On February 23, 2012, Crown Princess Victoria, heir to the Swedish throne gave birth a daughter named Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, Duchess of Ostergotland. The baby’s first name evokes the French origins of the House of Bernadotte, which assumed the Swedish throne in 1810, following the election of Napoleon Bonaparte’s general Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte to the Swedish throne.
Since 1980, the succession to the Swedish throne has been governed by absolute primogeniture, ensuring that the eldest child of the monarch, regardless of gender will be first in line to the throne. With the birth of Princess Estelle, Sweden appears destined to have two reigning Queens in succession with Crown Princess Victoria eventually succeeding the current King Carl XVI Gustaf and being followed in turn by her daughter, Estelle. Sweden has had only three Queens Regnant in history and they were all influential political figures and interesting personalities.
Like Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Queen Margrethe the Great, a powerful medieval ruler of Denmark, Sweden and Norway came to the Swedish throne through popular acclaim. She became Queen Consort of Norway through her marriage to Haakon VI in c. 1363. As the Danish succession did not allow for formal female rule in the fourteenth century, Margrethe ruled Denmark as regent for her young son Olaf IV. When the Swedish nobility wanted rid of their unpopular King Albert, they invited Margrethe to become their Queen. She successfully invaded Sweden in 1389. Margrethe’s rule was period of unity and prosperity in Scandinavia as she recovered previously lost territory and reformed the currency.
The second and most famous “Queen” of Sweden, Christina, was actually crowned King upon the death of Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years War, in 1633. Before leaving on his military campaign. Gustavus Adolphus left instructions that his only child was to be raised as a Prince of Sweden and crowned King in the event of his death in battle. Known as “The Girl King” from her ascension at the age of six, she grew up to be a patron of Descartes and was determined to make Sweden the cultural capital of the North Upon assuming personal rule at the age of eighteen, she had conflicts with her ministers who expected her to marry and produce and heir. As Christina stated in her Memoirsshe felt “an insurmountable distaste for marriage” and “an insurmountable distaste for all the things that females talked about and did.” She abdicated in 1654 in favour of her cousin, Charles Gustavus, scandalized Sweden by converting to Roman Catholicism, and continued her cultural patronage as a Queen in exile. Her life was later adapted into a Hollywood film starring Greta Garbo, Queen Christina.
The most recent Queen of Sweden was Ulrika Eleanora, who spent her brief reign attempting to assert the prerogatives of an absolute monarch over the objections of the Swedish Riksdag, who favoured constitutional monarchy. During her two years of sovereignty, she created numerous new noble families, attempting to gain support for her policies of absolutism and co-rule with her husband Frederick. She was never able to achieve her ambitions and abdicated in favour of her husband in 1720, an act which she described as “the greatest sacrifice of my life.”
Crown Princess Victoria and her daughter, Estelle will be the fourth and fifth Queens Regnant in Swedish history, continuing the long and interesting history of female rule in Sweden.