Earlier this year an anthology titled Media and Monarchy in Sweden, edited by Mats Jönsson and Patrik Lundell, was published by Nordicom (Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research), an institution within the Nordic Council of Ministers.
In ten essays scholars from several academic disciplines look at different topics concerning the Swedish monarchy and its relations to media. Most of the essays deal with the present dynasty, but the historian Louise Berglund writes about Queen Philippa of Denmark, Norway and Sweden and the altar she had built in Vadstena Abbey (where she was subsequently buried). The historian Magnus Rodell deals with statues of kings erected in the mid-19th century, while Kristina Widestedt, senior lecturer in journalism and media studies, takes a look at press coverage of three royal weddings (in 1888, 1932 and 1976). Patrik Lundell shows how the monarchy has been able to confer legitimacy on the press, exemplified by Oscar II’s role at the international press congress in Stockholm in 1897.
The film historian Tommy Gustafsson sees the hugely successful 1920s film “Karl XII” in relation to masculinity and national honour, while another film historian, Mats Jönsson, deals with media representation of the royal family during World War II, particularly in connection with the defence loan. The political scientist Cecilia Åse looks at the role of gender and nation in royal yearbooks, which is also the real topic of her recent misleadingly titled book Monarkins makt, while the ethnologist Matthias Frihammar analyses the transformative process in the wake of a satirical episode at a sports gala which involved King Carl Gustaf’s napkin ending up in the collections of the Royal Armoury.
In what I found the most interesting contribution to this anthology Pelle Snickars, head of research at the National Library, takes on the Swedish royal court’s unwillingness to embrace modern media such as e-mail, Facebook, blogs, Flickr and YouTube and how this has opened up the field for a large number of fake Facebook profiles, amateur YouTube clips and unauthorised websites beyond the royal court’s control. More than one contributor to this book points out that whereas the Swedish royal family traditionally has been quite progressive and more positively inclined to accepting and using new media forms (such as film and radio) than the country’s politicians, the situation has now been turned around, with the monarchy lagging behind the politicians. (I could add that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway are on Twitter).
As is always the case with anthologies, some essays are better and more interesting or breaks more new ground than others. Overall this book deals in a mostly interesting way with a varied field of media/monarchy issues, but the English translations are not flawless and the book also suffers from the contributors’ obvious unfamiliarity with “monarchical terminology” (to cite just a few of many examples one does not denounce one’s right to the throne, there has never been a “Prince Wilhelm Bernadotte”, Daniel Westling will not become a member of the court, there is no “Arch-Duchess of Luxembourg” and Haga is certainly not a castle, but a palace).