Over the last year or so, there’s been a fair amount of hubbub related to the monarchy. Gossip, scandals, royal weddings—whether it’s good news or bad, there’s an ongoing discussion about whether the country should maintain the monarchy or abolish the establishment altogether.
You might expect a good American like me to be pretty anti-royalty. After all, every July we suspend all memory of our “special relationship” with England and celebrate kicking them the heck out of our country a couple of hundred years ago. Equality was a founding ideal of the United States (if not a founding practice), and nobility was outlawed in the first section of the Constitution.
Not to second guess all that, but fast forward to the present day and the Swedish monarchy seems pretty awesome from where I’m sitting.
Should I stay or should I go now?? Photo and graphic courtesy the Swedish Institute.
Yes, they’re tremendously rich and famous for no other reason than being born to a certain family; yes, their wealth is generated in part by tax payer crowns that might be better allocated elsewhere. All the same, Sweden’s royal family is an important patron of the arts, fashion, and Swedish culture, and the Queen is famous for her charity work, especially on behalf of children.
What’s more, although you might not like that their wealth and power is pretty arbitrary, it could be worse! At least the royal family isn’t famous because of a sex tape, which constitutes a whole genre of celebrity in the States.
Here are some more reasons to love the monarchy:
1. Royal Weddings
Everyone loves a royal wedding. As long as you’re not a totally bitter, “I-hate-the-monarchy-my-tax-crowns-are-being-wasted” type, a royal wedding is just a great excuse to get all mushy and drink champagne and watch vaguely recognizable people mingle with the royals on television. Last summer, Stockholm had a whole “Summer of Love” festival to celebrate Crown Princess Victoria’s marriage to Daniel Westling, now the Duke of Västergötland. And what a fairytale… a commoner and a princess. It’s enough to make me a little weepy.
There are two big advantages of royal weddings over celebrity weddings. One, because the people are paying, cameras get to capture every minute. Two, they’re classy. Ball gowns, tuxedos, ballroom dances, the most sparkling of crystal glasses, the shiniest of silverware. Seriously. You can still watch the whole royal wedding, clip by clip, on the state-sponsored TV channel’s website (SVT). Follow this link to watch Victoria and Daniel waltzing. I love it.
2. Division of labor
In the United States, the president has to do both the governing/political work and the figurehead/emotional work. It’s a lot to ask of one person, and it has to be distracting. In Sweden, the prime minister can focus on his part of the government, and the royal family can tackle the figurehead work on their own.
For example, there was recently a slew of deadly tornadoes in the Midwest of the United States. Obama went there to deliver speeches and pledge support—a moving show of solidarity with victims of a natural disaster. It’s important for someone to do that, but sometimes I wonder what meetings he’s missing or what he should be attending to instead. If it had been Sweden, the King or Crown Princess Victoria could have gone instead, leaving the government to operate as usual. Same for good news events as well. Efficiency!
3. Continuity in celebrity gossip
In the United States, the focus of celebrity gossip is always changing. I barely get a chance to catch up on the most recent developments in the lives of the (sometimes) rich and famous before that group of people changes. There’s no character development*! In Sweden, half of the tabloid space covers the royal family… all the time. You can really find your allegiances and stick with them for a very long time.
When Victoria and Daniel have children, you know I’ll be reading about that child from practically its first ultrasound, and by the time he or she is 25, I will really think that I know that child and somehow witnessed his/her upbringing. I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus for anyone involved, but at least it limits the cast of characters I have to keep up with to a fairly finite group.
*(I could get all “I studied English literature in college, and lack of character development is a legitimate complaint for some Very Important Reasons, Cultural Studies, OH MY GOD DID YOU SEE THAT!” but mostly it has to do with my love of celebrity gossip.)
4. Knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, kitsch
Along with royalty (and the aforementioned royal wedding) comes piles and piles of hilarious kitsch. Wedding trays, postcards, placemats, greeting cards, magnets, coffee mugs… the list of items with photos of the royal family or decorative motifs on them goes on and on. I never buy any of these things because there is very little room in our studio apartment for ridiculous collectibles, but I kind of love them in theory. They’re a very tasteful kind of tacky. Go into any gift shop and you’ll see what I mean.
5. Novelty, nostalgia
Monarchies are not all that common anymore, and it feels pretty special to live in one of the few that remain. “The Kingdom of Sweden”—it’s got a nice ring to it, right? And with Sweden’s reputation for innovation and progressive values, it’s kind of cool that they have held on to this obviously antiquated establishment while modernizing it (world’s first gender neutral throne!) in keeping with the times.
It’s easy to make arguments against the royalty on an ideological level, but as an American, I would just warn my dear host country that if it gets rid of the institution, a new crop of celebrities will rise up to claim their part of the limelight, and Swedes will lose all the good parts of the monarchy. I speak from experience. Abolish not, lest a plague of Kardashians overtake thy country.