A (Very) Short History of the Kings of Sweden Posted by on Mar 26, 2010 in Culture

For over 1000 years, Sweden has been considered a monarchy of some sort. This has included periods of foreign rule, periods of dual rule, even periods of female rule at a time when women did not usually ascend to the throne.

Today, Sweden retains its status as a monarchy, albeit a constitutional monarchy.  Essentially this means that the royal family is only for show.  Governmental power lies with the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament.  But Sweden’s royal family, the Bernadottes, live on.

The original Bernadotte was a French general in Napoleons army before becoming King of Sweden due to a series of events including a coup d’état and a later death of a childless king.  Since 1818 the Bernadottes have presided over Sweden.  All men.  In 1980, the Act of Succession (Successionsordning) was changed and equal primogeniture was introduced meaning that women could inherit the throne.  When the current king dies or abdicates the throne, Crown Princess Victoria will become the Queen of Sweden and only the fourth woman to be head of state.

The discussion of whether Sweden, a country that prides itself on democracy and lives under the shadow of Jantelagen, should have a monarchy regardless of its power is an ongoing one.  Especially recently, due to the upcoming wedding of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

On June 19th, 2010, Victoria will have her wedding in Storkyrkan, just a stone’s throw away from the castle.  This has led to increased media coverage of the royal family and, in turn, an increased discussion about the merits of royalty in today’s society.  Much of the discussion focuses on the tax burden that Swedes carry to support the monarchy as well as the incompatibility of an inherited position as head of state with democratic ideals.

Despite the discussion though, it seems that the monarchy will most likely be around for a while.  In a 2009 survey by DN/Synovate 74% of the Swedish population supported keeping the monarchy.

And in case you were wondering, here is a list of the Swedish kings who descend from the Bernadotte line up until the current King of Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf:

Karl XIV Johan: 1818 – 1844
Oskar I: 1844 – 1859
Karl XV: 1859 – 1872
Oskar II: 1872 – 1907
Gustaf V: 1907 – 1950
Gustaf VI Adolf: 1950 – 1973
Carl XVI Gustaf: 1973 – Present

For a full list of Sweden’s kings through the ages, as well as their years of rule, check out the Royal Court’s website in English and Swedish.

Keep learning Swedish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Xavier O:

    Similiar situation in Spain, UK, Holland etc. It’s really peculiar phenomenon, people complaint about having to pay tax for those spectacular wedding and extortionate “visiting” trips nevertheless people are not seemingly willingly to capsize the royal family. I reckon people are just getting used to the fact of being in a monarchy country and there’s nothing much you can do about it. Unfortunately they will be well left alone however wrong decision it is to keep them, and debate is just a way that disgruntled people complaint.

    I thought it’d really be history of the monarchy of sweden but one third of the article is about the debate, a bit disappointed sorry to say.

  2. Marcus Cederström:

    I don’t think the problem is with people getting used to the monarchy. The monarchy has been around in some form for hundreds and hundreds of years. It is a part of the cultural history of the country. It is more a problem of how to reconcile that history with the democratic ideals that so many of those countries now hold true.

    And come on Xavier, at least 43.72% of the post was about the history of the monarchy. Just enough to be described as (very) short.

    I would argue though that the debate surrounding the monarchy is a very important part of its history, the debate is what could possibly decide whether the monarchy will continue to have a history or eventually be phased out.

  3. Xavier O:

    ‘Reconcil’ seems to me ‘compromise’ in reality. To be honest I don’t think there’ll be any changes about the monachy, at most some expense cuts could be proposed, that can take some time.

    Your explanation kinda make sense but think twice that including debate of something as part of its history is a bit farfetched I’m afraid. Because normally when you say history you would expect a continuous record of important or public events or of a particular tread or institution, by define, rather than what people think of it otherwise what you learn is only subjective thoughts my dear friend.

  4. Marcus Cederström:

    That could very well be, and the current opinion polls would suggest that the dismantling of the monarchy will not happen anytime soon.

    The debate is exactly what makes history though. Without that debate, history is never made. Those continuous records of important events, those continuous records of public events, those events were generally viewed through the eyes of debate. Seldom is history made by consensus.