Scandinavia’s royal families bask in mass approval, as royal historian ROGER LUNDGREN confirms. Polls from Norway, Sweden and Denmark all place public support for their royal families, though they’ve had their fair share of scandals…
From left to right: Princess Madeleine with Princess Leonore, her husband Christopher O’Neill and Prince Nicolas; heir-apparent Princess Victoria with Prince Oscar, her husband Prince Daniel and Princess Estelle; Princess Sofia with Prince Alexander and her husband Prince Carl Philip; (sitting) King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia
When Sweden lost Finland to Russia in 1809, the then king, Gustaf IV Adolf, fled to exile. To fill the void, and as a sop to Napoleon, whose help Sweden had hoped for in reclaiming Finland, the Swedes shipped in French marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, the husband of Napoleon’s beloved ‘Desirée’. The king attempted to speak Swedish to his subjects just once, but was met with such deafening laughter that he never tried again. He was also claimed to have said of his adopted country: “The wine is terrible, the people without temperament, and even the sun is without warmth.”
While the current king, Carl XVI Gustaf, can at least speak Swedish and hasn’t yet complained about the wine, his popularity is in rapid decline. A poll this year found almost 40 per cent of Swedes want to see him abdicate and make way for his daughter, Crown Princess Victoria’s, whose popularity has been unwavering and increased significantly in 2010 when she married her down-to-earth personal trainer, Daniel Westling.
Rumours about the current king’s private life were confirmed in a book published in 2010, Carl XVI Gustaf: Den motvillige monarken (Carl XVI Gustaf: The Reluctant Monarch). The book catalogued his past predilection for wild, alcohol-fuelled orgies and naked, Dominique Strauss-Kahn-style parties with models, on top of a long term affair with Swedish-Nigerian pop star, Camilla Henemark. After consulting his German wife, Sylvia – whom he met during the Münich Olympics of 1972, and continues to face questions about her family’s Nazi past – the couple decided to turn a new page. Roger Lundgren, who wrote a biographer of Queen Sylvia, says she was thrown straight into being queen, and had very little time to prepare.
That worked until their son, Prince Carl Philip, sparked controversy in 2015 by marrying model Sofia Hellqvist. Sofia had previously been pictured in Slitz magazine wearing nothing but a bikini a boa constrictor.
From left to right: Ari Behn, Princess Martha Louise and their children Maud Angelica and Leah Isadora; Crown Princess Mette-Marit and heir-apparent Crown Prince Haakon with Emma Tallulah Behn and Princess Ingrid Alexandra; (sitting) Prince Sverre Magnus, King Harald V and Queen Sonja
Nowadays the popularity of Norway’s royal family is enormous. One poll, that asked Norwegians whether they thought their king had done a ‘good job’, came back with an astonishing one per cent disagreeing. But, as in Sweden, the going hasn’t always been smooth. The late 1990s saw a significant dip in royal support when Mette Marit, who married Crown Prince Haakon in 2001, was widely criticised for entering the royal house as a divorcee and single mother of one. Nevertheless, support for Harald and his family has bounced back with ease. The most recent poll, conducted in 2014, found that around 82 per cent of Norwegians are in favour of keeping the monarchy.
Norway’s monarchy is in fact not Norwegian, but Danish. Having shared Denmark’s king during the Kalmar Union from 1397 to 1814, and Sweden’s to independence in 1905, Norwegians had lost track of its Viking royal lines and, with no desire for a republic, they were forced to search for a new monarch elsewhere. Prince Carl of Denmark, married to the British Queen Maud of Wales, was shipped over and promptly crowned as the more Norwegian sounding ‘Haakon VII’ in Trondheim, the ancient seat of the monarchy and where the current king had his coronation in 1991.
In 2019, the King’s eldest daughter, Princess Märtha Louise announced she was in a relationship with American shaman. We’re yet to see how this plays out, but Roger Lundgren says the press haven’t been kind so far!
From left to right: Crown Prince Fredrik, Crown Princess Mary and Prince Felix; Queen Margarethe II; Prince Joachim and his wife Princess Marie with Princes Nikolai, Christian, Vincent and Hendrik and Princesses Isabella, Josephine and Athena
Unlike the other their Norwegian neighbours, to whom they lent a royal, Denmark’s royal family can claim to be actually Danish, though the arrival of Mary (from Tasmania), the queen’s husband and their youngest son’s wife, Marie (from France), may have diluted this. Danish liberalism, together with a well-known understanding in Margarethe’s marriage, meant her husband, former Parisian diplomat Henri de Monpezat (renamed ‘Henrik’ to fit in) avoided outrage for his well-documented homosexual affairs. He died in 2018.
Fluent in four languages and an artist in her spare time, Queen Margarethe (now one of only two queens in the world) currently holds a 77 per cent approval rating. But, like their neighbours, the heirs to the throne, Crown Prince Fredrik and his glamorous wife, Mary, steal much of the popularity.
An absolute monarchy until as late as 1849, the Danish royals continue many traditions that appear entirely out of place in such a liberal nation but Margarethe’s common touch (as a chain smoker and keen shopper) has done much to dispel them. The square outside Amalienborg Palace is always packed for official events, and around 80 per cent of Danes are said to have seen their queen, compared to under 50 per cent of Brits.
Roger Lundgren says the Windsors are outliers, as the other European royals regularly meet each another both formally and informally. Prince Harry visited Denmark, meeting Queen Margrethe, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have been to Norway, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured Sweden with their Crown couple in 2018. But, Roger says, this was the first time they realised the closeness and similarities of their contemporaries… and what they missed.
Denmark’s multi-tasking queen
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