Is Sweden a monarchy? Not exactly: the Swedish government is parliamentary democracy, but there is a hereditary monarchy that acts in tandem with the Swedish government. Layman’s terms? There’s a Swedish royal family but their role is ceremonial.
It is, in fact, even possible that the Swedish monarchy could one day be abolished; the Parliament is not obligated (as it once was) to choose a new monarch should the current royal family stop producing heirs.
But that doesn’t mean that royal abolition is around the corner in Sweden! The Swedish royal family is generally well-liked. As is the case with most European royal families today, they stary out of politics and confine their activities to representing Sweden both internationally and in traditional domestic events.
The Swedish royal family is made up of the king, queen, their three children, and seven grandchildren.
Find out everything you need to know about the Royal Family of Sweden:
The Swedish royal family tree
See the full Scandinavian royal family tree up close.
History of the Swedish monarchy
Sweden has had a monarchy since the country existed, and the Scandinavian region has had monarchies since pre-historic times. Previous to 1000 AD, most known stories of Swedish kings are told in Norse sagas, and even after that time the recorded history is spotty.
It is from the 11th century, when Christianity came to Scandinavia, that we know more about Sweden’s kings. During this time, kings were elected; they were chosen from a number of competing dynasties. Kings became more powerful as power, and Swedish land, was consolidated. Fighting continued between the two strongest dynasties, Sverker and Erik, until a new dynasty married into the Erik clan, strengthening the throne.
In 1397, the Kalmar Union brought together all the Scandinavian countries (including Finland, which at that time was part of Sweden). In-fighting led to a slow demise of the union in the 16th century.
The 16th and 17th centuries were marked by wars, tax reformation, and the arrival of Protestantism, all of which consolidated monarchical power. Queen Kristina (also known as Christina) ruled from 1632 – 1654; she is still considered one of the most learned monarchs of Sweden and was a great patron of the arts.
Queen Kristina dressed in a masculine style and had a long-term relationship with a woman, Ebba Sparre, her lady-in-waiting. Kristina refused to marry, which led to such a decrease in popularity that she eventually abdicated the throne and converted to Catholicism. In the proceeding centuries, Queen Kristina has become a lesbian icon, especially after her portrayal by Greta Garbo in 1933’s film Queen Christina.
Queen Kristina also had an infamous meeting with French philosopher René Descartes; upon reading his work, she invited him to Sweden to start a scientific academy. He arrived to Sweden in October of 1649.
In December, Descartes began lessons with the queen in the cold, damp castle. In February, he caught a cold and died ten days later of pneumonia. So while it would be unfair to call Queen Kristina a murderer, she certainly could have offered Descartes a scarf!
In the 18th century, Queen Ulrika Eleonara ended Sweden’s absolute monarchy when she was made to sign the 1719 Instrument of Government. It was during this period, the Age of Liberty (Frihetstiden), that the concepts of civil liberty and the parliamentary system become foundational to Swedish government. It was a short-lived period; 1718 – 1722, but it remains seminal to Swedish history.
In 1772, King Gustav III ushered in the Gustavian era when he staged a bloodless coup (on himself!) and reimagined the division of power between king and parliament with the 1772 Instrument of Government. As kings are wont to do, he strengthened the power of the monarchy. The act was adopted by Swedish Parliament (Riksdag), though this was achieved through strong-arming and coercion, not actual approval.
The 1809 Instrument of Government saw the pendulum swing the other way, with primary power being awarded to parliament, and secondary power to the king. In 1810, King Charles XIII died leaving no heir, and the elected heir Charles August died suddenly in a military training exercise. Left with no monarch, the Swedish Parliament elected Prince Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte as king, thereby launching the Bernadotte dynasty, which continues today.
Throughout the 19th century, much of the Swedish monarchy’s focus was on trying to retain power in a society that was becoming increasingly liberal and socially democratic. Ultimately, the royals had to adapt to survive, doing their best to ensure that Riskdag was amenable to their station.
At this point in time, the king still had executive authority that could be exercized only when in the presence of his cabinet ministers. If he was away, the minsters could make decisions in his name.
In 1914, King Gustav V openly disagreed with proposed defense budget cuts, and gave what is now known as the “Courtyard Speech” at Stockholm’s Royal Palace. He spoke in front of over 30,000 Swedish farmers, who subsequently held a march to demand higher defense spending. When the liberal government tried to shut down the King’s partisan provocations, he doubled down on his demands and the entire Parliament resigned in protest. King Gustav V then appointed a conservative government.
The issue became momentarily moot when World War I broke out and the idea of cutting the defense budget was no longer relevant. In 1917, the appointment of a coalition government meant that the monarch’s authority once again took a backseat, though on paper it remained the same.
Sweden was famously “neutral” in WWII, with the major controversy of the war (called, in true Swedish fashion, the “Midsummer Crisis” of 1941) being whether German troops would be permitted to travel from Norway to Finland through Swedish territory. King Gustav V threatened (or, as he later put it, “mentioned”) abdication if the request of the Germans was not met.
While there is some evidence that King Gustav V was friendly with members of the Nazi party, and even approved of some of Hiter’s policies, he also appealed to the leaders of Hungary to save their Jewish population. All to say, it’s hard to know King Gustav V’s true feelings, other than that he didn’t want Sweden to be involved in the war and may have harbored pro-German (if not pro-Nazi) sympathies, as his wife was German.
When Gustav V died in 1950, his son Gustav VI Adolf ascended to the throne.
King Gustav VI Adolf died in 1973; because his son had died in a plane crash in 1947, Gustav VI Adolf’s grandson Carl XVI Gustav became king at the age of twenty-seven. King Carl XVI Gustav remains king today.
In 1974, Parliament voted to remove all executive powers from the monarchy, making the Swedish royal family’s role entirely ceremonial.
Who are the members of the Swedish royal family?
What is technically referred to as the “Royal House” is the immediate family of the head monarch, in this case HM King Carl XVI Gustaf. This includes the king, the queen, their children, and their grandchildren that fall into the line of succession.
Until 2019, all of King Carl XVI Gustav’s grandchildren were included in the “Royal House.”
The children of Prince Carl Philip and his wife Princess Sofia, and Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill were removed from the House by King Carl XVI Gustaf due to rising concerns about the royal family’s cost to taxpayers.
Removing the grandchildren from the house relieved them of their royal duties, removed their “royal highness” titles (they continue to be dukes and duchesses), and means that they no longer receive an annual sum called an appanage.
All members of the royal family have expressed approval of this measure, noting that the children removed from the Royal House will be able to live more private and independent lives, while still attending social events with the rest of the family.
Here are the members of the Royal Family of Sweden:
The youngest child of Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten, and Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, King Carl XVI Gustav became king in 1973. His father died when he was only nine months old, so King Carl XVI Gustav ascended to the throne when his grandfather, King Gustav VI Adolf, died. The King has four older sisters: the Princesses Margaretha, Birgitta, Désirée and Christina.
He married Silvia Sommerlath, a German-Brazillian woman he met at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, in 1976. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
King Carl XVI Gustav is the monarch with the longest reign in Sweden’s history. He has presided over a number of changes to the monarchy, including absolute primogeniture, as well as changes to the Royal House; in 2019, he removed five of his grandchildren from the House in response to growing disapproval of the amount of taxpayer money spent on the royal family.
HM Queen Silvia
Queen Silvia married King Carl XVI Gustav in 1974 after meeting him at the 1972 Olympics, where she was working as a host and interpreter. She speaks seven languages (!), with Swedish and Swedish Sign Language being her sixth and seventh.
The night before their wedding, ABBA took part in a Royal Variety Performance where they performed “Dancing Queen” for the first time in honor of the new queen.
HM Queen Silvia has been involved in many social justice causes during her time as queen, with particular focus on childhood mentoring and elderly people living with dementia.
HRH Princess Birgitta
Princess Birgitta is the older sister of King Carl XVI Gustav. She kept her HRH title, and therefore her place in the “Royal House” as she married a German royal, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern in 1961.
HRH Crown Princess Victoria
Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland, is next in-line for the throne. She will be the first queen of Sweden to be crowned through absolute primogeniture, and the first queen in the Bernadotte dynasty.
Though her younger brother was originally the Crown Prince, the law was changed in 1980 and she retroactively became the Crown Princess.
In 1997, Crown Princes Victoria Fund was set up to provide recreational events and activities for children with disabilities and illnesses. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Uppsala University and speaks four languages. The Crown Princess works as a Sustainable Development Goal Advocate at the United Nations, where she focuses on water and health issues, and represents Sweden both domestically and around the world on official visits.
She married Daniel Westling in 2010, had her first child in 2012, and her second child in 2016.
HRH Prince Daniel
Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland, married Crown Princess Victoria in 2010. Prior to their marriage, he owned three gyms and worked as a personal trainer.
He is the patron of a number of organizations and non-profits, particularly those related to health and entrepreneurship.
HRH Prince Carl Philip
Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland, is the second child of King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia. He is currently fourth in-line for the throne, after his sister Crown Princess Victoria and her two children.
Carl Philip married Sofia Hellqvist in 2014; they had their first child in 2016, second child in 2017, and third child in 2021.
The Prince is known for his love of sports and outdoor activities. He studied graphic design and is one half of the well-respected design duo Bernadotte Kylberg, who create products for brands including Georg Jensen, Hästens, and Stelton.
HRH Princess Sofia
Princess Sofia, Duchess of Värmland, is married to Prince Carl Philip. They have three children together.
Previous to her royal duties, Princess Sofia was a model, was on the reality TV show “Paradise Hotel,” and is a certified yoga instructor. She studied accounting and business development in New York, as well as childhood communication in Sweden.
Sofia co-founded Project Playground in 2010, a non-profit that supports children in South Africa.
HRH Princess Madeleine
Princess Madeleine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland, is seventh in-line for the throne. She is married to British-American businessman Christopher O’Neill. They have three children and live in Miami, Florida, in the USA.
Madeleine has a BA in art history from the University of Stockholm, and also studied child psychology. She is a talented equestrian.
Where does the Swedish royal family live?
King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia live at Drottningholm Palace, just outside of Stockholm. Built by Nicodemus Tessin the Elder in the 17th Century, the palace has been home to Swedish royals since 1981 and is a UNESCO heritage site.
Crown Princess Victoria, her husband Prince Daniel, and their two children live at Haga Palace just outside of Stockholm. This Palace was the birthplace of her father.
Prince Carl Philip, his wife Princess Sofia, and their two children live at Villa Solbacken in Stockholm, north of the Djurgårdsbrunn canal. Designed in 1930 by architect Ragnar Hjorth, the villa was given to the Prince by his uncle and godfather Prince Bertil, with the understanding that Bertil’s wife Lilian could live there until her death. When she passed away in 2013, Prince Philip and his family moved in.
Princess Madeleine, her husband Chris, and their children have lived all over the world, and are currently residing in Miami, Florida, in the USA.
Is the Swedish royal family popular?
Yes! Though there has been some disagreement about how much money taxpayers should contribute to the royal family annually, the Swedish royal family is generally well-liked in the country.
They’re seen as grounded, compared to other royals around the world, and even travel in economy class when flying.
There is also more acceptance of Swedish royals doing “non-royal” things; for example, Princess Sofia has been on reality television. Marrying out of royalty, or nobility, is totally fine; Crown Princess Victoria married her former personal trainer.
The Swedish King’s scandal
In 2010, the book The Reluctant King was published and opened a major controversy for the royal family, specifically King Carl XVI Gustav.
The book, which the King did not refute, details the monarch’s many affairs and his love of sex parties.
The book and its subsequent scandals shook the people of Sweden, and many objected to the King being portrayed in such a negative light. After its publication, the King issued a statement in which he essentially said that he wanted to move forward, as the allegations were from so long ago.
Who is next in line for the Swedish crown?
HRH Crown Princess Victoria is next in line for the crown. She will be the first queen in the Bernadotte family.
There have been two contemporary queen regents in Sweden: Kristina (ruled 1632 – 1654) and Ulrika Eleonora (ruled 1718 – 1720). Both abdicated power in favor of male family; Kristina in favor of her cousin, and Ulrika Eleonora in favor of her husband.
Crown Princess Victoria, however, is the first to be in line for the crown since the Act of Succession was rewritten in 1980 to include absolute primogeniture, so women could ascend to the throne. The laws of succession were updated after the births of both Crown Princess Victoria and her younger brother Prince Carl Philip, making Victoria retroactively next in line for the crown.
Is the Swedish royal family related to the British royal family?
Yes! The Swedish and British royal families are connected through Queen Victoria, who is the great great-grandmother of both Queen Elizabeth II and King Carl XVI Gustav.
Queen Victoria, who ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 – 1901, had nine children and 42 grandchildren, ensuring that many royal families in Europe are connected through her lineage.
See the full Scandinavian royal family tree.
Is the Swedish royal family related to the Danish royal family?
Of course they are! Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav is the first cousin of Danish Queen Margrethe II (mother of King Frederik); they share a grandfather, Swedish King Gustav VI Adolf.
See the full Scandinavian royal family tree.
What religion is the Swedish royal family?
The Swedish royal family is Protestant Christian, and are members of the Church of Sweden, an Evangelical Lutheran church. The Act of Succession of 1810 actually requires that the royal family be “of the pure evangelical faith.”
Graphics by Freya McOmish.