I understand that Peter Althin, chairman of the Swedish Republican Association (Republikanska föreningen), thinks it both clever and easy to use an infant as a tool in his political campaign. It’s clever because saying that you care about a child’s welfare creates goodwill. It’s easy because Princess Estelle is too young to thank him for his concern.
If he was really driven by concern for the princess – and not his anti-monarchic fervour – Althin would hit pause on his line of reasoning until she was old enough to express her opinion.
Of course, if Princess Estelle could speak for herself, she might actually tell him what he does not want to hear.
“I understand what it entails to one day become Queen of Sweden. I think the monarchy will continue to play an important role in Swedish society in the future. I will not abdicate. I chose of my own free will to serve my country, as princess, then as crown princess and finally as queen.”
What arguments would Althin come up with then?
That the princess does not know what is good for her? That she is ungrateful to the good republicans so intent on setting her free?
If you listen to her mother, Crown Princess Victoria, and take note of her actions, it appears that the imagined quote above adequately sums up her attitude. This is why Althin doesn’t say “Liberate Victoria” very often – because the crown princess could actually defend herself.
People who say that her daughter Estelle should be given a “normal life” and the opportunity to choose her own path disregard the fact that all of us, no matter who we are, are born into a certain context – be that a family, a part of the country, a society. They disregard that we are all met, at an early age, with expectations, demands, and traditions.
These expectations form a context that we must decide how to relate to. A lot of this social fabric is probably good for us as it shapes our character, teaches us to distinguish between right and wrong, and helps us to develop as people.
That said, there can also be parts of it that we have to liberate ourselves from because they don’t correspond with how we want to live our lives. Many actors and artists, for example, talk about how they had to break with the surrounding expectations of choosing a “normal job”. These people had a calling in life.
Some of us will have to disappoint our parents. Many sons and daughters of farmers face a very tough choice in life. Either to fulfil their parents’ dream that the farm stays in the family, or to give up agriculture, which is both physically tough and at times financially insecure, and instead sell up and move to town.
A little princess is born into a very special set of circumstances and all of us will pay attention to her choices, but the basic principle remains the same. She will, as life progresses, have to make choices and decide how she will relate to the special context she was born into.
Will Princess Estelle accept the role she has inherited or will she choose to do something completely different in life? We’ll find out soon enough and I will respect whatever she decides.
If Althin got what he wanted, however, she wouldn’t have a choice. And he is trying to make us believe that he wants the best for the princess?
It is important in a time of extensive and rapid change to have stable and secure institutions that we can rally around, that can act as a calm and soothing force in society. The monarchy is such an institution. Its foremost strength is its continuity and how it both unifies everyone in Sweden and acts a symbol of that unity.
Althin, however, regards the monarchy as a symbol of an “antiquated, dictatorial class society”. If you follow that line of argument to its logical conclusion, however, you could also say that both the government and parliament represent the continuity of an undemocratic society.
When parliament first assembled in 1435, it was in no way democratically elected. The national council (Riksrådet), the era’s equivalent to the government, had a history stretching back to the Middle Ages, which means it took more than half a millennium before government could claim it derived its power from a democratically elected Riksdag assembly.
I believe it is much more relevant to say that government, parliament and the monarchy are institutions that have evolved over the centuries. They have managed to adapt to changes in society and politics in Sweden while avoiding revolutions and bloodshed.
The regent was once Sweden’s political leader and is now an apolitical representative of modern, democratic Sweden. Does anyone look at Crown Princess Victoria and associate her with dictatorship and repression?
Republicans usually say that people who want to keep the monarchy are governed by their feelings and not by reason. I think it’s the other way around. Republicans feel so strongly in their dislike of culture, traditions, and ceremonies that they want to discard an institution that functions and serves Sweden.
Why fix what isn’t broken?
And sure, Princess Estelle needs liberating… from the Republican Association.
Andreas Norlén is a Moderate Party MP and sits on the parliamentary committtee on constitutional affairs. The original version of his op-ed was published in Swedish on Newsmill.