The 50th anniversary of King Carl XVI’s throne has been celebrated all year long in Sweden. Gustaf (77) celebrated. Tomorrow, Friday (September 15th), marks the anniversary of the death of his grandfather, the then King Gustav VI. Adolf (1882-1973), died and Carl Gustaf had to take over as heir to the throne, for the 50th time. One of the bigger challenges at the beginning was finding the motto for the regency.

In the documentary “My Father, the King – Carl Gustaf and Victoria of Sweden”, his youngest sister, Princess Christina of Sweden (80), tells how Carl Gustaf and she developed the motto “For Sweden with the times”. In an interview with spot on news, nobility expert and documentary filmmaker Julia Melchior takes stock and explains why the monarch’s 50-year reign is very positive.

Julia Melchior: I think he absolutely lived up to this motto. This can be seen at various points. On the one hand, he moved with the times when he married a woman who was not of rank, but whom he loved and in whom he also saw the potential to be a good queen.

Then, during his reign, the constitution was changed so that a firstborn daughter could inherit the throne and not just a son – as was still the case with him despite his older sisters. At the end of the 1970s, this change may not have been in Carl Gustaf’s mind, but after the parliamentary decision, he did everything he could to pave the way for his daughter Victoria to be his successor.

Melchior: Yes, it was actually a particularly successful project, if you want to look at it that way. Crown Princess Victoria is the most popular public figure in Sweden. And this has been the case since there have been statistical records about it. This is also a great compliment for the king, because he has flanked her path as father and role model, monarch and mentor.

Melchior: You have to look at it from the spirit of the times. He was worried that the daughter would have a harder time than a son. In this case, girls are more exposed than boys, simply because public interest in the king’s daughters is greater than in the sons.

And the concern was justified, as Victoria’s anorexia showed. All eyes were on her, the media had her in focus. She just wanted to do everything right and at some point the pressure became too much. In this day and age, I would like to speculate that she might not have gotten sick at all. In her generation she was the only female heir to the throne in all of Europe. Haakon, Frederik, Willem Alexander, Felipe and William – all men.

Melchior: That’s right, her approach to it was very “with the times”. At that time, the royal family proactively went public and said: “We have the following problem: our daughter is sick and needs to rest now” – and that worked. The media and people left them alone.

A generation ago things were handled differently. Like his daughter Victoria and his son Carl Philip, Carl Gustaf suffers from reading and spelling difficulties. Not a single word was ever said about it. On the other hand, people made fun of King Carl Gustaf when he got bogged down while reading a speech when he was young. Of course that made him very insecure. In this respect, this new way of dealing with taboos and weaknesses is very much “with the times”.

Melchior: In 2019 he reduced the royal family to the key players. An extended royal family for representative purposes at state expense in the 21st century can no longer be justified. Taxpayers want to know who lives at their expense and who does what for it.

With this in mind, he has decided that his grandchildren of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine will no longer be members of the royal family, will not enjoy any privileges and will have no duties. He obviously communicated that well. In contrast to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who made a similar decision for her family in 2022, but communicated it somewhat clumsily.

Melchior: Communication in the family works very well. Unlike the Danish queen, the Swedish king first discussed everything with his children behind the scenes and then made the decision public. It has to be said that he doesn’t rule from above.

In comparison, Queen Margrethe has a more authoritarian leadership style. Of course she didn’t think anything bad about it, on the contrary. This also means freedom for the grandchildren. Because her younger son, Prince Joachim, enjoys a very high reputation in Denmark, there was great excitement when he was presented with a fait accompli. Carl Gustaf did it better and again in keeping with his reign motto.

Melchior: Yes, he also keeps up with the times when it comes to the topics he covers. Of course, it is timely to advocate for sustainability and the environment. But for Carl Gustaf it started in 1972 at the “United Nations Conference on the Human Environment”, which took place in Stockholm at the time.

He was drawn to the topic because of his personal interest and his passion for nature. He was in the Boy Scouts as a child and still spends a lot of time outside – fishing, walking his dog, hunting, sailing or skiing. He campaigned for environmental protection early on and was ridiculed for it for a long time – similar to King Charles III.

Melchior: Yes, absolutely. He would live up to his motto if he passed the throne to the next generation during his lifetime. Then he would make the change of throne a moment of joy and not sadness. Especially since it is also known that Victoria fears the day when she becomes queen. Not because she’s afraid of giving up, but because it means she’ll lose her father that day. The two have a very close relationship. On the one hand, handing over the office during her lifetime would make things easier for Victoria.

On the other hand, it is also good for monarchies, as we have already seen in other European royal families. Victoria is ready and is respected by the people, politicians and all institutions in Sweden. But I also believe that it is important for her to have a little more time for her family with her two small children for a few more years. Because the schedule as queen and king will be completely different.

After the private dinner at the Drottningholm Palace residence this Thursday evening (September 14th), the anniversary day itself will open with a solemn thanksgiving service and end with a large banquet in the palace. On Saturday the royal family will celebrate with the Swedes. There will be a carriage ride through Stockholm followed by an open-air concert in front of the palace.

The celebratory parade through the capital will be shown live on Erste on September 16th from 2:15 p.m. to 3:35 p.m. A comprehensive look back at the entire celebrations on the occasion of the throne’s jubilee will be available in a ZDF special broadcast in the evening from 7:25 p.m. with presenter Christina von Ungern-Sternberg and nobility expert Julia Melchior.

Those interested can find out more interesting facts and exciting background information about the jubilee and the other Scandinavian royal families in the documentaries that are available in the ZDF media library: “My husband, the Crown Prince – The heirs to the throne in Norway and Denmark” and “My father, the King – Carl Gustaf and Victoria of Sweden”.