Carl-Johan Swaerdenheim. The building in the background is the royal palace in central Stockholm.
A Swedish monarchy beyond 2020?
The mythical and the historical monarchy
Carl-Johan Swaerdenheim, Swedish Conservative Party
"All monarchies are historical, but not all are mythical." What do I mean by that? Well, my point is that all monarchies exist within a historical context, whether long or short, but only a few monarchies have that special sacrosanct or divine character that makes them religious rather than political in nature. An obvious example would be the Empire of Japan, were the current emperor Akihito is considered the 125th descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami.
Sweden is also a mythical monarchy, although with a lot of broken links in the chain of tradition. The history of the Swedish monarchy can be divided up into at least five important phases. The first phase was the Norse phase (around 200 BC-800 AD), when the Germanic high god Odin created the Realm of Sweden and ruled all of Scandinavia from the pagan temple at Uppsala. The second phase was the Viking phase (around 800-1100 AD), when the Swedish vikings in the west plundered the monasteries of France and in the east roamed the rivers of Russia and created the foundation of the Russian state. The third phase was the Catholic phase (around 1100-1500 AD), when Swedish crusaders forcefully converted the pagan Finns and then went on to fight the Muscovites. The fourth and greatest phase was the Lutheran phase (around 1500-1800 AD), when Swedish armies marched across the European continent, and the Swedish king was revered as the "Saviour and Guardian of Evangelic Christianity". The fifth and latest phase is the Modern phase (from 1800 AD), during which Sweden has been revolting against the four older images of itself, and in an enlightened spirit has been trying to develop a new and modern identity, without any historical, national or religious prejudices tying it down to the dark old days of glory.
Thus Sweden is in its true essence a mythical monarchy, with the pagan gods as the first kings and lords of the land!
At the opposite side of the monarchial spectrum is "the pure historical monarchy". Belgium is one such monarchy, and Austria was another one. These monarchies have evolved as "monarchies without a nation", rather than "monarchies within a nation". Most Belgians would agree that there is no such thing as a Belgian. There are only Flemish and Walloon people. But their common Belgian state is united through their loyalty and affection to their mutual monarch Albert II.
Spain and Britain are two monarchies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. The kingdom of Spain has evolved from the Visigothic kingdom in northern Iberia through the kingdom of Castile and Leon, just as the United Kingdom has evolved from the minor Saxon monarchies through the kingdom of England. Although both are Germanic in origin, and although both have been great empires, neither of them has the Swedish and Japanese mythical self-awareness. However, both countries could be understood as somewhat mythical within a Christian context, since the king of Spain always has been an important Catholic ruler, and the king or queen of England is the governor of the Church within the Anglican communion.
These differences between mythical and historical monarchies create special problems. The mythical monarchy is in a sense "dogmatic" in nature, since it is linked to certain ethnic and religious traditions, which makes change unnatural and impossible beyond a certain degree. (The Japanese Emperor could for instance not convert to Judaism and move to Israel, without profoundly changing the entire structure of Japanese society.) The historical monarchy on the other hand, is often pragmatic in nature and considers itself to be "above ethnic and religious limitations". If the Austrian Emperor had converted to Evangelical Christianity, or decided to reform his Church the way the king of England did, it would probably have created relatively little turmoil. (Maybe only a civil war or two.)
Today, Scandinavia and western Europe are becoming increasingly multinational and multireligious in nature. This change creates tensions without parallel in our history since the fall of the Roman Empire. But what are the consequences for the two types of monarchies?
Well, my opinion is that the historical monarchies have a good chance of survival in these difficult times. They have always been hard at work binding together unwilling subjects into one cohesive mass, and now they'll just have another group of citizens (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu etc.) to work with and to integrate into their ever evolving royal tradition. After all, anyone can be a Belgian!
The mythical monarchies face a completely different situation. The Japanese Empire will of course survive, since it is still part of an organic society in line with the monarchial institution, but for Sweden, Spain and the UK the situation is much more problematic. Isn't the British monarchy very much an English institution? Why should a Chinese woman living in Alberta in English Canada waste any time and energy fighting to preserve the British monarchy? Why should a Kurdish man living in Australia waste anything defending the rights of Queen Elizabeth II?
Basically there are two solutions to this problem. Either we find a really good argument for a non-Englishman to support the British monarchy, or we begin stripping away all the ethnic and religious connotations to the mythical and semi-mythical monarchial institutions.
The reason for this is that in the long run any historical institutions creating a gulf between the citizens of a democracy will either be abolished, or the state will be divided "à la Yugoslave", or the democracy will be abolished and replaced by a tyranny oppressing one of the two former groups of citizens.
Of course, I have my own ideas about these matters, but let them be untold for now, and let instead your sharp and creative brains at the conference come up with a hundred better ideas!
The position of the Swedish political parties
After the latest general elections in 2002, we have again the same seven parties in the "Riksdag" (Swedish parliament). Most of them would in an international perspective be considered as Centrist or Leftist in ideology as well as in politics. The Conservative or Rightist position is considered as too old-fashioned (just as monarchy by the way) to suit the taste of the great and noble citizens of one of the most Liberal countries in the world. But the difference between Sweden and the Netherlands (which as you know also is a very Liberal country) is that the Swedish Right is and has always been very Right indeed, and thus functions as a kind of political anchor in defense of status quo, an anchor which the Dutch don't seem to have. Sweden didn't allow general and equal elections for both men and women until 1921, and was thus the last country in Scandinavia to do so.
From right to left, the position of the major political parties in Sweden is as follows:
Moderaterna: The Moderate Party (Neo-Liberals and Libertarians); this party was once the old Conservative party and fought for "King, Church and Country". During the Cold War it eventually moved into a radical Liberal position, which has put it at odds with the voters. ("Vote for everything except the Moderates!" is a popular slogan.) After the latest general election the party has chosen a new leader and moved firmly backwards into a more socially conscious and moderate Liberal position. Among the Moderates two different attitudes can be observed. The ideological or "true liberal" camp is fanatically opposed to monarchy. But they have a pragmatic approach and wouldn't do anything right now to stir up the voters. The industrialist or "royalist" camp considers monarchy as "good for business". (Hey! The king is a great trademark, isn't he?) They like to travel with the king to Red China and other countries and see him as "the key to any locked business door". For them, any royal institution or tradition that gives a good net profit is worth fighting for, albeit not dying for.
Folkpartiet Liberalerna: The Liberal Peoples Party (Social Liberals); this is the old Liberal party that eventually became increasingly concerned about social welfare, as the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution became more and more obvious in the early 20th century. They are the traditional enemies to the Swedish monarchy. In their youth organisations they host a variety of different ideological opinions, all to the left of the mother party, and all fanatically opposed to monarchy. Many of the journalists and mediapersons in Sweden prefer this party, and any media assault launched againt the Swedish monarchy has more likely than not been masterminded by the Liberals.
Kristdemokraterna: The Christian Democrats (Christian Social Liberals); this party has its roots among the other two Liberal parties and was originally in the 1960's a very radical pro-Christian and Conservative protest party, but its left wing has been the dominant force in the party in the recent decade, and they have eventually turned more and more Social Liberal. They have the highest number of pro-monarchist voters, although the party hierarchy considers monarchy as "impossible" or at least "difficult" to reconcile with Christian ideas. (According to their philosophy, Christians are supposed to be supporters of democracy, and monarchy isn't per definition democratic, so…) But they have nothing at all to gain right now from fighting any anti-monarchist battles, so they'll most likely just sit still and wait a decade or two.
Centerpartiet: The Center Party (Agricultural Social Liberals); the Swedish farmers' party has a strong party tradition of preserving all kinds of old Swedish traditions, so monarchy could very well find support in this group. They lack, however, any ideological identity, and will most likely just follow along with what they perceive as the mainstream public opinion. Today, the status quo is for monarchy, and so are they.
Social Demokraterna: The Social Democratic Workers Party (Reformed Socialists); this party has been the great political engine of Swedish politics for most of the 20th century. They have always been opposed to monarchy, as it is perceived as a symbol of "the upper class". Many of their voters are however "working class" patriots and pro-monarchists, so they have never really dared to rock the boat. A growing sentiment in this party is the necessity of status quo. Today the Social Democrats is the ruling party of Sweden. Why fix anything that works?
Miljöpartiet de Gröna: The Environmentalist Green Party (Environmental Socialists); this party is also principally opposed to monarchy. However, they do have to prioritise in order to get any attention at all, and the party is actually about the environment, so…
Vänsterpartiet:The Leftist Party (Radical Socialists); this party was a decade ago called the Communist party and funded by the Bolsheviks in Soviet Russia. They have, however, after 80 years of existence, accepted the rule of law and parliamentary democracy (or so they say). Today they wish to dispose of the monarchy by politial means.
Is a republican coup d'état really possible?
As you have probably noted already, there are only two forces today that talk out loud of a Swedish republic (id est: the Liberals and the Leftists). Those two parties are the main engines for republicanism in Sweden. The Environmentalists would most likely join them, if ever the question came up in the Parliament. And then nothing else would happen, because all the other parties would join forces and vote against them, and even the Liberals themselves might get shaky at the last minute and think of the good old status quo when time came for the final vote.
The danger for the Swedish monarchy, as well as for the rest of society, is not a major political shift in public opinion (which would catapult the Liberals and Leftists to 40% each of the voter). No, that is not likely. Not at all. The main cause of concern is instead the growing undercurrent of republican values and ideas among the above mentioned Centrist and Liberal parties. The Social Democrats are actually rather clever rulers, and they would never by themselves or in a weak alliance abolish monarchy, since it would make them "king-murderers" in the eyes of at least 50% of the voters. They would only move to hit the king if they could compromise a couple of the Liberal parties in the process. In due time, in five years or in two decades, half or more of the Moderate Party will have swung against monarchy, as well as many of the Christian Democrats, although both those parties will have hostile pro-monarchist phalanxes in their midst. But if the Leftists and Liberals could be used as "rabbits", and the Moderates and Christian Democrats could be made to tag along, then the Social Democrats would definitely throw in their weight and tear loose the Centrists as well. The end result in the Parliament would be minor groups of Moderates and Christian Democrats still defending monarchy. But how would the voters react?
The voters would most likely remain stoically monarchist. At least between 40-70% of them. And this is of course the main problem for any republican coups in the Parliament. You can't run a country with such severe hostilities brewing in the population, and a republican coup would surely incite a large portion of that. Most likely two or three new parties would be formed as a result. (This is exactly what happened when the political elite ran over the people in the question of the European Union, and then tried to do the same again in the question of the European Monetary Union.) Most likely one or two of those parties would be radical (and republican!) Nationalists, and they would reach an all-time high with 20-30% of the voters, mainly recruited amongst former Social Democrats. So there you see the puzzle, and the utter lack of energy on behalf of the largest republican party!
Unfortunately, voters are gullible, and they would eventually adapt to the new situation. No people dare to oppose their rulers for very long, and that is a fact under all forms of government. How many parties in the current Swedish Riksdag would in such a situation turn into "Monarchial Restorationists" and become anti-republican pro-monarchist parties? I can tell you that, for that is a very easy question.
The fate of king Ragnvald Knaphövde in 1125 AD
I would like to end this short essay about the current situation of monarchy in Sweden with a little story that gives the true essence of the Swedish perspective on monarchy. That is the story of the fate of king Ragnvald Knaphövde. He was according to ancient traditions elected as king of the Sweons and went thence through all the Swedish lands on an "Eriksgata" (literally: "The elected monarch's journey"). According to the law, he was obliged to send hostages to all the lands, since until the local tribes had sworn him allegiance, he had no rights whatsoever in their lands, and should be killed on sight as an hostile invader. When he came to one of the mightiest tribes, the River Goths, he neglected to send hostages and went ahead with his journey. (The reason is not known; maybe he had a death-wish and wanted to provoke the River Goths, or maybe he was just in a hurry.) The River Goths duly noted that the king of the Sweons had travelled to their lands without sending hostages, and thus had broken the law of the land. The unlucky king was promptly executed by the officials of the shire court. The next king, Magnus Nilsson, had learned his lesson well and did send hostages to the River Goths according to the customs of the forefathers.
What is my point with this nasty anecdote? Should we promote the foul ideology of the French Revolution? No, of course not. I simply wanted to state that the River Goths did what they should have done, according to the law, and I would as a monarchist have done exactly the same thing if I had belonged to their tribe in those days.
Every monarchy, whether mythical or historical, has certain rules and regulations, certain traditions and customs. The king is not above those traditions, he is an integral part of them, and so are all the men of his kingdom. The king of the Swedes has always been able to take pride in the fact that he never has been the ruler of knaves or slaves, but always the ruler of free and proud men. This is why the primary republican arguments do not work in Sweden, because Swedes do not feel like enslaved subjects serving a wicked king; Swedes do rather feel that the king is an important person and that monarchy is an important institution in the ever-lasting strife of upholding the lives of free men.
A few homepages concerning monarchy in Sweden
Personally, I'm really not at all satisfied with the monarchist options over here in Sweden. I'd like to have 1) one 2) good 3) "Monarchist-Restorationist" society with a 4) global agenda and 5) based on a Swedish Traditionalist perspective, rather than to have 1) all these different 2) Royalist societies and groups with 3) dysfunctional homepages. Well, anyhow, that is just a pious wish!
- If you would like additional information about the Swedish monarchy, I would of course recommend the official website at http://www.royalcourt.se/
- As you know, I belong to a young group of Conservative philosophers and ideologues that last year formed a political party called "Högerpartiet de konservativa". (Literally: "The Rightist Conservative Party". In English we call ourselves "The Swedish Conservative Party", since we are the only Conservative Party around.) Our aim is simply to exist and challenge the Leftist establishment in Sweden on their own self-righteous moral ground. We are without any doubt the only die-hard monarchist group in Swedish politics. You can find us at http://www.konservativ.se/
- Some of our members are part of a Conservative think-tank called "Tankesmedjan Engelbrekt". They are monarchists from a "Swedish Traditionalist" perspective (thus also defending the mythical and not only the historical aspects of monarchy). You can find them at http://www.engelbrekt.org/ (This page is currently not operational.)
- The most important Royalist group in Sweden is Royalistiska Föreningen "the Royalist Society". You can find them at http://www.welcome.to/rojf. They have about 1000 members. (This page is currently not operational.)
- The most important Republican group in Sweden is "the Republican Society". They have a very well-constructed home page with a lot of comic strips making fun of the king etc. They have about 3700 members according to their homepage. They are also relatively powerful, since they have access to a large portion of the Leftist parliamentary establishment. You can find them at http://www.republik.nu
- A private homepage on monarchy in Sweden is "Lefve Konungen". (Literally: "Long Live the King!".) You can find it at http://www.welcome.to/rojalist. (This page is currently not operational.)
This paper was presented on Carl-Johan Swaerdenheim's behalf by Trevor Stanley.