Monarchy of Sweden
|King of Sweden
Coat of arms of Sweden
Carl XVI Gustaf
since 15 September 1973
|Heiress apparent:||Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden|
|First monarch:||Eric the Victorious
(first monarch of undisputed historicity)
|Website:||The Royal Court of Sweden|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The Kingdom of Sweden (Swedish: Konungariket Sverige) has been a monarchy since time immemorial. Originally an elective monarchy, which usually favored one or two prominent dynasties, the Throne became legally hereditary only in the 16th century during the reign of Gustav Vasa.
As Sweden is a representative democracy in a parliamentary system based on popular sovereignty, as defined in the current Instrument of Government, the Monarch has a purely ceremonial role, though officially he or she is explicitly designated as head of state and holds the highest state office in the country, and by courtesy the highest military and social ranks. The Monarch and the members of Swedish Royal Family undertake a variety of official, ceremonial and representational duties on behalf of the nation.
Sweden has been a kingdom since prehistoric times. As early as the 1st century, Tacitus wrote that the Suiones had a king, but the order of succession to the later historic kings of Sweden, before King Eric the Victorious (died 995), is only known by what is accounted for in the historically controversial Norse sagas (see Mythical kings of Sweden and Semi-legendary kings of Sweden).
Originally, the Swedish king had power limited to the functions of a warchief, judge and priest at the Temple at Uppsala (see Germanic king). It is a testimony to lack of influence[according to whom?] that there are thousands of runestones commemorating commoners, but no chronicle about the Swedish kings, prior to the 14th century (though a list of kings was added in the Westrogothic law), and only a few runestones that may mention kings: Gs 11 (Emund the Old), U 11 (Haakon the Red) and U 861 (Blot-Sweyn).
The power of the king was greatly strengthened by the introduction of Christianity during the 11th century, and the following centuries saw a process of consolidation of power in the hands of the king. The king was traditionally elected from a favored dynasty at the Stones of Mora, and the people had the right to both elect the king and to depose him. The stones were, however, destroyed around 1515.
Legally, however, Sweden has only been a hereditary monarchy since 1544 when the Riksdag of the Estates, through Västerås arvförening, designated the heirs of King Gustav Vasa as the heirs to the Throne.
The powers of the king were originally regulated by a partition of the written legal code called Konungabalk (English: Kings' partition) from medieval times until 1734, when a new law code of Sweden was adopted and this partition of the law was removed. This new law code of Sweden was adopted after a long period of inquiries by royal commissions since the days Charles IX (late 16th/early 17th century) on a new legal code to replace the medieval one.
The 1634 Instrument of Government and altering hereditary rules also regulated the monarchy until 1719, when a fully written constitution, the 1719 Instrument of Government, came into force. This constitution was replaced one year later by the 1720 Instrument of Government, which limited the powers of the monarch even more than the 1719 statute did. The 1720 statute was later replaced by the 1772 Instrument of Government.
As a result of the poorly managed Finnish war, on 17 September 1809, in the Treaty of Fredrikshamn, Sweden had to surrender the eastern half of Sweden to Russia. King Gustav IV Adolf and his descendants were deposed in a coup d'etat led by dissatisfied army officers. The childless uncle of the former king was later elected as Charles XIII. The Instrument of Government of 1809 put an end to notions of royal absolutism by dividing the legislative power between the Riksdag (primary) and the King (secondary), and vested executive power in the King when acting through the Council of State.
The present Bernadotte dynasty was established in September 1810 when the Riksdag, convened in Örebro, elected French Marshal and Prince of Ponte Corvo Jean Baptiste Bernadotte as heir designate. The reason for this procedure was that there were no heirs of Charles XIII and the previously elected heir in January 1810, Charles August, had suddenly died in a stroke.
Following the de facto breakthrough of parliamentarism in 1917 the King's powers were in practice considerably reduced, and he became a figurehead with only limited political authority. In 1975, with the adoption of a new Instrument of Government, the monarch was de jure reduced to a mere figurehead without any formal political powers left.
Head of state duties (post 1974)
In 1975 the Instrument of Government of 1974 (Swedish: 1974 års regeringsform), replacing the Instrument of Government of 1809, became part of the Fundamental Laws of the Realm. It transformed the (technically) advisory Council of State (Swedish: Statsrådet) into the collegial Government (Swedish: Regeringen) in which all executive power was vested, and thus the Monarch was stripped of all executive powers, while still retained as purely ceremonial figurehead with residual executive authority over only his own court and household. Responsibility for appointing and dismissing the Prime Minister was transferred to the Speaker of the Riksdag. The Prime Minister appoints and dismisses his ministers at his or her sole discretion. Bills passed in the Riksdag become law without having to acquire royal assent: two Cabinet Ministers in unison sign it "On Behalf of the Government" (Swedish: På regeringens vägnar). Thus, in Sweden, unlike most constitutional monarchies, the Monarch is no longer even the nominal chief executive.
The Monarch formally, at the request of the Speaker, opens the annual session of the Riksdag and chairs a special Cabinet Council in a session that establishes the new government following a general election or major cabinet reshuffle. He also chairs this Council approximately four times a year to get information from the Cabinet apart from that given by the Prime Minister. The Monarch also chairs the Advisory Committee for Foreign Affairs (Swedish: Utrikesnämnden), a body which serves to officially inform the head of state and the leaders of the opposition on foreign affairs.
A simplified title that was sometimes used in less formal circumstances was Rex Sveciae or Sveriges Konung, the king of Sweden. The traditional full title of the Swedish sovereign was:
- Swedish: Med Guds Nåde Sveriges, Götes och Vendes Konung ("By the Grace of God, King of the Swedes, the Goths/Geats and the Wends")
- Latin: Dei Gratia Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex - sometimes the first part of the Latin title was Svionum or Sveonum, all three words meaning of the Swedes, not Sweden.
Before 1818, the King of Sweden had many more titles since the times of Sweden as a great power. As the first king of the House of Bernadotte, Charles XIV John, acceded the throne in 1818, these extra titles (except the title above) were dropped. This was in coherence with Sweden as a smaller power and with the new more realistic Instrument of Government of 1809, which explicitly in § 46 prohibited that any governor general should be appointed in the realm. The Instrument of Government of 1809 was also written in a more analytic and contemporary Swedish language, better defined by the Swedish Academy established 21 years earlier. The abolished titles in 1818 were:
- Grand Prince of Finland, Duke of Scania, Estonia, Livonia, Karelia, Bremen, Verden, Stettin, Pomerania, Kashubia and Wendia, Prince of Rügen, Lord of Ingria and Wismar, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Jülich, Cleves and Berg.
During the reign of the Holstein-Gottorp dynasty (1751-1818) the title heir of Norway (Swedish: Arvinge till Norge) was added, as also other titles that were connected to the dukes of Holstein-Gottorp. When Norway after the Napoleonic wars was included in a personal union with Sweden, the title King of Norway also was included in the title. In older spelling in Swedish the title was Sweriges, Norriges, Göthes och Wendes Konung.
The traditional full title first mentioned here had been in use since the establishment of the hereditary monarchy in 1544. For example the title Vendes Konung "King of the Wends" started to be used then. However the title Götes Konung "King of the Goths", dates back to at least the kings Magnus Ladulås, Erik the Saint and Charles Sverkersson (maybe also Inge the Elder in a letter from the Pope). The title King of the Swedes Svea Konung, dates back to those times as well and even further back. This latter title was however already in the 16th century changed to the title Sveriges Konung, King of Sweden, and this short form of the title was also used frequently.
Carl XVI Gustaf instead chose the plain and simple title King of Sweden (Swedish: Sveriges Konung), thereby ending an age-old tradition.Such innovations are reflected in his personal motto För Sverige, i tiden ("For Sweden, with the times") and also contemporarily in neighbouring countries: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark did the same in 1972, while Harald V of Norway bears no extra titles except "King of Norway".
Heirs to the throne
The title of the heir apparent is Crown Prince of Sweden (Swedish: Sveriges Kronprins) or if female Crown Princess of Sweden (Swedish: Sveriges Kronprinsessa), and the wife of a crown prince would also receive the title of crown princess but not the other way around. The traditional official title, used until 1980, for other dynastic male heirs was Hereditary Prince of Sweden (Swedish: Sveriges arvfurste), although the word prince (Swedish: prins) was used in constitutional legal texts such as the Instrument of Government of 1809 and also colloquially and informally. The title of princesses was in all cases Princess of Sweden (Swedish: Prinsessa av Sverige). Beginning in 1980, the official title of all dynasts is "Prince/Princess of Sweden" (Swedish: Prins/Prinsessa av Sverige).
King Gustav III revived a tradition from the days of Gustav Vasa and also from medieval times by giving the dynastic male heirs to the throne ducal titles of Swedish provinces. The key difference between the ducal titles from the Vasa era and those handed out from Gustav III up until the present day is that they now are merely non-hereditary courtesy titles given at birth with no feudal rights attached. From 1980 they are conferred to all dynastic heirs, male as well as female. The wives share the title, as do husbands since a new precedent established in 2010.
Symbols of the Monarchy
The line of succession
The Act of Succession of 1810 designates the legitimate heirs of Charles XIV John (House of Bernadotte) as the heirs to the Swedish Throne; it also states in article 4 that the Monarch and dynastic members of the Royal House must be a Protestant Christian of the pure evangelical faith (by implication the Church of Sweden).
A constitutional reform in 1980 changed the rules for succession from agnatic primogeniture to absolute primogeniture. This allowed for the crown to pass to the eldest child regardless of gender and thus retroactively installed Princess Victoria as Crown Princess (heir apparent) over her younger brother Prince Carl Philip who had been born as Crown Prince.
In its present reading, only descendants of Carl XVI Gustaf may inherit the Throne.
- Courtyard Crisis
- Guadeloupe Fund
- Oath of Allegiance (Sweden)
- Order of Charles XIII
- Order of the Polar Star
- Order of the Sword
- Order of Vasa
- Riddarholmen Church
- Royal Court of Sweden
- Royal mottos of Swedish monarchs
- Royal Order of the Seraphim
- Stones of Mora
- Swedish monarchs family tree
- Swedish order of precedence
- Swedish Royal Academies
- This article incorporates information from
- (Swedish) SFS (1973:702)