Monarchy is alive and well in Scandinavia. Sweden, Norway and Denmark all have royal figureheads.
Monarchy could hardly be more entrenched than in Denmark. Queen Margrethe II is the 53rd in an unbroken line of sovereigns spanning more than 1,000 years. She became Queen of Denmark in 1972.
Sweden, too, has had more than 60 kings since 980. The present King Carl Gustav may be “XVI”, but his direct line begins with Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, the French marshal who became heir apparent in 1810 and Sweden’s king in 1818.
Norway’s royal line ceased when Norway became a Danish province and the monarchy was only restored, after a referendum, following the dissolution in 1905 of the subsequent union with Sweden. The present king, Harald V, is the third of the modern line, the “V” notwithstanding.
Not a little craft has gone into keeping the Scandinavian monarchies in good health. When Carl XVI Gustav ascended the Swedish throne in 1973, the Constitution began with: “The King alone shall govern the realm…” Lest he got the wrong impression, this was hastily changed to: “All public power in Sweden emanates from the people…”
The king decided his own official motto ought to be: “For Sweden – in keeping with the Times.”
This was the cue for changing the rules of succession so that they no longer discriminated against daughters. Consequently, next in line is Crown Princess Victoria rather than her younger brother.
In 2010, the Swedish royal house had some dramatic highs and lows. Princess Victoria married her beau Daniel Westling in a ceremony that drew crowds of half a million onto Stockholm’s streets. But later that year, revelations about Queen Silvia’s father’s Nazi connection came hot on the heels of a best-selling biography about the king, which contained details of his wild sex life.
In contrast, King Harald loves boats, representing Norway at the Olympic Games, and winning the European championship in 2005 – right after a heavy bypass. Unlike his Swedish counterpart, Harald would not be seen dead in a Ferrari. He uses public transport.
Fittingly, the Crown Prince found himself a bachelor flat in an unfashionable part of Oslo, but let the side down, as it were, by sharing it with a waitress, and her three-year old son by a man who was in prison for drug offences; they are now married and have two children of their own. Despite her fear of flying, the crown-princess has travelled the world with her husband Haakon, and has made official visits to India, United Kingdom and the United States.
Daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, married a Norwegian disputed author, Ari Behn in 2002. Last year she faced criticism from her own family after she collaborated with an American clairvoyant who contacts the dead.
In August this year, Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria, 38, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, 42, who had a busy schedule returning from a family holiday in France – and despite pregnancy rumors – joined force in the picturesque town Halden to promote UN’s global climate change campaign.
If conscientious exercises in non-charisma go down well in Norway, Queen Margrethe could not hope to do the same in Denmark. She has been showered with academic honours from the likes of Cambridge, Oxford and the London School of Economics. While trying unsuccessfully to hide her distinguished output as a painter, writer and designer behind a string of aliases, she has at least persuaded her friends to call her Daisy. The Queen’s artistic works are represented at Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark), ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, , and Køge Art Gallery Sketch Collection (sketches for church textiles).
Crown Prince Frederik, her heir, is not much better at disguise. Dressing down for a night on the town, he turned out so scruffy that the bar refused to let him in. As a trained soldier, no mean dancer and the leader of a husky-drawn expedition across Greenland, Frederik’s status as a dashing bachelor ended in marriage to Australian Mary Donaldson, with whom he now has four children.