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HISTORY

Sweden’s popular Crown Princess

She was not born to be queen, but Crown Princess Victoria has become a popular heir to the throne. Juan Navas, who has worked closely with her, explains what she is really like.

Sweden's popular Crown Princess

In 1980 a change was made in the Swedish Constitution which altered hundreds of years of Swedish history and tradition. It also forever changed the life of a very young girl.

In 1979 the Swedish parliament had voted to change the law of succession so that the throne would be passed down by equal primogeniture rather than agnatic primogeniture – in other words, it would now not be the eldest son of the monarch who became heir to the throne, but the monarch’s eldest child.

The change was also retroactive when it came into effect in 1980, which meant that Prince Carl Philip (born in 1979) was now second in line to the throne, while his older sister Victoria was proclaimed heir apparent and Crown Princess of Sweden.

Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée, who was born on July 14, 1977 in Stockholm, will therefore be Sweden’s fourth Queen regnant the day she takes over from her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf. It is a role she has prepared for almost all her life. And since her declaration of majority on her 18th birthday it is responsibility she has taken head on.

As Sweden’s Crown Princess, Victoria is one of the busiest members of the Royal Family. She has also developed a reputation as a dutiful and serious-minded royal. In the past year, her official engagements have taken her all around Sweden, representing the Royal Family. She also represented Sweden in Afghanistan, Greece, Kenya, Belgium, Denmark and the United States. It is not rare that Victoria disembarks a train only to board an airplane a few hours later.

Victoria is also one of the most popular members of the Royal Family. Her office receives thousands of invitations and requests every year, asking her to attend everything from conferences to openings to jubilees. She always prepares and researches thoroughly before turning up at an engagement – she energetically tries to learn everything she can about the people she will meet and the places she will visit, in order to be a truly active participant.

The Crown Princess seems to live by a combination of the mottos of both her father and great-grandfather. King Gustaf VI Adolf’s, who reigned from 1950 to 1973, motto was “Duty first”. King Carl XVI Gustaf’s motto is “For Sweden – With the times”.

I am often asked “What is she really like?”. As a former colleague, my observation is that she is very similar to her parents the King and Queen. Like them, she believes in, and follows, duty and tradition. She is a person who knows her mind, is a good judge of character and is assiduous and determined. The Crown Princess is also a person with genuine warmth and kindness.

I have often thought about a visit the Crown Princess made to Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital in the autumn of 2007, and to which I accompanied her when I was an information secretary at the Royal Court.

At the hospital she visited amongst other places the neurological pediatric ward and the therapy play room.  The children were of course very excited to meet a real life princess and there was a lot of enthusiasm in the air.

However, anyone who has ever been to a children’s hospital knows it is a place of very mixed emotions. There is an overwhelming feeling of sadness and injustice in seeing so many young people struck down by serious illness. What I witnessed, though, was an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness as the Crown Princess met, and spent time with, the children.

It was not only the children that were cheerful though – you could see how much the Crown Princess  enjoyed spending time with each and every one of the children and how candidly they spoke with one another. That natural interaction, and connection, between them was truly a wonderful experience to witness. The Crown Princess has an authentic interest in all the people she meets, young and old, and the people who meet her sense that authenticity right away.

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HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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