness: ‘a step towards a republic’, said Dagens Nyheter, with more than a touch of wishful thinking. Aftonbladet’s leader pages also managed to craft a call for a republic from the news of the engagement. Sydsvenskan, Skånska Dagbladet and Uppsala Nya Tidning made similar noises.

A majority in the Riksdag would agree with them, according to the most recent survey on the matter, which found that most members supported a republic.

These views are in stark contrast to those of most Swedes. The general population appears to think that Victoria’s betrothal to the future Prince Daniel is a good thing, at least if you believe the polls. They also strongly support the monarchy.

So politicians and the media are almost entirely at odds with their voters and readers. A good chunk of the Swedish political class is holding its nose as the hoi-polloi enjoys a bit of royal romance. Erixon’s view might seem very different from that articulated by the media republicans, but it is founded in the same basic disdain for ordinary Swedes.

Svenssons (to use the slightly patronising term) are the backbone of Sweden – they’re the people who have built up the major Swedish industries and who man the country’s public services. They are also the people who vote in the politicians and buy the newspapers. That one of them is now joining the royal family should surely be a matter of national pride, not metropolitan disdain.

CROWN PRINCESS VICTORIA

‘Our children should learn how to take the metro and queue’: Prince Daniel

Prince Daniel, the gym owner who married the Crown Princess, is celebrating seven years as a member of the Swedish royal family, but wants his children to learn how to use public transport just like everyone else.

'Our children should learn how to take the metro and queue': Prince Daniel
Princess Estelle, Prince Daniel and Prince Oscar at the celebration of Crown Princess Victoria's name day on March 12th, 2017. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
When Daniel Westling married Crown Princess Victoria on June 19th, 2010, half a million Swedes gathered on the streets of Stockholm in the hope to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds. In an interview with Dagens Nyheter, the prince sums up his seven years as part of the Swedish royal family.
 
Born and raised in the small town of Ockelbo in central Sweden, he lived a pretty normal life until he met Crown Princess Victoria, the heir apparent of King Carl Gustaf, in 2001. Then owner of the gym chain Balance, he was the Crown Princess's personal trainer.
 
 
But in spite of his life being far from normal life these days, he wants his children, Princess Estelle, 5, and Prince Oscar, 1, to experience the life he was accustomed to before meeting Victoria.
 
“Being with your children is the best thing in the world,” he told Dagens Nyheter.
 
“I also think it's important to let the children visit all sorts of environments. You need to know how the metro works, and what it's like to travel by bus and what it's like to stand in line, and what it's like to experience that passion within the sports community when there's a game and the (AIK football team's supporter club) Black Army is chanting away. That's something I don't want them to miss out on.”
 
Crown Princess Family
Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Daniel and Princess Estelle at an ice hockey game. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT
 
When he became Prince Daniel, he had to leave his life as CEO of his gym chain behind. But the prince's interest in sports and health remains: he and the Crown Princess work actively to promote sports, health and well-being. 
 
In December last year, the Crown Princess family released a video where they are seen going for a relaxed walk in the Tyresta National Park near Stockholm.
 
“We like to inspire. We have incredible surroundings near us, even those of us who live in the big city. We enjoy being out in nature, and want our children to have the same opportunities we've had to feel safe in that environment,” the prince told Dagens Nyheter.
 
Christmas greetings from the Crown Princess family
The Crown Princess family in the Tyresta National Park. Photo: Henrik Garlöv/The Royal Court, Sweden
 
Last summer, the Crown Princess couple launched Generation Pep, a non-profit promoting health among children and young people. Daniel talked passionately to Dagens Nyheter about the social inequalities in Sweden when it comes to leading an active life.
 
“It's a paradox. We belong to those who exercise the most in Europe – and to those most sedentary,” he said.
 
“We who have good prerequisites, we're becoming more and more aware. Those who are already having a hard time economically and socially, they are the ones first affected by illnesses, and who are hit the hardest. You get the sense that it is so unfair.”
 
 
During the interview with Dagens Nyheter, the prince made a surprise study visit to a primary school to learn about how the pupils combine learning with physical activities.
 
“You don't choose the career I chose if you're not passionate about changing people's health. I've devoted my entire adult life to it,” Daniel said.