Royal wedding triggers monarchy debate in Sweden

Wedding between Crown Princess Victoria and her trainer has triggered debate.

Stockholm: It will be a royal moment of glory set against the bleak backdrop of Europe`s financial crisis.

The June 19 wedding in Stockholm Cathedral between Crown Princess Victoria and her personal trainer Daniel Westling has triggered debate about why an otherwise egalitarian country like Sweden retains such an archaic — and expensive — institution.

Like in neighbouring monarchies Norway and Denmark, the Swedish royals` responsibilities are purely ceremonial but they still enjoy privileged lives compared to ordinary people, a disparity that has become increasingly evident during preparations for the wedding.

Many here are questioning the 20 million kronor (USD 2.5 million) price tag of the wedding — half of which will be footed by taxpayers — at a time when ordinary citizens are being asked to endure a new age of austerity.

The royal court defends the lavish outlays, saying the wedding will generate large returns from tourism and souvenir sales.

But anti-royal rumbles are on the rise.

Since Victoria, 32, and Westling, 36, announced their engagement a year ago membership in the Swedish Republican Association has doubled to 6,000 and more than 56,000 people have joined a Facebook group calling for a refusal to pay for the wedding.

While newspapers and TV shows have speculated on wedding dresses and royal etiquette, columnists have started debating the monarchy.

In the capital, Stockholm, a group of poets turned down a request to compose love poems for the wedding celebrations and wrote anti-royal poems instead.

"The royal family is a guarantor of the class society and that is the decisive argument against the monarchy," one of the poets, Thomas Tidholm, said.

"I actually think this wedding can be counterproductive," he said, after reading his poem in a Stockholm bar. "It will go on for so long that people will get really fed up."

According to the royal court, half of the wedding`s cost will be paid by Victoria`s father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, and the other half by the government. The Swedish state is also expected to spend tens of millions of kronors on renovating the cathedral, security and hosting international media.

The latest statistics indicate that Swedes, like their Norwegian neighbours, have started questioning the monarchy, while support for the royals in Denmark remains high.

According to a poll in April by the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg, 56 percent of Swedes want to retain the monarchy — a drop from 68 percent in 2003. The poll of 1,800 people had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

In Norway, support has dropped to around 60 percent in recent years, from a steady level of 80 percent during most of the post-war era, while in Denmark support for the monarchy has stayed steady at around 80 percent.

"People have woken up and are saying that this cannot be right; that in the 21st century we still haven`t come further with equality," said Peter Althin, chairman of the Swedish Republican Association.

Althin and other sceptics mainly oppose retaining a public office that is inherited, but are also critical of outdated laws stipulating that the royals have to be Christian and need the state`s approval to get married.

Bureau Report

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