I will be the first to admit that I don’t pay close attention to royal families outside of the UK. While I get the gist of the Swedish Royal Family, I certainly don’t know the ins and outs, so the for the purposes of being prepared for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s upcoming visit to Stockholm, I thought we could all do with a refresher. The SRF is probably the European monarchy that comes close to rivalling the Windsors in popularity, which is thanks to its informality, steadiness and not one but three young (and growing) families. So, let’s get into it.
First and foremost, both families are in fact related and the current cast of characters are all descended from Queen Victoria. The current king, Carl XVI Gustaf, is the grandson of Gustaf VI Adolf and his first wife, Margaret of Connaught. Margaret was never queen of Sweden – unfortunately she passed away in 1920 while still only Crown Princess. She was a daughter of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, himself the third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. After Margaret’s death, Gustaf married a second British woman, one of Margaret’s cousins, Lady Louise Mountbatten.
That surname may well ring a bell for some of you – she was a daughter of Victoria of Hesse, Marchioness of Milford Haven, which makes her an aunt to Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and a sister of Louis Mountbatten, now reaching renewed fame with a younger generation courtesy of The Crown.
They have further ties to the Danish Royal Family, which we covered back in October ahead of Prince Harry’s visit. To limit ourselves to recent history, Princess Ingeborg of Denmark, granddaughter of Christian IX (the father of Edward VII’s wife, Alexandra), married the Swedish Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland in 1897. Their daughter, Märtha, would go on to marry the future Olav V of Norway, son of Queen Maud (daughter of Edward VII). Meanwhile, Ingeborg’s mother was Princess Louise of Sweden, who married Denmark’s Frederick VIII and produced both Christian X of Denmark and Haakon VII of Norway (the above mentioned Maud’s husband). If you followed all of that, well done. And if not, then clicking through the links above should help!
So, back to the present. The current king, Carl Gustaf, ascended the Swedish throne in 1973 at the age of 27. His day-to-day job looks quite a bit like that of Queen Elizabeth II, including serving his constitutional role as monarch within the government, holding the rank of Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, conducting and hosting state visits and carrying out engagements. One unique twist for the SRF is that it is the King who hands out the Nobel Prizes each year, making the annual summit one of the most important functions on the royal calendar.
Carl Gustaf met Silvia Sommerlath at the 1972 Olympics. Silvia was 28, working at the Argentine Consulate and a former flight attendant. Of German and Brazilian heritage, she speaks six languages, including Swedish. The couple were engaged in March 1976 and married three months later in Stockholm Cathedral. Rather famously, the pop group ABBA performed “Dancing Queen” for the couple the night before their wedding ceremony. Worth noting is that had the pair attempted to marry during the reign of the King’s grandfather, Carl Gustaf would have had to bow out of the succession thanks to strict rules on only royals only marrying royals. Needless to say, as king and queen, Carl Gustaf have taken a far more flexible approach when it comes to their own children’s relationships.
The couple have three children: Victoria (b. 1977), Carl Philip (b. 1979) and Madeleine (b. 1982). As of when the first two children were born, Carl Philip was the heir apparent as the eldest male child of the sovereign. However, before his birth a constitutional reform was underway to implement absolute primogeniture, which allowed for the sovereign’s eldest child – regardless of gender – to succeed. The reform went through and on June 1, 1980, Victoria and Carl Philip switched places in the succession.
Sweden was the first European monarchy to adopt this procedure. Indeed, similar modernization wasn’t introduced into the UK until 2013, which went into effect with the birth of Princess Charlotte in 2015. At the time, Carl Gustaf was opposed to the measure, believing it unfair for his son to be disinherited from what had thus far been this birthright. To be fair, when the British incorporated absolute primogeniture, they didn’t allow it to work retroactively – as such, for example, the Duke of York and Earl of Wessex still hold higher positions in the succession than their elder sister, the Princess Royal.
Regardless, Victoria is now the Crown. Based on age, her closest peer within the BRF is the Duke of Cambridge, but based on hierarchy it is actually his father, the Prince of Wales.
Victoria’s education eventually took her out of Sweden. She spent time studying in France, as well as Yale University in the United States. She also spent time as an intern at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C. From 2006-2007, she was enrolled in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Diplomat Program and graduated from Uppsala University in 2009. On July 14, 1995, Victoria made a declaration of majority and delivered her first public speech in the Hall of State at the Royal Palace of Stockholm – the event marked her eligibility to serve as Head of State when her father is out of the country, and to succeed as an adult whenever the time comes.
In 1997, Victoria established the Crown Princess Victoria fund, which serves to support disabled and chronically ill children. It complements ongoing charitable work that Victoria carries out on her father’s behalf, as well as significant public functions and foreign tours.
Victoria’s first public boyfriend Daniel Collert, who followed her to the United States when she was living there. The relationship ended in 2001. The following year she began dating her personal trainer, Daniel Westling. The two became engaged in February 2009 and married in June 2010 in Stockholm Cathedral. They now have two children, Princess Estelle (b. February 2012) and Prince Oscar (b. March 2016). As with Victoria, Estelle will someday succeed her mother on the throne. And while Daniel is known as Prince Daniel, the Swedish also bestow dukedoms on royal children (unlike in the BRF when they are usually handed out at marriage) – Estelle is also known as the Duchess of Östergötland and Oscar as the Duke of Skåne.
Notably, Victoria has publicly acknowledged suffering from an eating disorders in the mid to late-’90s. She later said of it:
“I felt like an accelerating train, going right down… during the whole period. I had eating disorders and was aware of it, my anguish was enormous. I really hated how I looked like, how I was… I, Victoria, didn’t exist. It felt like everything in my life and around me was controlled by others. The one thing I could control was the food I put in me”
She is of course fully recovered today, but it’s an interesting example of a royal exhibiting candor in a way that could benefit others.
Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland is a keen athlete, as well as a graphic designer and artist. He completed military training at the Amphibious Battalion at Vaxholm Coastal Artillery Regiment as a combat boat commander in 2000, and in 2007 and 2008 he went to the Swedish National Defense College. In the spring of 2010, his relationship with Sofia Hellqvist, a model, came to light in the media. The relationship was confirmed and their engagement was announced in June 2014. The two married a year later in the Palace’s chapel.
The relationship, particularly once the couple were engaged, garnered international media attention thanks to Sofia’s career and suggestive photo shoots she took part in while modeling. Both have attacked the press for bullying behavior, though much of it has died down (at least at an international level – I don’t have a sense for how she’s reported on in Swedish papers).
In April 2016, Carl Philip and Sofia welcomed a son, Alexander. He was followed by a brother, Gabriel, in August 2017. They are known as the Dukes of Södermanland and Dalarna, respectively.
As for Madeleine, after completing her secondary education in Sweden, she spent a year in London studying English in 2001. In January 2003, she enrolled in Stockholm University and graduated in 2006 with degrees in art history, ethnology and modern history. She followed that up the next year with courses in child psychology.
Madeleine was briefly engaged to lawyer Jonas Bergström in 2009, but it was announced in 2010 that the relationship had ended and the wedding was duly called off. She moved to New York City for a change of pace and began working with the World Childhood Foundation. During this time she met British-born American financier Christopher O’Neill and the two were engaged in October 2012. The wedding took place in Stockholm in 2013.
Their first child, Leonore, was born in February 2014, and their second, Nicolas, was born in February 2015. During her second pregnancy, the Palace announced that Madeleine and her family had moved to New York City, and a few months after Nicolas’s birth, they moved once more to London where they continue to spend the majority of their time. This past August it was announced that the couple are expecting their third child, due in March 2018.
It’s not difficult to guess why this particular family remains popular. The current generation of “young royals” all boast well-rounded and thorough educations, speak multiple languages and engage in substantial philanthropic work. That, combined with marriages and babies all occurring within a few years of one another, means that their family news, so to speak, has been the positive, feel-good sort that generally boosts a monarchy’s appeal.
Arguably, it is this model to which Prince Charles is looking to transition the House of Windsor. The entire focus of the monarchy in Sweden is on the monarch, his spouse and his children. While various other generations exist – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. – they are certainly not the focus and the idea of the monarchy is quality over quantity of players.
As we know, William and Kate will spend the majority of their two days in Stockholm with Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. Similarly aged, both with young children, the two couples should have plenty in common, not least of which is the reality of raising children within the unique confines of a royal family and the subsequent press attention.
In the meantime, can see an itinerary for William and Kate’s trip here.