In a formal meeting with the cabinet at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has just announced that his newborn grandson will be named Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil and be a Prince of Sweden and Duke of Sudermania (Södermanland). Prince Alexander, the first child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, was born at Danderyd Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Alexander is of course a very royal name, but has not previously been used by the Swedish royal family, except that Queen Christina after her abdication and conversion to Catholicism added Alexandra to her name in honour of Pope Alexander VII.
Erik is on the other hand a name with a long royal tradition in Sweden, although it has been little used in recent years. The first King Erik was Erik the Victorious, who reigned from about 970 to 995. Very little is known about early medieval Sweden, which was deeply divided between warring factions, but around 1067 there were two rival kings, both named Erik, who were both killed around that year. In the twelfth century, two rival dynasties who have later come to be known as the Sverker and Erik families, fought each other. The latter drew its name from Erik Jedvardsson, who was King of a part of Sweden around 1158 and died a violent death a year or two later. He was subsequently considered a saint, although never officially canonised, and although the cult was for a long time only local, he was eventually promoted into Sweden's national saint. The promotion of St Erik's cult also meant that his name became rather popular among Swedish royals.
The next Erik was his grandson, Erik Knutsson, who reigned from 1208 to 1216 and was the first Swedish King known to have been crowned. His son, uncharitably known as Erik the Lisp and Lame, won back the crown from the rival Sverkers and reigned from 1222 to 1229 and from 1234 to 1250. The next Erik was Erik Magnusson, who challenged his father Magnus Eriksson in 1356 and reigned as joint monarch for a few months before his death in 1359.
His sister-in-law, Margareta Valdemarsdatter, who succeeded in uniting all three Scandinavian realms and being elected monarch, adopted her great-nephew Bugislav of Pomerania and had him made King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway under the name Erik. He was elected King of Sweden in 1396 and crowned in Kalmar the following year, the event which is traditionally held to mark the foundation of the so-called Kalmar Union, but his reign was conflict-filled and he was eventually deposed in 1439.
Thereafter, the name did not reappear until King Gustaf I, the founder of the Vasa dynasty, named his eldest son Erik. Erik succeeded his father upon his death in 1560 and assumed the name Erik XIV (a number of fictional Eriks were inventend to make the line of Swedish kings look longer and more prestigious). He was deposed by his brother, Johan III, in 1568 and poisoned nine years later.
Since then, there seems to have been some sort of stigma related to the name borne by at least two unfortunate monarchs, but the Bernadottes revived it in 1889, when the future King Gustaf V and Queen Victoria became the parents of their third son. However, this prince was another unfortunate Erik. He was mentally challenged and lived most of his life away from his family and the public eye, dying from the Spanish flu at the age of 29 in 1918.
A more recent connection is Prince Alexander's maternal grandfather, Erik Hellqvist. Hubertus derives from his other grandfather, Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, who received the name in honour of his mother's brother, Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was killed fighting for Nazi Germany in 1943. Bertil is in honour of the King's late uncle, Prince Bertil, to whom Prince Carl Philip was very close.
As for the dukedom, Sudermania is often seen as one of the more prestigious ducal titles. It was most recently held by Prince Wilhelm, the second son of King Gustaf V. Prince Wilhelm resided at Stenhammar Palace in Flen, which was left to the state by the courtier Robert von Kraemer, who willed that it should be made available to a prince of the royal house, preferably a Duke of Sudermania (the province in which the estate is located). Since Prince Wilhelm's death in 1965 it has been used by King Carl Gustaf, but Prince Carl Philip has been groomed to take it over and it was therefore no surprise that the dukedom connected to it was given to his firstborn.