can an American bow down to a king?

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 …


6 thoughts on “can an American bow down to a king?

  1. I can see your dilemma, and I sympathize. On the one hand, the Scandanavian monarchies are actually known for their egalitarian character. On the other hand, being born in a nation that has defined itself in opposition to monarchy, I can understand your hesitation to take an oath to a King or Queen, no matter how egalitarian, or subject to their constitution they might be. Can you get dual citizenship? It might be useful, particularly if things get really bad here in the states, or over there, either way you have somewhere to go. I don’t think I’d take it if I had to give up my American Citizenship to do so, however.

  2. I was actually faced with this same decision not so long ago when handing in my paperwork for Spanish citizenship. For me, it was an easy yes. Granted there are some factors that you may not share as pretty much my entire family is Spanish and I’m basically first generation American but, like you said, European nations are democracies with the only difference being the head of State is a King. The royal family is a symbol and nothing more. You should enjoy it. You should also remember that the Revolution was not caused because the colonists decided they were anti-royalty but because they were anti-tyranny! If the King had not been bleeding them dry, the US would be a Commonwealth nation today and look a lot more like Canada!

  3. I’m also a first-generation American. I would never get dual citizenship, but I would especially never get any type of citizenship that would require me to pledge any kind of allegiance (however symbolic) to a hereditary family, king or queen. This might be because of my particular ethnic background (parents from another former British colony), but the thought of being under the “rule” of a person I had no say in electing disgusts me. Live free or die, all the way 🙂

  4. Pingback: qualifying for swedish citizenship two years earlier than I expected « Dispatches from Daddyland

  5. Pingback: a royal wedding in britain makes me a royal watcher in sweden | Dispatches from Daddyland

  6. I’ve tried to research this without coming up with an answer, but it sounds very un-Swedishlike to me that new Swedish citizens would be taking an oath. I can;t recall taking any oaths what so ever during my 35 years of being a Swede living in Sweden. But, if such an oath exists, I would doubt it very much that it would mention the king. He has no formal power beyond the three jobs that are laid out in the constitution: he formally opens the Riksdag in the Fall, and he is the formal chairperson during meetings at the royal palace where he is informed of foreign affairs, and when a new prime minister is appointed. He cannot influence policies or decisions in any way.

    I am Swedish by birth, and I just went through the process of becoming an American citizen. I have dual citizenship. While I was happy to see that you;d have to resign royal and other titles when becoming American, I was somewhat shocked to be taking an oath that ends “so help me God”. I didn;t feel as if I enjoyed my freedom of religion right at that moment…

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