Monarchy of Sweden

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King of Sweden
Sveriges Konung
Greater coat of arms of Sweden
Crafoord Prize D81 9141 (42282165922) (cropped).jpg
Carl XVI Gustaf
since 15 September 1973
StyleHis Majesty
Heir apparentVictoria
First monarchEric the Victorious
Formation970; 1053 years ago (970)
ResidenceStockholm Palace[1]
Drottningholm Palace[2]

The monarchy of Sweden is centered on the monarchical

Gustav Vasa,[5]
though virtually all monarchs before that belonged to a limited and small number of families which are considered to be the royal dynasties of Sweden.

Sweden in the present day is a representative democracy in a parliamentary system based on popular sovereignty, as defined in the current Instrument of Government (one of the four Fundamental Laws of the Realm which makes up the written constitution[6]). The monarch and the members of the royal family undertake a variety of official, unofficial and other representational duties within Sweden and abroad.[5]


Pre-16th century

runic inscription of the 11th century (U11) refers to King Håkan the Red

Scandinavian peoples have had kings since prehistoric times. As early as the 1st century CE,

Semi-legendary kings of Sweden

Originally, the Swedish king had combined powers limited to that of a war chief, a judge and a priest at the

Westrogothic law), and there is a relatively small number of runestones that are thought to mention kings: Gs 11 (Emund the Old – reigned 1050–1060), U 11 (Håkan the Red – late 11th century) and U 861 (Blot-Sweyn
– reigned c. 1080).

About 1000 A.D., the first king known to rule both Svealand and Götaland was Olof Skötkonung, but further history for the next two centuries is obscure, with many kings whose tenures and actual influence/power remains unclear. The Royal Court of Sweden, however, does count Olof's father, Eric the Victorious, as Sweden's first king. The power of the king was greatly strengthened[why?] by the introduction of Christianity during the 11th century, and the following centuries saw a process of consolidation of power into the hands of the king. The Swedes traditionally elected a king from a favored dynasty at the Stones of Mora, and the people had the right to elect the king as well as to depose him. The ceremonial stones were destroyed around 1515.[citation needed]

In the 12th century, the consolidation of Sweden was still affected by dynastic struggles between the Erik and Sverker clans, which ended when a third clan married into the Erik clan and the House of Bjelbo was established on the throne. That dynasty formed pre-Kalmar Union Sweden into a strong state, and finally king Magnus IV (reigned 1319–1364) even ruled Norway (1319–1343) and Scania (1332–1360). Following the Black Death,[clarification needed] the union weakened, and Scania reunited with Denmark.

In 1397, after the Black Death and domestic power struggles, Queen Margaret I of Denmark united Sweden (then including Finland), Denmark and Norway (then including Iceland) in the Union of Kalmar with the approval of the Swedish nobility. Continual tension within each country and the union led to open conflict between the Swedes and the Danes in the 15th century. The union's final disintegration in the early 16th century led to prolonged rivalry between Denmark-Norway and Sweden (with Finland) for centuries to come.

16th- and 17th-century changes

Jakob Binck, legally created the hereditary monarchy and organized the Swedish unitary state

Catholic bishops had supported the

on 6 June 1523.

Inspired by the teachings of

state church: the Church of Sweden.[n 1] Throughout his reign, Gustav I suppressed both aristocratic and peasant opposition to his ecclesiastical policies and efforts at centralisation, which to some extent laid the foundation for the modern Swedish unitary state. Legally Sweden has only been a hereditary monarchy since 1544 when the Riksdag of the Estates, through Västerås arvförening, designated the sons of King Gustav I as the heirs to the Throne. [n 2]

Tax reforms took place in 1538 and 1558, whereby multiple complex taxes on independent farmers were simplified and standardised throughout the district[clarification needed] and tax assessments per farm were adjusted to reflect ability to pay. Crown tax revenues increased, but more importantly the new system was perceived as fairer. A war with Lübeck in 1535 resulted in the expulsion of the Hanseatic traders, who previously had had a monopoly on foreign trade. With its own burghers in charge, Sweden's economic strength grew rapidly, and by 1544 Gustav controlled 60% of the farmlands in all of Sweden. Sweden now built the first modern army in Europe, supported by a sophisticated tax system and an efficient bureaucracy.[7]

At the death of King Gustav I in 1560, he was succeeded by his oldest son

Sigismund II of Poland.[8] In 1568 Eric was dethroned and succeeded by John III. In domestic politics John III showed clear Catholic sympathies, inspired by his queen, creating friction with the Swedish clergy and nobility. He reintroduced several Catholic traditions previously abolished, and his foreign policy was affected by his family connection to the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, where his eldest son had been made King Sigismund III in 1587.[n 3] Following the death of his father, Sigismund tried to rule Sweden from Poland, leaving Sweden under the control of a regent – his paternal uncle (Gustav I's youngest son) Charles (IX) – but was unable to defend his Swedish throne against the ambitions of his uncle. In 1598 Sigismund and his Swedish-Polish army were defeated at the Battle of Stångebro by the forces of Charles, and he was declared deposed by the Estates
in 1599.

The Lion of the North: King Gustavus Adolphus depicted at the turning point of the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631) against the forces of Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly

In 1604, the Estates finally recognized the regent and de facto ruler as King Charles IX. His short reign was one of uninterrupted warfare. The hostility of Poland and the breakup of Russia involved him in overseas contests for the possession of

Ingria, the Polish–Swedish War (1600–1611) and the Ingrian War, while his pretensions to claim Lapland brought on a war with Denmark (Kalmar War) in the last year of his reign. [n 4]

Christina, until she reached the age of majority. Gustavus Adolphus is often regarded by military historians as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, with innovative use of combined arms. [n 6]

As the heiress presumptive, at the age of six

Roman Catholicism

The Estates elected

Skåne, Blekinge and Bohuslän now became Swedish provinces and have remained so ever since. Charles X Gustav was not satisfied, as he wanted to crush Denmark once and for all, but the 1659 Assault on Copenhagen did not prove successful for the Swedes, largely due to the Dutch naval intervention
to the aid of the Danes.

Charles X Gustav died in

absolute monarch

Charles XI was succeeded by his son, Charles XII, who would prove to be an extremely able military commander, defeating far larger enemies with the small but highly professional Swedish army. His defeat of the Russians at Narva when just 18 years old was to be his greatest victory. However his campaigning at the head of his army during the Great Northern War would ultimately lead to catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Poltava after which he spent several years in Turkey (now Moldova). Some years later he was killed at the Siege of Fredriksten during an attempt to invade Norway. The Swedish Age of Greatness (Swedish: stormaktstiden) had ended. [n 9]

18th century to the present

Charles XII's sister,

Ulrika Eleonora, had now inherited the throne but she was forced by the Estates to sign the 1719 Instrument of Government, which ended the absolute monarchy and made the Riksdag of the Estates the highest organ of the state and reduced the role of monarch to a figurehead. The Age of Liberty (Swedish: frihetstiden) with its parliamentary rule, dominated by two parties – the Caps and the Hats – had begun. Ulrika Eleonora had had enough after a year on the throne and abdicated in favor of her husband, Frederick, who had little interest in the affairs of state and was elected King by the Estates as King Frederick I, resulting in the 1720 Instrument of Government
: content-wise almost identical to the one from 1719. Despite having many extra-marital affairs, Frederick I never sired a legitimate heir to the throne.

The 1720 Instrument in Government was later replaced by the

Gustav III

On 17 September 1809 in the

Charles XIII. The Instrument of Government of 1809 put an end to 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

Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte as crown prince. This took place because Charles XIII had no legitimate heir, and a crown prince previously elected in January 1810, Charles August
, suddenly had died of a stroke during a military exercise.

Although the 19th century Bernadotte monarchs that would follow Charles XIV John's reign tried to defend the power and privileges they still had, the tide incrementally turned against "personal regal rule" (Swedish: personlig kungamakt) with the growth of the liberals, social democrats, and the expansion of the franchise.[12]

When King

parliamentarism in 1917, with the appointment of the coalition government of liberals and social democrats led by Professor Nils Edén, the political influence of the King was considerably reduced and an unwritten constitutional precedent was set that would remain in effect until 1975.[15][16]

Only during World War II, in the so-called Midsummer crisis (regarding the issue whether neutral Sweden should permit rail transport of German troops from Norway passing through to Finland), did Gustaf V allegedly try to intervene in the political process by threatening to abdicate.[17]


Liberal People's Party, and the Moderate Party, that is all the parties except the Communists
). [n 10][18] It mandated that the monarchy would remain largely as it was but would become entirely ceremonial, without any residual political powers left.[18]

Following the required double

Instrument of Government was brought into effect. The monarch's functions and duties, as defined in the 1974 Constitution Act, include heading the special cabinet council held when there is a change of government, but no executive powers with respect to the governance of the realm are vested in him.[20][21]

Carl XVI Gustaf became king on 15 September 1973 on the death of his grandfather Gustaf VI Adolf and because of his father's early death has become the longest reigning monarch in Swedish history.[22]

Constitutional and official role

When, on 1 January 1975, it replaced the

Instrument of Government of 1974 (Swedish: 1974 års regeringsform) transformed the advisory Council of State (Statsrådet) into the collegial Government (Regeringen), to which all executive power was transferred.[23][24] Responsibility for nominating and dismissing the prime minister (who, since 1975, is elected by the Riksdag) was transferred to the Speaker of the Riksdag; the prime minister appoints and dismisses the other ministers at his or her discretion.[24][25][26][n 11] Furthermore, bills passed by the Riksdag become law without royal assent: the prime minister or any other cabinet minister signs them "On Behalf of the Government" (På regeringens vägnar).[28]

Although the unwritten precedent was set in 1917, when

Minister of Justice Lennart Geijer further remarked on the 1973 government bill that any continued pretensions of royal involvement in government decision making would be of a "fictitious nature" and therefore "highly unsatisfactory".[28]

Thus, the monarch lost all formal executive powers, becoming a ceremonial and representative

Royal Family or the employees the Royal Court enjoy similar immunity.[37]

At the request of the Speaker of the Riksdag, the monarch opens the annual session of the Riksdag (Riksmötets öppnande) in the chamber of the

Letters of Credence of foreign ambassadors sent to Sweden and signs those of Swedish ambassadors sent abroad.[20] The monarch also chairs the Cabinet Council (skifteskonselj) in a session that establishes the new government following a general election or major cabinet reshuffle and also chairs information councils (informationskonselj) approximately four times a year to get information from the assembled Government, apart from that given by ministers in individual audiences or through other means.[20][40] Formally, it is the explicit responsibility of the prime minister to keep the monarch informed on the affairs of the realm; the failure to do so following the 2004 tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean (in which many Swedes perished) gave rise to wide criticism of Prime Minister Göran Persson for his handling of the matter.[37] The monarch also chairs the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs (Utrikesnämnden), a body that enables the government of the day to inform not only the head of state, but also the speaker and representatives of the opposition parties in the Riksdag, on foreign affairs issues in a confidential manner.[20][40][41]

While the monarch is no longer the commander-in-chief (högste befälhavare) of the Swedish Armed Forces, as he once was under the 1809 Instrument of Government[18] King Carl XVI Gustaf is the foremost representative of the Swedish defence establishment and holds supreme rank in each of the service arms. He ranks as a four star admiral in the Swedish Navy and general in the Swedish Army and Air Force.[20] As part of his court, the monarch has a military staff, which is headed by a senior officer (usually a general or admiral, retired from active service) and includes active duty military officers serving as aides-de-camp to the monarch and his or her family.[42]

Cultural role

The monarch and members of the

Royal Family undertake a variety of official, unofficial and other representative duties within Sweden and abroad. The monarch and his or her family play a central role in state visits
to Sweden and conduct state visits to other nations on behalf of Sweden. Other members of the Royal Family may also represent the country abroad at lesser functions.

Many of the Swedish

Gustavus Adolphus, who was killed on that date (old style) in 1632 in the Battle of Lützen.[n 16][43][44][45] None of these flag days are public holidays, however.[n 17]

Perhaps the most globally known ceremony in which the Royal Family annually participate is the Nobel Prize award ceremony held at the Stockholm Concert Hall (and the subsequent banquet in the Stockholm City Hall), where the monarch hands out the Nobel Prizes on behalf of the Nobel Foundation for outstanding contributions to mankind in physics, chemistry, literature, physiology or medicine, and the economic sciences.[47]

Stone of Mora in Uppland and participation was originally restricted to the people of that area; hence, the need of having the election confirmed by the other parts of the realm. The Eriksgata gradually lost its importance when, as of the 14th century, representatives of other parts of Sweden began to participate in the election. After 1544, when hereditary monarchy was instituted, that meant that the Eriksgata had little practical importance. The last king to travel the Eriksgata according to the old tradition was Charles IX
, whose reign began in 1604. Later, kings, up until present times, have made visits to all the Swedish provinces and called them an Eriksgata, while those visits bear little resemblance to the medieval tradition.


Queen Christina
in 1650 onward