The Swedish royal wedding on Saturday has occasioned a flood of royal books, including three books on the bride by three tabloid journalists: Catarina Hurtig, Herman Lindqvist and Johan T. Lindwall. While Herman Lindqvist’s Victoria – Drottning med tiden was a sycophantic panegyric, Johan T. Lindwall has in his book Victoria – Prinsessan privat almost chosen to collect what his employer Expressen has written about the Crown Princess over the years.
One only needs to read the first sentence – “Victoria again felt that feeling” – to realise how unreliable this book is. Not only is the author able to tell us what the Crown Princess felt inside her as she walked to Drottningholm Palace from her own home, he will also tell us what King Carl Gustaf did, said and thought while alone in the kitchen, what Princess Madeleine whispered to her sister or what Victoria and Daniel said to each other on the phone. These are all things Lindwall cannot possibly know.
He starts with the dinner where the Crown Princess first told her family about Daniel Westling and then goes back to 1995, the year she turned eighteen and he started covering the royal family as a journalist. That chapter is perhaps the best part of the book as the story of how he experienced his first meetings with the royals and the court’s press department is told in a rather entertaining way – particularly his portrayal of the then head of the press department, Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg, is worth a smile.
But from then on it goes downhill again. Her birth, childhood, school years and youth are dealt with quite summarily, always with a focus on the problematic issues, such as her dyslexia and her eating disorder. Her previous relationship with Daniel Collert takes up much space before the rest of the book is devoted to her relationship with Daniel Westling. And Lindwall’s version of that story is well-known: how she had to fight her parents, in particular the King, for years to win their acceptance for her boyfriend.
Throughout the book Lindwall casts himself in the role as some sort of special confidante of Victoria’s, the journalist she would take aside to tell the truth when the others were not there. “I and Victoria [yes, in that order] have talked about her dyslexia many times”, we learn. When he bursts in on her alone with Daniel Westling playing golf, “Victoria lit up” when she saw him, he assures us.
Lindwall will occasionally contradict himself. He tells us that Victoria changed from the Smedslätt school in Bromma to Enskilda gymnasiet in 1990, but between these two schools she attended another (Carlssons) – which Lindwall gets right another place in the same book. On page 190 Lindwall tells us that on the day of the engagement (24 February 2009) he had “naturally no idea” that Daniel had a kidney disease, a fact which he repeats when he meets Daniel the next day on page 193. But when he undergoes the kidney transplant three months later, Lindwall tells us on page 200: “I had known about Daniel Westling’s kidney problem for a long time. I knew from friends of the couple that Daniel was not doing well. That there had been talk of a possible transplant on several occasions”. So “a long time” must be less than three months.
And then there are all the silly mistakes. There is no “Princess Christina Magnuson”, Princess Cristina of Spain married in Barcelona, not Madrid, and the current king was not an “almost two-year-old crown prince” at the time his father died, but a nine-months-old prince. And the name of Daniel’s mother is not spelt correctly even once.
A press announcement becomes “a personal speech” and it is odd to read that people suddenly started to see Victoria as “the future heir to the throne” as she has actually been the heir to the throne since 1980. When Prince Bertil is buried Princess Lilian places a bouquet of lilies of the valley on his coffin, “picked at home at Djurgården” Lindwall adds although this is plainly impossible as the funeral took place in mid-January.
And then there is the hyperbole which characterises the tabloid manner of this book. When Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling kneel before the altar of the Cathedral “a new phase of their life and a new chapter of Sweden’s history begins”, the book ends. Although a royal wedding is a nice thing its significance is certainly not big enough to make it a watershed in the country’s history.