On the morning of February 24, 2009 telephones around the country started ringing. News agencies, newspapers, television and radio stations as well as magazines were calling all their best sources to find out if the rumours were true. Was the Royal Court going to announce the engagement of Crown Princess Victoria to Daniel Westling? Shortly after lunch a communiqué came from the Palace and the rumors were confirmed. The interest was so great that the Palace’s homepage crashed.
It was not the actual engagement that came as surprise, only the timing. After all, the couple had been together for some years. The couple’s relationship, and engagement, was not without criticism though. Whispers that Daniel Westling was not an appropriate spouse for the future Queen of Sweden were heard around the country. He was neither a royal nor from the upper classes aristocracy.
Conservative commentator Dick Erixon put voice to the objections. He argued that marrying into an “ordinary Swedish family from Ockelbo” meant that the royal family “immediately and undoubtedly destroyed all possibility of maintaining a special position.”
Erixon’s is a minority view, but he is far from alone. Yet what those who object to the marriage seem to have forgotten is that Sweden’s present Queen was not born into royalty either. And taking a glance around the European continent you see a similar pattern. In Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and even Britain none of the country’s heirs to the throne married a fellow royal – in most cases they didn’t even choose spouses from the aristocracy. All of them married commoners and all of them married for love.
Some royals are born, and others are made. When Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon announced his engagement to Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby was a controversial choice. Not only was she a commoner, but she also had a son from a previous relationship. Many Norwegians voiced their disapproval, but on their wedding day the streets of Oslo were packed with onlookers and well wishers. Nearly ten years later Crown Princess Mette-Marit is as popular as the rest of the royal family. Like her counterparts around Europe, including Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Crown Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, she has eased into her role with grace and professionalism.
Daniel Westling, like all royal consorts, will be taught and trained in the ways of royal life and the duties that come with it. According to the Royal Court the future Duke of Västergötland is currently taking part in an introductory program that will help guide him into his new role. The most interesting part of this program is not that he will be getting to know the workings of the Royal Court, but that the program includes “studies in political science, the work of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) and government, state and municipal administration, Swedish history, as well as activities linked to Swedish cultural life.” These educational foundations will help to build the new prince.
Besides this official introductory program he also has the benefit of observing and learning from his new family. The King and the Crown Princess will be of invaluable assistance in helping Daniel Westling ease into his new position. Queen Silvia will also be of great help. If anyone understands what it is like to take on a new and demanding role it is Sweden’s queen.
Like any new job it will take time to learn and get acquainted with his new situation. Daniel Westling is however already tackling his new fulltime job of prince consort head on. Most recently he attended the traditional birthday celebrations of the King, and before that the 70th birthday of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe. For his efforts he has also already gotten very positive reviews, from both the press and the public.
Prince Daniel, the Duke of Västergötland, will undoubtedly be a great asset to his wife as well as the Royal Family. He is a man of the people, and with that brings a different understanding and insight into the country and its people.
Juan Navas, a journalist and former information secretary at the Royal Court, is writing a series of articles about Swedish royalty in the run up to the royal wedding on June 19th. He is also blogging about the wedding for The Local