Today, the king turned 69. And because he happens to live in a country that didn’t chop off the heads of the royals a couple of hundred years ago, he gets to live in a castle and come outside and stand awkwardly on a podium for half an hour in front of crowds of people.
It was a fascinating two hours. Fascinating and boring. Again with those confusing emotions. Fascinating because the whole thing is so foreign to someone who grew up in the US. Fascinating because of the ritualistic aspects, the marching, the uniforms, the chants, the music, the bodyguards. Boring because I stood for two hours in the sun, in a crowd of people, on cobblestones, to stare at some dude who just happened to be born to the right people. Or wrong people. I suppose it depends on your views.
The crowd was greeted by an old guy in uniform announcing the program. There was going to be a lot of songs and marching. The king would come out. Twice. The second time he would stand on a podium and even accept flowers from the children. The crowd was invited to join in wishing the king a happy birthday with four hurrahs. But no hip hip, we were reminded. Just so you know. Interesting to note, there was a whole lot of German being spoken. Some Russian. Some English. Not a whole lot of Swedish. This was clearly a tourist attraction. So the program, given entirely in Swedish, probably didn’t convey quite as much information as the old man had hoped.
|Silly tourists, there aren't any Swedes here for this nonsense. They're all|
at a bar enjoying the sunshine and opening another bottle of rosé.
I spent a lot of time staring at the back of a head. That doesn’t happen to me all that often. I looked around and was staring at the top of heads. And then looked ahead (see what I did there?) and stared right into the back of a head. I had, apparently, chosen to stand behind the only person in the crowd who was taller than me.
|Those hats are made with only the finest unicorn manes. Harvested specifically |
for the Royal Guard from the king's personal collection. Trust me. I know things.
As the silly uniforms were marching back and forth, a tiny little podium had been erected in the middle of the square. It looked like an Olympic podium, except that they forgot the spots for the silver and bronze medal winners. So the king won gold. And everyone else lost. Which, I suppose, is pretty accurate. He was preceded by men in dark suits, close-cropped hair, and earpieces. The coast was clear and so he stepped right up and stood there, awkwardly and in full uniform, for a long time. A safe distance from the peasants. Subjects. Citizens. Whatever.
|See him there? In the back? He's the lone medalist. Short little fella, isn't he?|
Then children were allowed to parade up to the king and hand him flowers. Of course, the podium really hammered home the already obvious power dynamics. Now he was towering over his subjects as they approached him. The line started with three young girls, all blonde and dressed in a Swedish folk costume, prancing right up to there and smiling for the press corps. Then followed a long line of children, some accompanied by their parents (one of whom curtsied for the king). Finally, after nearly two armfuls of flowers had been delivered, the king stepped down from his podium.
And then there was more marching. And music. And some saluting. And finally, finally, it was all over.
As the king turned to walk into his castle, two of the few Swedish speakers in the crowd began chatting. It’s not strange that a person would end up assuming they are better than everyone else when this happens on your birthday. And there it is. The fascinating thing about Swedish royalty. In a country that is known for jantelagen and equality and not reminding people that you’re better than them, there is still a group of people who have their lives subsidized by tax payers simply because they were born. I used to like the monarchy. I used to like to look at it as a sort of living history. A foreign and exciting remnant of a bygone era. Now it just seems silly. And expensive.
Welcome to Sweden. And a royal waste of taxes.