Sunday, 18 October 2009

New books: The power of the Swedish monarchy

During a visit to Malmö last week I came across a new book titled Monarkins makt – Nationell gemenskap i svensk demokrati (“The Power of the Monarchy: National Unity in Swedish Democracy”) by the political scientist Cecilia Åse, published by Ordfront Förlag. Such books discussing the monarchy, its nature and its role often appear in connection with major events such as those the Swedish monarchy is now facing, but this book falls completely through.
The beginnings are promising: the author takes a look at the political debate about the monarchy in the 1950s and 1960s, which was part of a wider constitutional discourse which resulted in a new Constitution taking effect in 1975, thereby restricting the monarch’s role significantly.
But from then on the book deteriorates. The author is concerned with how the common “we” relate to the members of the royal family, but she has little particularly original or substantial to say. Often she states the obvious, sometimes it ends up as banalities. The fact that Queen Silvia wears jewellery which has belonged to earlier generations of the dynasty represents continuity, we are told. And a newspaper’s online article on the engagement of Crown Princess Victoria has a link to an article about her parents’ betrothal. Equally startling, this also represents continuity.
It does not help that Åse shows herself to be confused by the terminology. She writes some generalities about the nature of state visits, stating that they are undertaken by the head of state embodying Sweden. The Queen (or rather the Queen’s body) is just present as some sort of adornment. Yet a few pages later, having forgotten that only the head of state pays state visits, the author refers to Crown Princess Victoria’s state visit to Brazil.
Reading the book I frequently wondered when it would arrive at its topic and having finished it I was left wondering what if any was the author’s aim or purpose with this book.

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