And so, the fairytale is finally getting its proper ending. Victoria, the Crown Princess of Sweden, will marry her beloved, the fitness entrepreneur Daniel Westling, her boyfriend of eight years, on 19 June. Stockholm will celebrate for three days – Strandvägen will echo with love poetry as part of a special art project, concerts will mark the event and everyone will be happy. Except the critics, who are grumbling: why are the taxpayers footing the bill for this? Why are the newspapers unequivocally and uncritically praising the princess? Why is the government giving the couple a castle to live in, in the middle of a popular park that will now be partly closed to the public?
Since the wedding was announced, both royal and republican groups have seen record increases in membership. Supporters claim that Sweden needs the royal family; it generates good PR and continuity in an ever-changing world, and acts as glue for the nation. The critics say that the royal family is expensive, but above all, point out the obvious paradox: how can the job as head of state be inherited in a country that takes pride in its social democracy and equality?
Despite the critical voices, it seems unlikely that Sweden is about to become a republic any time soon. The Social Democrats, the Left Party and the Greens demand the abolition of the monarchy in their manifestos but none of them are actively pursuing the goal. Other problems are more pressing, they say. That may be true, but there is another reason. Seventy four per cent of Swedes support the institution, while only 15 per cent want to abandon it in favour of a republic. No political strategist would believe it wise to go up against so many people.
The royal family’s popularity is based on the balance they manage to strike between glamour and being ordinary – the right mix of tradition and modernity. This is especially true with Princess Victoria. While her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf, is often perceived as distant, elitist and stale, the young princess is smart, educated and approachable – but at the same time, with an aura of royal style. And marrying a commoner only brings her closer to the people. So most Swedes are happy to contribute €1.3m of tax money towards the wedding (the remaining €4.8m will be covered by the king and sponsors).
Whatever the local feeling for the royal family, for Stockholm the wedding will mean big business in 2010. Last November, the city unveiled a logo for the event, complete with the text “Love 2010 Stockholm”. The hope is that the event will not only put Victoria and Daniel at the centre of the world’s attention but do the same for the capital. Some 2,000 journalists are expected to cover the event and Stockholm wants to maximise its exposure, marketing its efforts on the environment, and the fashion, music and art scenes. The city’s promotional budget is just under €700,000 but the media exposure alone is estimated to be worth €76m. Not to mention the revenue created by sales of wedding-related souvenirs decorated with the happy couple. It’s a PR marriage made in heaven.