Nr. 12-2011 Published monthly by:
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As Head of State, King Carl XVI Gustaf opens the Riksdag (Parliament) session in mid-September, except in an election year, like 2010, when the Riksdag session starts in October. Sweden's journey to Constitutional Monarchy The Swedish Monarchy rests on traditions dating back more than a thousand years. The earliest record of what is generally considered to be a Swedish King appears in Tacitus' work Germania, c. 100 AD. However, due to scant and unreliable sources before the 11th century, lists of succession traditionally start in the 10th century with King Olof Skötkonung, and his father Erik Segersäll (Eric the Victorious).

There have indeed been Queens through Sweden's history as well, though the vast majority has been Queens Consort and not Queens Regent. Margareta Valdemarsdotter (1353 – 1412) is regarded to have been something in between as she was Queen Consort of Norway and Sweden and omnipotent ruler of Denmark. De facto a Queen Regent, the laws of contemporary Danish succession denied her formal queenship and she was named "All-powerful Lady and Mistress (Regent) of the Kingdom of Denmark." Regarded as the founder of Kalmarunionen (The Kalmar Union), a series of personal unions that united the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway (with Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Shetland, and Orkney), and Sweden (including a part of modern day Finland) under a single monarch, her de facto role as Queen Regent shouldn't be underestimated.

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Gustav Vasa
Gustav Vasa is the first King in Swedish history of whose life historians have a rather clear view. He was elected King on June 6th, 1523 and has been labeled the founder of modern Sweden.

He became the ruler of a still divided country without a central government, and laid the foundations for a more efficient centralized government. Today his leadership style would most probably be characterized as management by fear; he was known for ruthless methods and a bad temperament. The King was indeed the sole final decision maker.




Sweden had super power ambitions during the 17th and 18th century.

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Gustav II Adolf
Wars were fought and Kings like Gustav II Adolf (reigned 1611 – 1632), who took the initiative to the founding of Tartu University, died in the Battle of Lützen 1632, and King Karl XII (reigned 1697 – 1718), who defeated the Russians at the Battle of Narva 1700, died in a battle at Fredrikshald, Norway, 1718. Not only Kings fell in the battles – death took its toll among the Swedish population as well, and the state finances were not in a too good shape.

This period in Sweden's history also saw two Queens Regent on the throne; Queen Kristina (reigned 1632 – 1654) and Queen Ulrika Eleonora (reigned 1718 – 1720).



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Karl XII
Queen Kristina was the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolf. As the heiress presumptive, at the age of six she succeeded her father on the throne of Sweden upon his death at the Battle of Lützen. After converting to Catholicism and abdicating her throne, she spent her latter years in France and Rome, where she was buried in St. Peter's Basilica, located within the Vatican City. In her autobiography in 1681, Kristina wrote: "In my opinion, women should never reign." She wrote this in spite of having ruled Sweden for over a decade, with a good deal of success.



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Kristina
Queen Ulrika Eleonora claimed the Swedish throne following the death of her brother King Karl XII in 1718. Her late older sister had left a son who had the better claim by primogeniture. But Ulrika Eleonora asserted that she was the closest surviving relative of the late king and cited the precedent of Queen Kristina. She was recognized as successor by the Riksdag after she had agreed to renounce the powers of absolute monarchy established by her father, Karl XI. She abdicated in 1720 in favor of her consort, Fredrik I av Hessen.



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Ulrika Eleonora
The Swedish era following the death of Karl XII in 1718 is known as Frihetstiden (The Age of Liberty). Lasting for half a century it was a time when Sweden saw a parliamentary system and increasing civil rights. Things changed as Gustav III became King of Sweden in 1771. A vocal opponent, as he saw it, of abuses by the nobility of a permissiveness established by parliamentarian reforms that had been worked out during Frihetstiden (The Age of Liberty), he enacted the Act of Union and Security to reinstate absolute monarchy with himself as autocrat.

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Gustav III


King Gustav III was a benefactor of arts and literature. He founded several academies, among them the Swedish Academy, created a National Costume and had the Royal Swedish Opera built. It was also under King Gustav III that Sweden gained the small Caribbean island of Saint-Barthélemy from France in 1785, in exchange for French trading rights in Gothenburg. The island's capital bears up to the present the name Gustavia in honor of Gustav III. Though it was sold back to France in 1878, many streets and locations there still bear Swedish names.

King Gustav III introduced a touch of contemporary France in his Royal Court. His expenditure of considerable public funds on things that pleased him contributed to making him controversial. He tried to maintain Sweden's eastern borders, even hoping to expand them, through a war against Russia which was not completely successful. King Gustav III was shot when he was on a masked ball at the opera, March 16th, 1792 and died thirteen days later in Stockholm Palace. As the murderer's bullet had hit him, his first verbal reaction was in French: "Ah! Je suis blessé, tirez-moi d'ici et arrêtez-le!" (Ah! I am wounded, take me away from here and arrest him!)

1809 marks a somewhat traumatic year for Sweden as the Finnish War ended with Sweden losing Finland to Russia. The following agony and resentment towards the ruling King during the war, Gustav IV Adolf, precipitated a de facto coup d'état, and his uncle, the childless Karl XIII, was appointed to temporary replace him.

The same year, 1809, the Monarchy, as a form of Government, was established in that year's constitutional governing procedures, which among other things said that the King should "Rule the Kingdom alone".

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Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte
In 1810 the Swedish Riksdag elected the Danish Prince Kristian August of Augustenborg as heir to the throne. As Swedish Crown Prince he took the name Karl August, but died suddenly later that same year. In this situation Sweden found itself in a position of having to find a new heir to the throne after the still, but temporary, ruling King Karl XIII. Sweden started to look towards France, where Napoleon I was Emperor and additionally also ruled, directly or indirectly, over much of continental Europe. Electing a King whom Napoleon could accept seemed practical and very soon Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was found to be a proper candidate.

On August 21st, 1810, the Riksdag elected Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte as heir presumptive to the Swedish throne and a new order of succession was adopted; The Swedish crown would now go to the eldest son within the Bernadotte Dynasty and its offspring before siblings and their offspring.

The Swedish governing procedures of the King remained the same for 165 years, and the Swedish order of succession remained in force for 170 years.

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Hjalmar Branting and Gustaf V
However, signs of an emerging Constitutional Monarchy in Sweden started to become visible towards the late 1800's and the early 1900's. King Gustaf V (reigned 1907-1950) is considered to have been the last Swedish King to intervene directly in the politics of his country (e.g. in 1914 on the disputes over defence budgets).

Gustaf V was a conservative man, who did not approve of the democratic movement and the demands for workers' rights. Despite this, he got along rather well with the Social Democrats' party leader from 1907 to 1925; Hjalmar Branting. The two had previously been in the same class in the Beskowska School in Stockholm.



Today, Sweden has a Constitutional Monarchy and the Act from 1974 says: "All public power in Sweden proceeds from the people and the Riksdag is the foremost representative of the people." "The King as Head of State is the country's foremost representative and symbol. The King's duties are primarily ceremonial and representative".

Six years later, in 1980, the Swedish order of succession was changed to a fully cognatic one. This means that the Monarch´s eldest heir, regardless of gender, inherits the throne.

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