20 June 2010

Royal wedding in Stockholm 19 June 2010

The TV set seldom had a quiet moment on Saturday. I watched most of the royal wedding in Stockholm from about 2.30 p.m. until thirty-forty minutes into the new day. Originally I had hoped to see some World Cup football as well, but if I wanted to watch something together with my wife (and we have only one TV set!), then it had to be the royal wedding. An entertaining evening, but the World Cup match between Denmark and Cameroon also turned out to be an exciting duel.

I have made some observations based on what I have watched on TV and read in the various newspapers the last few days, and would like to share some of them with you.

1. HRH Crown Prince Victoria of Sweden and Olof Daniel Westling got married in Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral) in Gamlastan in Stockholm on Saturday 19 June 2010. Around 1000 invited guests attended the ceremony, including an impressive gathering of royals from the European monarchies as well as from Japan and Jordan. More than 400 people were invited to the gala dinner at Stockholm Palace in the evening.

Upon marriage Daniel Westling was conferred the titles Prince of Sweden and Duke of Västergötland with the style Royal Highness.

2. The main impression is that the wedding day turned out to be a wonderful celebration of the couple's love for eachother and of the monarchy itself. The Royal Court and everyone who had a piece in the planning and in carrying out the celebrations can be pleased with the fact that everything went so well - no scandals, no accidents as I know of, the weather got better and better throughout the day and the people's participation - around 500.000 went downtown to follow the events - was larger than expected. The main persons and the guests seemed to enjoy themselves as well.

Of course it remains to be seen what impact the Crown Princess' wedding with a Swedish commoner will have for the future of the monarchy in the long run. It is a bit ironic that at the same time as a royal wedding - and the monarchy itself - is celebrated, the polls show that the support for the monarchical institution and the royal house has falled considerably the last 15 years.

3. The Royal Court has received some criticism because it had invited representatives of various dictatorships such as North Korea and Eritrea. The East-African republic has made headlines in Sweden because a Swedish citizen, Dawit Isaak, has been imprisoned since 2001 without a trial. The court has only referred to the advice it has received from the Swedish Foreign Office. All Ambassadors were invited. It might have been a better solution if only the doyen (Mr. Hombessa of The Congo) had represented the diplomatic corps? Anyway, a rather cheap shot from the political left. References have also been made to King Carl Gustaf's infamous speech in 2004 where he during a state visit to Brunei cheered the Bruneian democracy. However, it is easily forgotten that the king based his comments almost word for word on material received from the FO.

4. I watched most of the wedding on the Norwegian channel NRK1. I think the studio host in Stockholm, Atle Bjurstrøm, and the wedding ceremony commentator, Wenke Eriksen, made fairly good job, and it was a good idea to invite designer Wenche Lyche and author Tor Bomann-Larsen to the studio. However, to get more precise information about the identification of the attending guests, it would surely have been better to choose SVT1. I switched over to the Norwegian TV2 from time to time, but didn't watch enough to be able to give a fair review. The royal wedding was also competing with the World Cup, so TV2 didn't cover so much as NRK1 as far as I understood it. Vår Staude and Carl-Erik Grimstad were in the studio. After midnight I watched SVT1. The broadcasting from the events at the Palace was excellent, but the people in the studio - Mark Levengood, Kristian Luuk and Ebba von Sydow babbled away nonstop and were often speaking all at once. What a terrible choice of people to have in the studio!

5. The speeched held during the gala dinner have been received well. King Carl Gustaf surprised everyone by taking the opportunity to congratulate his wife, Queen Silvia, on their 34th wedding anniversary and gave her a rose. His words to the married couple were quite interesting:

No one should believe anything else than that my highest wish has always been - and is - to see you happy. It has therefore always been self-evident to your mother the Queen and me, that you - as any person in our country - should have the freedom to choose your life's companion as your heart desires. I have today seeked to make this point clear by accompanying you to your future husband, and thereby confirming the decision to approve of your marriage according to our constitution.
This way the king explained why he escorted the Crown Princess half-way to the altar. The tabloids have for years claimed to know that the king for a long time was opposed to the relationship,which explained the many years - about 8 - it took from the couple started dating to the wedding. When the then Daniel Westling was invited to King Carl Gustaf's 60th birthday celebrations in 2006 it was interpreted as a sign that the king finally had been approved his daughter's choice. The couple has, however, in a recent TV interview said that they needed such a long time to be absolutely sure, and Daniel needed time to adjust to the idea of giving up his professional career for a quite different role as member of the royal house. We might have to wait for many years before we get the full picture of the long process.

The constitutional aspect is not difficult to interpret. The king - and the government - gave his consent and from the outset, as seen yesterday, it is not possible to doubt that the king and queen have become fond of their daughter's choice.

Prince Daniel's father Olle Westling's speech was impressive as well, but obviously Prince Daniel's own speech stole most of the headlines. He made a very personal speech without manuscript, and parts of it in English as well. I think Prince Daniel from the engagement and onwards has made a positive impression on most people, and I think it is fair to expect that he is going to handle his new role well. It is difficult, however, to believe the tabloids' earlier claims that he was poor in English and that he lacked conversation skills. Of course he spoke English with an accent, but I don't think he would have done so well yesterday - even with some preparations - if his skills originally had been so bad as the tabloids have claimed. One of his best friends ridiculed the claims about Daniel's bad conversation skills in a recent TV interview. The truth was the exact opposite of what the rumours had said.

6. From time to time we have read tabloid stories about alleged difficulties between Crown Princess Victoria and Princess Madeleine because she is said to steal the show from her older sister. Such headlines could be seen when Princess Madeleine got engaged in August 2009, and when she returned from abroad just before the wedding the court reporters feared once again that "Madde" would steal the show. What nonsense! First of all, if Princess Madeleine should ever steal attention from her sister it is because the press decides to make such a focus. And no-one doubts that Crown Princess Victoria was the focal point yesterday, as she has also been for quite some time (except perhaps for the few days when the break-up between Princess Madeleine and Jonas Bergström was announced).

7. It is always interesting to note what representatives the various monarchies send to such an important event as the wedding of an heir to the throne is. Eigth European countries sent their head of state - the monarchies Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands and Norway as well as the republics Finland and Iceland. King Abdullah of Jordan was also present. Five European countries sent the consort of the sovereign - Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Spain. And in addtion Queen Rania of Jordan came along. Seven European countries sent the heir to the throne - Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain. Same goes for Japan and Jordan.

The United Kingdom was represented by the 7th in line to the throne, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Discussions about the British representation come up every time there is a big royal wedding or funeral. It is claimed that the British monarchs just "don't do" weddings and funerals abroad. Yesterday Queen Elizabeth II's absence could be excused with her age (Count Carl Johan Bernadotte of Wisborg would surely object to this!), and the same goes for her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. The Wessexes are certainly closer in age to Crown Princess Victoria, but still it would have been appropriate that the Prince of Wales came for the wedding. He had an engagement (meeting with the President of France at Clarence House) on Friday 18 June and could clearly have reached Stockholm in the evening. Would it not have been great if Prince William and Prince Harry of Wales used the opportunity to get to know their European colleagues better? Instead they travelled to South Africa and the World Cup. One of them could surely have travelled to Stockholm.

Of course I don't buy the nonsense some court reporters have served lately that the "bad" British representation is a sign of the alleged ice-cold relationship between the British Royal House and its Scandinavian counterparts. But there are good reasons to ask why the British make such decisions about representations over and over again. Still, it is their loss.

8. Interestingly enough HSH The Prince of Monaco brought along his girl-friend Charlene Wittstock for the wedding. It could be viewed as a break of protocol, as royals are usually engaged when they take their partner to such an high-profile event. Ms. Wittstock was seated behind the Prince of Monaco in the Cathedral. It was of course nice to see her attending an event like this, but could this mean that we now can expect an engagement soon? That would surely be nice, but it could of course also be interpreted that Prince Albert doesn't intend to get married at all, but wants to introduce her live-in partner to the other royals nevertheless. Well, time will tell what will happen at the court of Monaco.

9. There were many members of former royal families present at the wedding. The guest list for the wedding reveals royal names from Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia (Yugoslavia), Romania and Germany (Hohenzollern, Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, Bavaria, and Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha). All relatives, of course, some more distant than others, but it is interesting to note how they were presented in the guest list. One could get the impression that they represented their countries as they were listed under the countries they come from, although they are all republics. Another way to do it would be, with the possible exeception of the Hohenzollerns, to list them under the category "Members of former royal families".

Don't get me wrong, I think it is wonderful that members of the former royal families are invited - in fact I'd like to see more of them at an event like this.

During the broadcasting yesterday the titles of the former royals were commented on, as not everyone think it is appropriate that they are referred to this way when the countries they come from are well-established republics.

It should be stressed, however, that it is in accordance with protocol to refer to former kings etc. with the titles they had under the monarchy. Former presidents of the USA are still referred to by their title (while the current president is The President of the United States), so why not King Constantine of the Hellenes and Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia?

Another matter is of course people who were born after the monarchy was gone, such as Princess Margarita of Romania and Prince Kyril of Bulgaria. It could be interpreted in an historical-genealogical sence, and their titles as courtesy titles only. Not obligatory, certainly not constitutionally defined, but nevertheless accepted by the reigning royal courts. And that is obviously what matters. Any possible protest from the Greek embassy in Stockholm is probably something the Royal Court - or the FO - will handle.

Photo: © The Royal Court (photographer Paul Hansen).

Sources and references

Updated Monday 21 June 2010 at 08.00 (spelling mistake); 4 May 2011 at 21.50 (spelling mistake).



  1. Dag,
    Your commentary is fascinating and full of many interesting insights. Thank you!
    Just a couple of points:
    Regarding the issue of representatives of distasteful regimes, it would be a radical departure from international convention not to invite the entire diplomatic corps to a state event of this magnitude. The very essence of the international protocols regulating the exchange of ambassadors is that the host state cannot discriminate based on how the public happens to feel about the sending state's regime. Your idea of having the doyen represent the whole corps is interesting, but would undoubtedly cause massive headaches for the FO and much ill feeling in foreign ministries worldwide.

    A pedantic (and losing) argument, but it is technically NOT correct to call a former US president of the USA President Bush, etc. Everyone does it (a la "Princess Diana"), but the etiquette books and I will hold out til the bitter end!

    It is, however, correct under international convention dating back to the Peace of Westphalia to refer to deposed monarchs as King Constantine, etc. As for the members of non-reigning houses, it seems to be generally accepted to use titles such as prince/ss and archduke/duchess socially as courtesy (not legal) titles, although perhaps you have detected the beginning of a shift on this, at least in Scandinavia.
    Thanks again for your wonderful commentary!

  2. Gary, thanks for your comments! Concerning presidential etiquette, I have got the impression that former presidents, when addressed in person, are referred to as "Mr. President", and that this is so established by now that it can be compared with the situation of former kings. But thanks for your insight on this.

    I am not sure if there is a "shift" concerning the use of courtesy titles for members of former reigning families born after the monarchy fell, but the question is usually always raised by TV commentators and others when there is a big event like the one in Stockholm. So I thought it was worth commenting on. It will surely not be the last...


  3. Concerning point 4 and the commentators in SVT1's studio - when I tuned in late Saturday after watching most of the wedding on NRK1, it was Mark Levengood, Kristian Luuk and Magdalena Ribbing who were talking nonstop (I can't remember if Ebba von Sydow was in the studio at all at that time, even if Bröllops-Guiden said she was going to be there). I don't watch Swedish TV enough to be able to recognize all the journalists and commentators, but after a conversation with a fellow blogger today I realized who "the grey lady" was... http://www.detkungligabrollopet.nu/ebbasblogg/2010/06/ (clip from earlier in the evening).


  4. I have just been reading my pre-ordered copy of the just released book *United States Protocol: The Guide to Official Diplomatic Etiquette* by Ambassador Mary Mel French, who was Bill Clinton's Chief of Protocol. This is the first authoritative work on the subject available to the public in a number of years. According to the book, ""It is now acceptable to refer to a former president as 'President (Surname).'" Deplorable in my opinion, but really just a recognition of what has become, as Dag notes, standard practice. General Washington and Mr. Jefferson must be spinning in their graves, but I concede defeat.

  5. But I am sure John Adams would have loved it! :-) Thanks for posting, Gary!