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Swedes cheer birth of baby Prince Oscar in Stockholm

UPDATED: Sweden's new prince has been named Oscar Carl Olof, his grandfather King Carl XVI Gustaf has announced.

Swedes cheer birth of baby Prince Oscar in Stockholm
A Swedish child welcomes Oscar into the world (left) and Sweden's Princess Estelle meets her new brother. Photos: TT/Royal Court

He is going to become Duke of Skåne, Sweden's southernmost region, the King said at a press conference in Stockholm on Thursday. 

Also paying tribute to his own sister Princess Birgitta's husband who passed away on Wednesday, the King said: “Life is wondrous and in some peculiar way it goes on, that is what is so amazing.”

A total of 34,762 men and boys are already called Oscar in Sweden, according to Statistics Sweden.

The King said he had not yet met his new grandson but would be seeing him “at a distance” later in the day, revealing that he had come down with a bout of influenza and did not want to pass on the bug.

But Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Speaker of Parliament Urban Ahlin, who were also present at the press conference, said they had both met the child and assured media he was “exceptionally cute”.


From left, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Prince Carl Philip and King Carl XVI Gustaf. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

A 21-gun salute was fired from the Skeppsholmen island in Stockholm, Boden, Härnösand, Karlskrona and Gothenburg at noon in honour of the new prince.

It was Crown Princess Victoria's husband Prince Daniel who first revealed a baby had been born at a press conference at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm late on Wednesday. He told Swedish media that his wife had given birth to a boy at 8.28pm, weighing 3,655 grams and measuring 52 centimetres.

“Everything's gone very well, it happened quickly,” he said, adding how impressed he was with his wife. “You women are a primal force. (…) He looks like his mother, which is pleasing.”

The proud father said he had been at the hospital during the birth and had cut the umbilical cord himself.


Prince Daniel trying to show how big the new baby is when he spoke to media on Wednesday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
 
Princess Estelle, the couple's elder child, went to meet her brother on Thursday morning, having been asleep when he made his arrival.

Ahead of her visit, Prince Daniel told Swedish media: “Estelle is really enthusiastic and happy to become a big sister.”

Princess Victoria joked last year that the little girl would “want a hamster” rather than a sibling.

However the Prime Minister Stefan Löfven revealed that Estelle had prepared some art work for her brother.

“She was a little disappointed that he had his eyes closed, because she wanted to show all the drawings which she had drawn,” he told Swedish media, smiling.

The Royal Court's press office confirmed just after 9am that the family had left the hospital and had been allowed to return to their city residence, the Haga Palace.

“Both mother and child are in good health,” read a statement in English on the court's website, which also issued a somewhat fuzzy photo of the royals heading home.


Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Estelle and Prince Daniel, heading home after the birth of their new tiny family member. Photo: Royal Court


A more staged earlier snap showing Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Estelle and Prince Daniel, who will welcome the new prince into their family. Photo: Kate Gabor/Royal Court

Victoria's two siblings, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip, were both spotted visiting the hospital on Wednesday evening to welcome the newest family member, who is third in line to the throne after his mother and sister. They also attended a special service on Thursday.

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Congratulations to my sister Victoria and Daniel with the birth of their son! He was born today at 8:28pm here in Stockholm!

Posted by Princess Madeleine of Sweden on Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Meanwhile, Swedes and royal fans worldwide rushed to social media to share their joy about the birth, while others signed a congratulations book in Stockholm.


Swedish children signing a congratulations book in Stockholm. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife Queen Silvia now have four grandchildren, including London-based Madeleine's two children Leonore and Nicolas. The birth marks the start of a baby bonanza spring for the royals, with Carl Philip and Princess Sofia expecting their first child later this month or in April.

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HISTORY

The unusual way Sweden once solved its housing crisis and boosted living conditions

In the first half of the 20th century, Sweden implemented an unconventional campaign to transform it from a country with the lowest standards of housing in Europe to one of the highest in the world.

The unusual way Sweden once solved its housing crisis and boosted living conditions
A working-class family in Stockholm in the 1940s. Photo: SvD/TT

“The good home knows no privilege or neglect, no favourites and no stepchildren,” proclaimed Swedish Social Democrat Per Albin Hansson in 1928. “In the good home, equality, caring, cooperation and helpfulness prevail.”

This was the dream of Folkhemmet (The People's Home) – comprised of the “great home” of the Swedish nation and the “small home” of each citizen – which would, in Hansson's words, “signify the breaking down of all social and economic barriers which now divide citizens into privileged and disadvantaged, rulers and dependents, rich and poor, propertied and impoverished, exploiters and exploited.”

For the majority of working-class Swedes who had flocked to urban areas starting in the 1920s and were living in crowded, squalid and often dangerous conditions, this ideal “good home” was indeed a dream.

“During the first decades of the 20th century, Sweden had one of the lowest standards of housing in Europe. In cities and towns, around a third of the inhabitants lived five or more persons in small one- or two-room apartments,” explained Maria Göransdotter of Umeå University in her 2012 article, A Home for Modern Life: Educating taste in 1940s Sweden.

“Despite a surge in housing construction and an increase in real wages for workers over the course of the 1920s, affordable, hygienic and spatially adequate housing was beyond the means of the vast majority,” architect Lucy Creagh wrote in her 2011 article, From acceptera to Vällingby: The Discourse on Individuality and Community in Sweden (1931-54). “The fact that almost 70 percent of all dwellings lacked proper bathing facilities and 60 percent had no central heating only exacerbated a housing problem reported at the time to be the worst in Europe.”

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Resolving the housing crisis and improving living conditions were therefore central to the creation of the People's Home. But rather than address the issue through the single solution of mass urban housing development, Sweden took a more nuanced approach that put at least some of the responsibility for improving living conditions on Swedish citizens themselves.

Beginning in the 1930s and particularly following the end of World War Two in 1945, Sweden's strategy for realizing Folkhemmet included a highly organized national campaign of “home reform” and “taste education” designed to bring the country into a collective and uniform modernity one home at a time.

“The centrality of the housing question in the socio-political agenda was a strongly contributing factor for establishing the home as one of the most important arenas for, and concepts in, social and material reform in the mid-20th century,” according to Göransdotter. “Specifically, the reform efforts concerned the domestic interior, and aimed at promoting a new and modern way of using and decorating the home through advice literature, educational efforts and legislation.”

Through this programme of social education, it was instilled in average Swedes that modern citizenship began in the home, and an outdated, poorly organized, and “ugly” home that did not exhibit a certain level of uniformity reflected similar attributes in the individual. It was made clear that in each home, “There should also exist a correspondence between the degree of modernity, the awareness of social and political issues, and the level of taste,” Göransdotter explains.

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These principles of Swedish Modernism – also called functionalism – were rooted in the philosophy of Swedish intellectual and writer Ellen Key (1849-1926) who, Creagh writes, “proposed that beauty in the home was as essential to the democratic cause as employment, better working conditions and educational reforms, for beauty was the innate and common longing of all people, a necessity that transcended the logic of class and wealth.” 

The campaign to indoctrinate Swedes with these principles, which would help them achieve “ideal” homes and, by extension, become “ideal” citizens, was defined by specific standards and clear visual models. One way these were perpetuated was via exhibitions designed “to spread good taste and make propaganda for a better way of living and furnishing the home,” according to Göransdotter.


The NK-Bo exhibition in 1947. Photo: SvD/TT

After World War Two, specialty departments like NK-Bo in the Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) department store in Stockholm also spread the Swedish vision for the ideal home to citizens through model interiors not unlike what we find in Ikea today.

Though the contrast between the images of how an actual working-class family lived in Swedish cities in the 1940s and how such families were being educated to live seem to represent an unbridgeable chasm, history has demonstrated just how effective these tactics were.

“This period saw the development and implementation of the Folkhem model for housing provision, a model recognised as one of the most effective in the world,” explain scholars Karin Grundström and Irene Molina in their 2016 article, From Folkhem to lifestyle housing in Sweden. “The Folkhem programme eliminated a national housing shortage and by the early 1970s had achieved decent housing conditions for the entire population of Sweden as well as a high housing standard.”

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.

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