Thursday, February 23, 2012

About the King of Sweden and Queen Regnants

In the late 1970s, the Swedish Parliament brought forth discussion on a change to the Act of Succession to allow for absolute primogeniture in sucession to the throne, with retroactivity to the king's children*. Princess Victoria was born in July 1977. Crown Prince Carl-Philip was born in May 1979 and was heir to the throne, followed by his sister Princess Victoria.

On 1 January 1980, the infant crown prince and his older sister switched places in the line of succession due to the passage of an updated Act of Succession. In the lead up to this change, King Carl XVI Gustaf was very clear about his feelings on the matter. He did not approve of absolute primogeniture, not because he doesn't see the wisdom of female monarchs or of any feelings of female weakness, but because it demanded retroactivity and therefore affected his children already born to specific positions; the change in law stripped Carl Philip of his title of Crown Prince. Additionally, under the guise of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", he believed it could portend the end of the monarchy in Sweden. In 1979 when the issues was being debated, he may not have exactly been far off.

Years later, the king spoke in more detail about his thoughts on the matter. He held to the idea that life as a monarch is hard enough, but for the male spouse of a queen regnant, life would be more difficult. Understanding the thin line between modernity and tradition, he expressed concern that Swedes would be more willing to go to a republic rather than have a monarchy that didn't continue the line of kings. Also, he feared his eldest daughter would have trouble finding a mate who would consent to taking a back seat to her before and once she became Queen Victoria; he knew the troubles experienced by the Duke of Edinburgh (nephew of Queen Louise of Sweden, née Mountbatten), Prince Claus in the Netherlands and Prince Henrik in Denmark. He remarked how the role of consort was more suited to a woman and couldn't see how a man would be interested in taking on issues of decoration or state banquet organisation, for example. He didn't seem to count on the ego issues that his contemporaries had being significantly less of an issue with his daughter's contemporaries. Nor could he have foreseen the progressive changes in Swedish society which allow for men and women to adjust positively to the roles that men and women can take. Fortunately!

*When Norway's Parliament changed their Act of Succession to allow for absolute primogeniture in 1990, it did not assume retroactivity to King Olav's children or already-born grandchildren, Princess Märtha Louise and Prince Haakon Magnus; despite being the younger sibling, Haakon kept his place as his father and grandfather's direct heir. In Denmark in 2009, the Danish Parliament went to absolute primogeniture; with Prince Xian being the eldest, no retroactivity would have had any affect, since he was already first born and a boy.

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