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The Shrinking Royal Houses of Scandinavia

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This fall has seen some changes in the Scandinavian royal houses and families. In Scandinavia, a royal house is made up of the members of a royal family that officially represent the country.  Thus, not all members of a royal family are necessarily part of the royal house. In addition, the legal protections, restrictions, and duties of a member of a royal house are different than those of a member of a royal family. While the royal families of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have many members, the royal houses are steadily and purposefully being slimmed down.

On September 28, 2022, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark announced that she would strip some of her grandchildren of their prince and princess titles as of January 1, 2023, and change their greeting from royal highnesses to excellencies. Thus, the children of her second son Prince Joachim will no longer be prince and princess but count and countess of Monpezat, reserving the titles of prince and princess to the children of Crown Prince Frederik (the prince first in line to the throne). According to reports, the move hit a nerve with Prince Joachim’s family, who is currently living in Paris, France, where the Prince works as the defense attaché at the Danish embassy. The Danish Queen has publicly acknowledged the hurt her son has felt as part of the move, but has held her ground, finding that it is in the best interest of the monarchy, and the children, that they no longer be prince and princesses.

A sepia, muted double image of two people in front of a lake wtih a sailboat.

Old palace of Drottningholm, the home of many of Sweden’s monarchs near Stockholm, Sweden. 1905. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

A few years ago, a similar move was made by the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf, who has eight grandchildren. In 2019, he announced that only the children of the crown princess would be referred to as royal highness (kunglig höghet), although formally they have retained their titles as prince or princess. The move was reportedly received with less public criticism, and perhaps even welcomed as in step with the king’s own motto “för Sverige i tiden” (for Sweden in line with the times). Stripping the five children of their royal highness title meant that the grandchildren no longer have to abide by the rules of the members of the Royal House (kungahuset), while technically part of the royal family and retaining their place in their royal line of succession. Importantly, they also do not receive funding from the royal finances. The Swedish king is supported by the Swedish Parliament in what is known as annual apanage (in 2021 it was SEK 73.9 million, about US$7.2 million), and he must report how it is spent to the Riksdag (parliament).

The reasons both the Danish and Swedish regents gave for unilaterally changing the status of their family members was to provide their grandchildren who, are unlikely to succeed to the throne (the Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark has four children and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden has two), greater independence and make them less bound by the rules that otherwise govern princes and princesses. The Swedish King, made his decision prior to his expat grandchildren becoming of school age. Swedish law provides that all members of the royal house must attend school in Sweden, and that they must be brought up in line with Evangelical Lutheran teachings (Successionsordningen (SFS 1810:926). This has been interpreted to mean that the mandatory schooling that starts at age six in Sweden applies to these royal children and that it must be done in Sweden. Moreover, members of the royal house may not start a business or be employed.

Similarly, in Denmark, princes and princesses must follow the rules set forth in the second chapter of the Danish Constitution, which includes rules requiring Danish residency (§11 Danish Constitution). In 2016, the Danish queen announced that only Prince Christian (the eldest child of the Crown Prince Frederik) will receive an annuity from the Danish state as an adult. The amount of the state payment of support (civil annuity) for the Danish Queen is established in law. Currently, she receives DKK 7,250,586 per month. (about US$1,038,000).

A black and white image of a large white building (the castle) showing the grounds and trees in the foreground.
Norway, Castle of the King at Christiana [Now Oslo]. 1909. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.
On November, 8, 2022, the Norwegian Princess Märtha Louise resigned from her official duties representing Norway following controversies surrounding her American fiancée, the shaman Durek Verrett. She will also limit the use of her princess title. This is the second time the role of the princess has changed. Märtha Louise was known as her royal highness until 2002, when King Harald V of Norway removed the title for members of the royal family further removed from the throne, limiting who is officially a member of the Royal House of Norway. Currently, the title royal highness is held only by the king, the queen, the crown prince, the spouse of the crown prince, and the eldest child of the crown prince. Thus, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, the first born child of the crown prince, is still greeted as her royal highness whereas her younger brother Sverre Magnus is greeted as his highness, similar to her highness Märtha Louise, their aunt. Members of the royal family who are not part of the royal house do not receive annuities from the Norwegian state. Moreover, as specified in the Norwegian Constitution, Norwegian princes and princesses cannot hold civil office. (§21 Norwegian Constitution.)


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