Royalty can be fascinating – the glamour, the history, that otherness we now arbitrarily convey to people like the stars of The Hills. The British royal family has true celebrity sizzle, what with our cultural ties and their odd flamboyance and the echoes of the grand British Empire, while the remnant of the rest of Europe’s ruling families serve as a kind of high society side show, good for an E! special on the Mediterranean yachting life.
But could you live under these people? As an American, presuming you are American, could you take oaths that, however obliquely and symbolically, meant you lived under the rule of a hereditary ruling family?
I will be faced with this choice in a few years when I become eligible for Swedish citizenship, eligible for a seductive EU passport, eligible to stand in the same fast line with my wife and kids at Swedish customs, eligible to travel to Cuba legally, eligible to talk my way past ruly anti-American mobs (and they seem to be on every other block here in Stockholm).
So the answer to my question is … of course. Right? I mean, who cares? These are all democracies, at least in Europe, with the various kings and queens, princes and princesses trotted out for state visits and slow tabloid news days.
But the whole king and queen question nags at me. For Sweden has buzzed for weeks now with the news that Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, Duchess of Västergötland, and heir to the Swedish throne, is finally engaged to her longtime boyfriend Daniel Westling, a commoner and gym owner. The commoner thing is big, and Westling will become a prince, and they will be married on June 19, 2010. My wedding anniversary is on June 18, and my wife is quite happy Victoria and Daniel is not stealing our day.
Swedes love the spectacle. I read a story that in the 70’s the Swedish prime minister told the king that, if not for his fairy tale wedding to a German-Brazilian commoner, Sweden would have become a republic. There is no such danger now. A recent poll showed that 74 percent of Swedes want to keep the monarchy.
I would ignore the spectacle, save for that citizenship decision hanging over me.
It actually makes me feel all the more American, giving me an oddly tangible link to my ancestor who sailed over on the Mayflower (supposedly), to my distant relative who was a guard for George Washington and was killed by a falling rock (so the story goes) and to my Hungarian great-grandfather who left a dusty farming village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for the joys of a railroad job in Durand, Michigan.
These people took a stand against kings and queens, and even if those kings and queens had real power, and King Carl XVI Gustaf and his daughter Victoria do not, well, I do not want to bow down to them.
Though I see a new unruly mob of Swedes forming down the street …