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Swedish royals

June 19, 2010

Deutsche Welle talked to Swedish journalist Per Svensson about the state of Sweden's royal family ahead of Crown Princess Victoria's wedding on June 19. Svensson says it's time to consider abolishing the monarchy.

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and her fiance Daniel Westling wave from the palace balcony
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and her fiance Daniel Westling tie the knotImage: dpa

On June 19, Victoria, the Swedish crown princess married her fiance Daniel Westling in a very public royal wedding. But many in Sweden do not see this as a reason to celebrate. In a recent poll, only 40 percent of Swedes said they approved of the royal family, and tens of thousands have joined a group on Facebook called "Refuse to Pay for Victoria's Wedding." Journalist Per Svensson has published a book on the Swedish monarchy called, "They Have Never Been More Dangerous."

DW: What is it that you find so objectionable about the Swedish monarchy?

Per Svensson: I find the monarchy as a matter of principle objectionable, for the classical reasons: that it's wrong to inherit the highest office in the land, and so forth. But I think today it's extra objectionable due to the fact that the monarchy has no formal powers whatsoever in Sweden.

And I think that is the reason they are so dangerous at the moment, because they don't have any kind of formal powers. They don't have any kind of formal responsibilities either, so they can act as a lobby group without any kind of political restraint or political control, if they wish to do so - which they have not so far, but we don't have any guarantees.

But surely, if they don't have any real powers, they can't do any real damage.

But they have celebrity power, which is the most powerful power you can have in the media and society. And that's exactly why, with a slight exaggeration, I will admit that I consider them more dangerous than ever. Because they are top of the pops, so to speak, on the celebrity list.

But aren't you objecting to media coverage of the royal family, rather than the royal family itself?

No, I'm objecting to the royal family itself, because the royals in Sweden and in a lot of other countries tend to bring out the worst in the media and the worst in people. And in fact, you have to be honest and say the Swedish king is a rather poor king. He's not even good at the very few duties that he still has. He's not even very good at celebrating Swedish victories on the sports tracks, which is the main thing he has to do nowadays, to applaud when Sweden wins gold medals. He isn't even good at that. So he's a very poor king, and nobody says it.

A guard marching outside of the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm
Should the public have to subsidize the royal lifestyle and palace?Image: AP

Are you suggesting, then, that the Swedish monarchy should be abolished?

Yeah. Actually, I think it's going to abolish itself. Because now the future queen, Victoria, is marrying a guy who used to be her personal trainer. And I mean, I think it's a genuine love story, and I have nothing against Victoria and her husband-to-be actually. But I think it's going to be a bit silly that you have to call a former personal trainer "His Royal Highness." I mean, I don't think people will swallow that for so long.

And their children, the children that they will hopefully have, will have to go back and forth from the royal castle in Stockholm to a very ordinary middle-class house back in Ockelbo. I think people will find it a little bit curious, a little bit funny. I mean, why should this family be so special when they aren't special at all?

How much support is there for doing away with the monarchy in Sweden?

Surprisingly, support for the monarchy is declining, I would think, and it would be logical that the support would rise, now, when they have this wedding coming up. Everybody thinks that - and it is - a colorful spectacle, and so on; it's romantic and so on. The popularity should increase. But in fact the popularity has decreased during this spring. I can't explain it; I'm actually myself very surprised.

That their popularity has gone down?

Yes. And their popularity should go up, actually. And the only reason for that, I think, is that people are getting a little bit fed up with the royals. They are taking up so much space in the media. Much the same way that you can be fed up with a celebrity that has taken up a lot of space in the media.

But does it really matter if the royal family is just another flavor of reality television?

It matters to me, because in Sweden, [the king] is the head of state. I mean, that's the highest office in the land. And I don't think it's OK to treat the highest office in the land just as a part in a soap opera. You have to take it seriously. There's nothing wrong with soap operas, but they don't belong in real politics, they don't belong in the constitution.

The Danish Royal Family's formal portrait
At least the Danish royals are interesting, Svensson saysImage: picture alliance / dpa

Are there other countries that manage their royal families better than Sweden? And if so, which ones are they?

I don't like monarchies in principle.

But it's interesting to see, I live in the southern part of Sweden, in Malmo, it's very close to Copenhagen - and the Danish royal house is actually the better royal house. That's simply due to the fact that the queen of Denmark is a more interesting, more charming, and more talented person, I would say, than her Swedish cousin - she is the cousin of the Swedish king. So that's another argument against the monarchy, I think. There's no quality control. It's completely random, and you shouldn't be at the mercy of randomness in this case.

Interview: Mark Caldwell
Editor: Martin Kuebler