Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Good Day to be Swedish

My love of things Scandinavian continues to grow.    I blogged some time back about my love affair with Mette-Marit of Norway, and how she stepped in and flew to India to help out a couple of gay daddies she knew.  And Denmark, where everybody bicycles to work, where AIDS victims never had to worry about full free medical care.  The fact that the Danes got virtually all of their Jews out before the Nazis came.  So much of what I’ve heard over the years about Denmark makes me smile or want to stand and salute.

But today it was Sweden.  For very different reasons, which I’ll get to in a minute.  Not because they aren’t a whole lot like Denmark in their progressive ways.  Or because Stockholm blew me away last year when I visited it for the first time and discovered what a gorgeous place it is.  But because, along with their socialist ways, which I so admire, and which I wish Americans had the gumption to recognize is not a bad way to live, they share a delicious anachronism with Great Britain.  A hoity-toity fancy-schmancy Royal family, complete with counts and barons and knights and esquires.  And a king by the name of Carl XVI Gustav.  The “16th” he apparently uses as if it were the second of his three first names.  (He’s got two more, actually – Folke and Hubertus.)  Carl 16 Gustav was born just after the war and succeeded his grandfather Gustav 6 Adolf because his father was killed in a plane crash at Copenhagen airport when Carl 16 was only a year old.

Nobody told the boy that his father had died until he was seven years old.  Just not done in those days to talk about sticky subjects, apparently.  To get ready for the job as king, he joined the army and then the navy and then the air force.   And studied history, sociology, political science and tax law.  He is now Dei Gratia Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex.  I wouldn’t change places with too many people on this planet, but if somebody offered me the chance to bear the title, King of the Swedes, the Goths and the Vandals and hand out Nobel Prizes, I’d give it some serious thought.

C16 is married to Sylvia, who had a German father and a Brazilian mother, and ABBA sang “Dancing Queen” for the very first time at their wedding in 1976.   They had three kids, Victoria, Carl Philip and Madeleine.  The boy was supposed to be king, but this is Sweden, remember, which leads the world in gender equality.   Almost half the parliamentarians are women and over half of the ministerial positions are held by women.   So they decided if equal distribution of power was really to be the way of doing things, the least they could do is bump Carl Philip from his position as heir to the throne and give it to his older sister.  Vicky will inherit the throne.  Only the Dutch and the Swedes have this thing called absolute primogeniture, where the nation recognizes a royal doesn’t rule with his or her genitals.

And that brings us to the third child and second daughter, Madeleine, who got married today.  To an investment banker.  She had a thing going with a Swedish royal some time back, but he was catting around behind her back, so she gave him the heave-ho.  And married a man so clearly in love with her that he was bawling like a baby at the wedding, right there in front of God, Carl 16 Gustav, and everybody.  What’s not to love about royal weddings.  Have a look at this YouTube video of Madeleine entering the church.  Not your basic view of a socialist state, is it?

So much wonderful stuff here.   Royal princess Estelle, just over a year and three months old, daughter of Victoria and her commoner husband Daniel, with her own specially designed royal chair (from about minute .56 on).  You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she’s now, as Victoria’s child, next in line for the throne, and Uncle Carl Philip has been bumped to number three. The monarchy, with something like 70% of the population supporting it, seems to be in pretty good shape, so one day these baby pictures will be among the future queen’s treasures, if all goes as expected.

Don’t you love the floral wreaths you associate with midsummer nights?  And the kids in ordinary clothes, not all decked out, like royals, but in regular clothes.  And boys with flowers in their hair as well as girls. (Minute 1:45 or so).  And having the kids sing the bride down the aisle.  Man, for somebody who cries at weddings, this thing is a gusher.

Chris is British-American, and that’s probably why the priest performed the ceremony in English.   It could also be, of course, that Scandinavians, bless their hearts, seem to have pride in their culture and identity without all the political and cultural nationalism that so many countries are plagued with.

I went poking around looking for songs by the leading Swedish singer, Peter Jöback, just now and found this wonderful commentary:
Jag är 17, kille, och lyssnar på Peter Jöback, tycker synd om dem människor som tycker att jag är homo för att jag tycker om hans låtar. (är hetero)
Vad är att kränka någon för vilken typ av musik man lyssnar på? Blir så rasande ibland, han sjunger så extremt bra och jag tycker han har den mysigaste svenska rösten av artister! Kalla mig vad ni vill, men Peter Jöback är grym! 

Which my Swedish-into-English making machine tells me says something like, “I’m 17 and I’m a male and I don’t care if people think I’m a homo for liking the music of Peter Jöback, the greatest of all the Swedish artists.  Why should anybody be offended by what music I listen to?  “Kalla mig vad ni vill” – call me what you will – but Peter Jöback is cool.

Obviously that view is shared by Princess Madeleine and her beau.   They put Jöback front and center during the ceremony to sing “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”  Go ahead, keep your stone face, I dare you.

And they stand there at the altar, and Jöback sings “First time ever I lay with you…”

You gotta hand it to the Swedes.  They don’t have our hangups.

And then they all go out where people are standing around waving Swedish flags and wishing this princess and her banker husband every happiness.

What’s not to love.  A royal prince who has to turn over his right to the throne to his big sister, one of whose names is Désirée and who once suffered from anorexia but went to Yale and got better.   And who now owns a chain of restaurants called the “Fat Princess Madeleine of Sweden Burger” chain and earns $82 million a year.  A king who has to give up his right to make knights.  A banker who loves his bride so much he cries at the altar.  All taking place in a country where, when the royal wedding's over, everybody will go back to being socialists.  Except for Madeleine and Chris, of course.  She'll go back to running a football team and her own brand of vodka and a perfume known as Princess Madeleine of Sweden seduction.

Capitalism?  Socialism?

What's this, a lesson in the Hegelian dialectic?


It's a good day to be Swedish.

Photo credit: The photo at the top is from a photo series on the wedding in today’s Süddeutsche Zeitung.  Take a look at the whole series, if you’ve got a minute.  Some of them are precious.  Number 8, a photo which shows you you can be of African heritage and still be a Lutheran in Sweden and marry (i.e., perform a marriage) a princess.  Number 11,  of Princess Estelle on her little chair.   Number 14, bumped Prince Carl Philip with Mama Silvia.   Number 15 of Norway’s King Haakon and my favorite princess of all time.   Number 17 of Crown Princess Estelle with a frown on her face.   Number 19, of very pretty lady, Sofia Hellkvist, Prince Carl Philip’s girlfriend, and some character from Lollypop Land.   Number 21, with one of the more gorgeous arrays of Euroswells you’ve seen in a long time, led by a grey-haired lady that screams upper class at you, accompanied, evidently, by a royal guard type – who happens to be a woman.  (Number 16 shows another female guard.)  Number 27, of the groom’s Austrian mother, who has been through four husbands so far.  Accompanied by Carl Philip again who’s obviously been tapped to escort the mamas around (and who’s beginning to grow on me and I can’t help wondering if he’s entirely in tune with this absolute primogeniture thing.)

And two which the increasingly salacious Süddeutsche Zeitung has obviously saved for last for their gossip value: Number 29, which any words of mine would only diminish, and Number 30, Princess Charlène of Monaco, sans husband Albert.

And where is Albert?  What’s so important that Albert couldn’t make it?

Is there a scandal in the making?

Don’t you just love weddings?

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