Lavish royal wedding stirs up Sweden's republicans

By Toby Green

It has been described as a true-life fairytale wedding. This afternoon in Stockholm Cathedral, Crown Princess Victoria, next in line to the Swedish throne, will marry not a fellow aristocrat but an ordinary citizen - her former personal trainer.

Yet instead of Sweden settling down in unison to watch Daniel Westling join the nation's royal family, the event has become a focus for growing antipathy towards the monarchy in a country that emphasises equality.

Over 200,000 well-wishers may be turning out to cheer the happy couple, but support for the royal family is falling. Sweden may have coped better with the economic crisis than some, but many resent the fact that half the cost of the wedding, believed to total 20 million kronor (NZ$3.6 million), is being covered by taxpayers. Nearly 57,000 Facebook users have joined a group protesting against the public expense.

Since the engagement was announced in February 2009, membership of the Swedish Republican Associaiton has more than doubled to around 6,500. "For us it's been quite positive in the way that it created more of a discussion in the society about the government," Magnus Simonsson, of the Swedish Republican Association, told The Independent.

In another worrying sign for the father of the bride, King Carl XVI Gustaf, an April poll released by the University of Gothenburg's SOM Institute showed that only 56 per cent of Swedes want to keep the monarchy, compared with 68 per cent in 2003.

The royal court did not respond to a request for comment, but the happy couple gave an interview to the Swedish television channel TV4 about the wedding arrangements.

"We've talked a lot about how it should be inclusive and how everyone should be able to enjoy our big day," said Mr Westling. "And we're happy and proud that Swedish society has chosen to highlight the occasion."

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