07 October 2019

The Shrinking Royal Family

Prince Alexander
Josefine Persson, The Royal Court of Sweden
On 7 October 2019, the King of Sweden announced that five of his seven grandchildren are no longer members of the Royal House. They retain their personal titles but will no longer use "Her Royal Highness" or "His Royal Highness." They also will not be expected to carry out official duties nor receive monetary support from the state. The announcement comes after much public and governmental grumbling about how large the family could eventually become. The five children, all age five and under, are the offspring of the King's two younger children, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine.

King Carl XVI Gustav has three children and seven grandchildren, each of whom received royal status and personal titles at the time each was born. The King also has four older sisters, three of whom lost their royal status decades ago when they made "unequal marriages", a standard that is no longer used. The other sister, Princess Birgitta, is not impacted by today's announcement. Because her children have never had royal status they also are not impacted.

Prince Gabriel
Photo: HRH Princess Sofia,
The Royal Court of Sweden
Over the last several decades most of the remaining European monarchies have made official moves to limit the size of their Royal Houses. The Royal House is distinguished as members of the Royal Family who have official roles and responsibilities. In Norway, the Royal House is defined as only the King, the heir, the heir's heir and their respective spouses. Other members of the Norwegian household, like the Crown Prince's younger son, have princely styles but are simply Highnesses, not Royal Highnesses. In the Netherlands, the children of the monarch's younger children are no longer given princely titles. In Spain, the Royal House is currently limited to the King, his wife, his daughters and his parents. Even in Britain, we have seen informal decisions like the lack of royal responsibilities for the adult children of Prince Andrew and no of royal titles or styles for the young children of Prince Edward and Prince Harry.

Sweden bucked that downsizing trend in 2014 when the King's second grandchild was born to his youngest child. The new baby was proclaimed Her Royal Highness Princess Leonore, Duchess of Gotland. Each of his subsequent grandchildren was likewise entitled.

Princess Madeleine with her children:
Leonore (standing), Nicolas & Adrienne
Photo by Emily Dahl
With this announcement, only the King's grandchildren by his eldest child Crown Princess Victoria remain in the Royal House. This makes Princess Estelle and Prince Oscar the only child members of the House with eight adults: the King, the Queen, Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel, Prince Carl Philip and his wife Princess Sofia, Princess Madeleine (whose husband Christopher O'Neill declined a royal title so he could maintain his business pursuits), and Princess Birgitta. The announcement does not change the Line of Succession.

On her social media accounts, Princess Madeleine wrote, "This change has been planned for a long time. Chris and I think it is appropriate that our children will now have a greater opportunity to shape their own lives as private individuals.

We were honoured when my parents bestowed upon Leonore a royal title when she joined Estelle as the 2nd grandchild of our Swedish Royal Family. We have always believed in giving our children the freedom to choose their future, that’s why we welcome this decision wholeheartedly. I will continue with my royal responsibilities by supporting my parents and my sister."