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Will the King of Sweden be the next Nordic royal to abdicate?

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Will the King of Sweden be the next Nordic royal to abdicate?
King Carl XVI Gustaf speaking with Denmark's Queen Margrethe at his Royal 50th Jubilee dinner. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Queen Margrethe’s surprise abdication news after 52 years on the throne of Denmark left Danes in shock – and Swedes wondering when their own king might hang up his crown.


When Queen Margrethe II steps down on January 14th, she will leave King Carl XVI Gustaf, her cousin, as the world’s longest still reigning monarch with his 51 years on the throne of Sweden.

This has reignited the debate about whether the Swedish King should retire and leave the kingdom to his overwhelmingly more popular daughter, Crown Princess Victoria.

What speaks against the King doing so is that there’s no tradition of the highest royal abdicating in Scandinavia, although it is possible Queen Margrethe’s break from tradition will set a precedent.

When Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in 2017 asked him when he would hand over the reins to Victoria, he said that he would try to hold on until his death which was a matter for God to decide, before his press secretary hastily pulled him away from the interview.

The 77-year-old King is understood to be in good health compared to his Danish and Norwegian counterparts, whose health issues have grabbed headlines in recent years. In early 2023 he underwent planned heart surgery, but resumed his duties after a couple of weeks of rest.

King Harald of Norway, who has been in and out of hospital in recent years, is in that case probably more likely to be the next Nordic royal to step down – although he too (just like Queen Margrethe, mind you) has also pledged on previous occasions that he will not abdicate.


Sweden's gaffe-prone King has not been immune to scandals.

In 2002 he was accused of looking down on people who live in poverty from his position of inherited wealth when he in his Christmas speech urged people to take charge of their own lives with the now famous (or infamous) words “no fried sparrows will come flying unless you make an effort to do your best”.

In 2004 on a state visit to Brunei, he praised the country – an absolute monarchy where the Sultan rules by decree – for being “very open” with the Sultan enjoying “colossal closeness to the people”.

But his heartfelt speech after the tsunami in south-east Asia in 2004, which caused the deaths of hundreds of Swedes, redeemed him in the eyes of many. His longevity on the throne has also in time helped make him folkkär – a Swedish word for “loved by the people”.

In 2023 he celebrated 50 years on the throne, and a total of 58 percent told a Demoskop poll that they thought the King was doing a good or very good job.


That said, Victoria remains by far the most popular member of the royal household.

A total of 36 percent told the same poll that they thought the King should abdicate and hand over the crown to Victoria, but slightly more – 40 percent – wanted him to remain as head of state.

If he does, his position is unthreatened. Only 11 percent told a poll by Gothenburg University’s SOM Institute in 2022 that they wanted to abolish the monarchy in favour of an elected president, the lowest support for a republic in two decades. And 68 percent thought it would be a bad idea.


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