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From wedding bliss to royal crisis: the state of Sweden's monarchy

Clara Guibourg · 17 Jun 2011, 09:41

Published: 17 Jun 2011 09:41 GMT+02:00

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About a year ago, June 19th, 2010, was a picture perfect day in Stockholm. At the time, royal well-wishers flooded into to Stockholm in droves, hoping to catch a glimpse of the newly married Crown Princess Victoria and her former personal trainer-turned-prince beau, Daniel Westling.

The city of Stockholm arranged "Love Stockholm 2010", a two-week festival in celebration of the Crown Princess and her husband, and support for the monarchy reached a whopping 74 percent.

Simply put, enthusiasm for Sweden's royal family was hitting new heights as the country's first royal wedding in more than 30 years swayed many to conclude that, heck, maybe having a monarchy isn't so bad after all.

But fast-forward the tape a little, and one finds that last year's wedding fairy tale has given way to scandal, scorn, and a healthy dose of royal scepticism.

Today, figures show that the monarchy is backed by no more than 66 percent of the populace, and the rosy glow surrounding the institution after the royal wedding has faded fast, in a turbulent year that has had the King facing a deluge of negative publicity.

"The recent events are of course serious in the short run," Jenny Alexandersson, a royal correspondent with tabloid Aftonbladet, tells The Local.

"We can see that the King's popularity figures have taken a dive."

Serious trouble began in November with the publication of an unathorised tell-all book, "Carl XVI Gustaf - den motvillige monarken" ("Carl XVI Gustaf - the reluctant monarch").

The controversial book detailed the King's alleged visits to porn clubs, claims of an affair, as well as alleged connections to the criminal underworld.

While initial buzz from the book died down after a few weeks, reports surfaced in May that a close friend of the King had turned to a reputed gangster for help in burying incriminating pictures of the King and his friends.

Royal scandal once again swept across Sweden, with the King finally agreeing to a lengthy and highly-questioned interview with news agency TT in an attempt to clear his name.

Once again Sweden found itself pondering the role and significance of the monarchy.

However, when asked about the long-term consequences of the past year's crises, both Alexandersson and Roger Lundgren, previous editor of Queen magazine and expert on the royal family, are confident that the monarchy's popularity will recover.

"Absolutely," Lundgren says emphatically.

Peter Althin, chair of the Swedish Republican Association (Republikanska föreningen), is not so sure, however.

He called the current situation an "extraordinary crisis" for the monarchy in an interview with newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), and welcomes the growing support for a republic.

"It's encouraging and positive that the support for the monarchy is pointing down. If things continue at this rate, the majority will soon be against it," Althin says.

Alexandersson points out, however, that support for the monarchy has been stable at roughly 70 percent for decades.

Whether the monarchy as an institution will eventually regain the backing of the general public, or support will continue to decline is still a matter of prediction.

Either way, a nearly 10 percent unit drop in popularity in just one year is a backslide which should give the royal family pause, according to experts.

In the wake of the scandal, speculation has arisen as to whether the allegations against the King and the hefty drop in popularity will lead to the King's early abdication, with daughter Victoria taking over the throne.

"Many are now calling for him to be replaced by his daughter, but I think we should change the system of government altogether, and free the children from these inherited positions too," Althin says.

Alexandersson casts doubt on the scenario, however.

"The King will not retire. One is a monarch for life, and I know that the King has no current plans to abdicate," she explains.

Lundgren agrees, pointing out that abdication would also be unfair to Victoria.

"Victoria has to get some time for herself, start a family and have some kids, and I doubt that anyone begrudges her this," he says.

Putting the King's own plans aside, recent polling figures make it clear that a rapidly growing percentage of the public feel that his days as regent should be numbered.

Polls published in May showed a dramatic increase in popularity for Victoria as monarch, with 41 percent of respondents hoping to see the Crown Princess take her father's place, while 44 percent believed the King ought to stay on as regent.

The results mark a significant reversal from a year ago, when point 64 percent backed the King to stay on as regent, and only 17 percent wanted to see Victoria take over.

The King's fate, however, may be tied less to the veracity of the claims about his scandalous past than to how he has dealt with them.

His interview with TT has been especially criticised, with many voicing doubts about the honesty of the King's answers.

"If the whole story was nothing but spiteful slander, why didn't the King come out and say so immediately, last autumn?" wondered Peter Wolodarski, leader page editor of newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), and one of several to question the King's answers.

Story continues below…

Wolodarski wrote that, by going through with the TT interview the King "tripled the stakes in his own crisis of confidence".

"If facts do turn up showing that the King lied, he will have placed himself in the uncomfortable position in which the lies may come to be a far bigger problem than the actions he lied about," he explained.

Lundgren is critical of the King's decision to go through with the TT interview, arguing that the King should speak directly to his subjects rather than exposing himself to such interviews and "disgusting" reporting.

"But I have a hard time believing that the people of Sweden would be all that upset, even if the allegations are true. I think it's mostly tabloid press that's outraged," Lundgren says, criticising these newspapers as "gossip rags".

This view, however, currently seems to be in the minority, and is refuted by Aftonbladet's Alexandersson, who believes the allegations against the King are serious and demand the media's attention.

"We can't have a head of state that has contact with criminals," she explains.

"The King's body guards and security arrangements are paid for through our taxes. This means that we Swedes have the right to know if the King is exposing himself to an increased risk, through criminal connections or risk for extortion."

Alexandersson believes that if proof of the King's involvement is unveiled, a discussion about his abdication will be necessary.

"If it turns out that the King has known about these criminal contacts and also lied about them in the TT interview, we're facing a constitutional crisis," she says.

And should that happen, it would only serve to make last year's royal wedding, which has so captivated the nation and quickly catapulted Sweden's monarchy to new heights, seem more like a distant memory.

Clara Guibourg (clarabara@hotmail.com)

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Your comments about this article

11:12 June 17, 2011 by Wertyx
Monarchy is a parasite, living and feeding on the back of the people. It's a shameful disease, yes shameful because it would be easy to get rid of it: stop giving them money from the tax payers, no special treatment and don't let them do any kind of politics. They they would just be rich people who used to be famous.
17:04 June 17, 2011 by zircon
Princess Victoria having kids? I'd like to be godfather to their first child. "Michael, do you renounce satan?" "I do." (Scene Godfather I)
23:23 June 18, 2011 by Observant
Give the Swedes a chance to talk about the King only shows their lack of decency and intelligence.

The King has done nothing more than the ordinary Swede would do. The only difference is the ordinary Sweden does not get all the stupid and senseless gutter-street journalists writing about them.

Give the King a bloody rest for God's sake.

The Local should refrain from all this reporting on the King and the Royal Family becvasue it is NO LONGER news. The Local is a NEWS site and NOT a HISTORY book.

I look forward to seeing the King continue as Monarch for MANY years to come. He is doing a good job as is all Members of the Royal Family.

Attention should be turned towards the Governemnt Institutions who draw their salaries and do not work whatsoever. Whenever one tries to contact officials the time-old answer machines state: Gone for the day, sick today. at a meeting, on a business trip, there is no answer on the extension you are ringing, will be back at xx time. When you ring at xx time then the official as left work.

What a wonderful job this is. Money for old rope. THIS is wastage of the Tax Payers money NOT THE KING OR THE ROYAL FAMILY.

Swedish Governmental Departments need flushing out, New rules made and an Investigative Body to ACTUALLY police such Departments.
04:02 June 19, 2011 by SayNoToUS
Happy Anniversary to HRH Kronprinsessan Victoria! (19.06.2011)
23:49 June 19, 2011 by spacemous
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
01:19 June 20, 2011 by erilturn
As the Kingdom considers the relevance of the Monarchy, please remember that sexual scandals are the very heartbeat of the "great republic" that is America. I live here and watch as the will of the people is ignored in favour of those who offer the most to finance their campaigns. There is no such thing as true democracy. Those with the most gold get the most votes. At least, with an hereditary monarch, someone does care about the people...if for no other reason than it is in their and their family's best interest to do so. I can accept this, but I cannot accept that a republic will make life better...only worse. I like the fact that the monarch takes away from the glory of the politicians...it helps them to concentrate on their work.
13:37 June 20, 2011 by singlar
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:28 June 20, 2011 by me-me
Political arrest in Stockholm

Political police in Sweden is trying to help to the king to hide pictures with prostitutes or better said pictures that show how king spent money which he get from the state budget. Mile Marković (50), a former professional boxer and former strip club owner "Ponjer" in central Stockholm, who said that he will publish compromising photographs of Swedish king Gustav with prostitutes, returned on Friday from Serbia to Stockholm and when he intended to pass the customs control, he was stopped. He was detained half an hour at the airport while customs officials and police officers examined his luggage details. After that he entered into a taxi and headed towards his home in central Stockholm. But at 7 p.m., when leaving the vehicle, two Swedish cops approached him and handcuffed him suddenly. Dirty prosecutor kept him in custody one day and then let him to go. Marković said also that he will publish pictures of King's friends who spruce cocaine.

- Police still have my computer and two mobile phones. I do not care if they could find an image. I am worry, however, that they can set me up false evidence - Marković said after his release from detention.
18:46 June 21, 2011 by Donny
The king is a rapist...
23:59 June 21, 2011 by cutthecrap
Sweden is very lucky to have a monarchy. I'm sure that the vast majority of Swedes are very fond of their monarchy and value it very much.
13:48 June 22, 2011 by Qassim
I don't have problems with the Royal family but there are many in Sweden that think it is time to get rid of the monarchy. But one thing I know is that things are not as we see in the mainstream media, which are where the common Swedes get their news.

In fact, mainstream media reshaped their thinking and directed their attention to the monarchy (their reaction is not purely from them! It is of the tabloid effect!).

There are bigger issues in Swedish politics that needs to be tackled. The Royal Family did much in the past history of Sweden and for the Swedish society in preindustrial era and beyond...
18:55 June 22, 2011 by byke
Does this mean I won't get fined for throwing out the Christmas tree ?

I live in central Stockholm and the problem is that any waste material such as paint needs to be taken to a part of Stockholm which is just too far away. And add to that they have stupid opening hours.

Many people in Stockholm don't own a car (myself included) so its impossible to get to the one or two recycling stations.
17:44 June 23, 2011 by Ranger
Sweden is the laughing stock of the EU. It's not the King's fault. The problem is caused by the many many Swedish people who are liars, cheaters and criminals. Sweden is internationally notorious for the people who are deadbeats that don't pay their bills and for having a degenerate society with corrupt politicians, corrupt lawyers and a corrupt court system. And despite the claims, it is a country that does not do it's part to help those around them. People would do better by becoming honest and taking proper care of their own family, minding their own business and not be gossiping about what the King is doing.
20:26 June 27, 2011 by jostein
A terrible article that totally misses the point. Any honest article about the last monarchy and the last year would be based on a discussion of the tasteless assassinationattpempt on the swedish monarchy perpetrated by tv4 and aftonbladet. But when i read junk like this im always happy and greatful. It is good when another journalist sets down her feet and gives witness on what side she is on. Clara Guibourg just categorized herself.
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