The governor general is irrelevant to most Canadians, even though he is the head of state. Strangely enough though, he managed to inconvenience me when I was in Stockholm. I know, Sweden is far from Ottawa, but he managed it.
It was Sunday and I was headed to a 3 p.m. church service, which left me just enough time to check out Sweden’s royal palace. Except I couldn’t. It was closed to the public as they were cleaning it up for a visit by Canadian Governor General David Johnston.
So I opted instead to pay to see the Swedish crown jewels. I hadn’t got my head around the currency yet, otherwise I would probably have been too cheap to pay the equivalent of $25 to view three small rooms. The collection is nowhere as impressive as England’s, but the Swedish monarchy doesn’t go back that far.
It was one of those no photography museums, and I respected the rule. The pictures you see here are from the royal armoury. Don’t ask me why some of the jewels were there.
It wasn’t worth the money, to me anyway, but I did take part in the “free” guided tour. After all, I figured I’d paid for it.
I’m used to well-trained guides who stick to a script. This one I think was trying to do that, but she’d written it herself. She was informative, much more than the printed material I accessed while waiting for the tour to start. But I think she had learned her English from American television. She kept using a word I wasn’t used to hearing. Several times, when describing modifications that had been made to different crowns to make them more opulent, she referred to them as having been pimped.
I understand the American street slang, and it’s popularization by the television show “Pimp My Ride,” but somehow it didn’t seem appropriate. He crowns had, in my opinion, been modified.
What did make the museum almost worth the price of admission was her description of the Swedish monarchy. In describing how many minks had died for one particular coronation robe she expressed horror. That would never be allowed by Swedes today, she said. Or by the royal family.
Somehow I doubt that she speaks for all Swedes. Climate change notwithstanding, it remains a Nordic country with cooler winters. I am sure some people still place a value on fur coats. The royal family probably likes to keep warm too – and nothing beats fur for that.
I was fascinated to learn that it has been more than a century since Sweden held a coronation ceremony for its monarch. Such events are underwritten by a special coronation tax, and during an economic downturn in the early 20th century the king decided to skip the ceremony to spare the people the expense. All his successors have followed suit.
I wouldn’t describe Sweden today as suffering economically, not with the subway at $7 Canadian a ride, which is twice what I pay for public transit at home. People can obviously afford things.
There is probably a bigger reason for avoiding a coronation, and I applaud the royal family for their choice. Symbols matter, and a coronation is a huge symbol. I assume the king has made a conscious decision not to wear the crown because of what it symbolizes.
To be crowned is to acknowledge that you are sovereign by the grace of God. The king is not the final authority. He does not crown himself, the crown is placed upon his head by a representative of God. It is a sign of a covenant, and perhaps one Swedish kings no longer want to make.
Sweden has a reputation as being “progressive.” That is probably why they want to keep God out of things. That is not a policy that pays off in the long run.