Today is the seventieth birthday of the unsung heroine of the Swedish royal family, Princess Christina. She is the youngest of the four elder sisters of King Carl XVI Gustaf, who were once collectively known as the “Haga princesses” after the palace outside Stockholm where they lived until 1950.
The princesses grew up amid (for that time) intense media attention and were surrounded by strong feelings of sympathy after the tragic death of their father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, in a plane accident in 1947. Today they live private lives, and Princess Christina is the only of the sisters who continues to carry out public engagements. They are not listed in the calendar on the official royal website, but there are quite a lot of them and the Princess often steps in when extra help is needed, for instance during Crown Princess Victoria’s maternity leave.
Princess Christina is considered the most intellectual and most intelligent of the five siblings (she was the only of the princesses to graduate from senior high school), and many believe that she might have made an excellent monarch. However, women had no succession rights before 1980 and as the fourth daughter Princess Christina’s place in the order of succession would anyway have been remote.
After her three elder sisters married in 1961 and 1964 and her step-grandmother, Queen Louise, died in 1965, Princess Christina took on an increasing amount of public engagements. The early death of her mother, Princess Sibylla, in 1972 made Christina the first lady of the kingdom. She retained that role until her brother married Silvia Sommerlath in 1976 and is believed to have been a great support to Carl XVI Gustaf when he came to the throne as an inexperienced 27-year-old upon the death of their grandfather in 1973.
Princess Christina herself married the businessman Tord Magnuson in 1974. Both the old King and the new had consented to the marriage, but Christina nevertheless gave up the style Royal Highness and has since then been known as Princess Christina, Mrs Magnuson.
The couple had three sons – Gustaf, Oscar and Victor – and have within the past months become the grandparents of Edmund and Albert. For many years the Magnuson family lived in Villa Beylon near Ulriksdal Palace in Solna, just outside Stockholm, but a few years ago the Princess and her husband moved to an apartment in a building just opposite the Royal Palace.
Princess Christina was for many years the President of the Swedish Red Cross, a post closely associated with the royal family since it was held by her great-great-uncle (and godfather), Prince Carl, for more than forty years. She has also been particularly involved with cultural issues and is often seen at the opening nights at the ballet, opera or theatre or attending exhibition openings. She receives no money from the civil list, nor did she accept payment for her work at the Red Cross. As she is also one of those people who do not sing their own praise, much of her work has gone unrecognised.
The past few years have been difficult for Princess Christina, who has fought a successful battle against breast cancer and endured her jewellery being stolen by her husband’s young “friend” and partly sold for crack, partly thrown into the sea. But Princess Christina, who is now well again, has done what she was brought up to: raised her head and carried on.