The Spectator

Princess Madeleine of Sweden shows Harry how to exit a royal family

Princess Madeleine of Sweden shows Harry how to exit a royal family
Text settings

Can a royal who grew up third in line to the throne marry a rich American and move over there? Swedes have been here before: Princess Madeleine, sister to the Crown Princess, did this a few years ago. She now lives in Florida, and her example could be instructive to Prince Harry and Meghan.

Like Harry, she first tried love at home, but it didn’t work out: her 2009 engagement to Jonas Bergström, a lawyer, was broken off after rumours of him cheating on her. The news rocked Sweden and when she moved to New York shortly after, it was seen to be quite understandable.

And then she just stayed there. She worked for a charity her mother, Queen Silvia, had set up, fell in love with American-British financier Chris O’Neill and even gave birth to her daughter overseas (although a lot of people remarked that it is strange indeed that a princess can be born in a country without kings and queens). O’Neill chose not to become a Swedish citizen which would have allowed him to be titled Prince.

So now he’s just Mr O’Neill. He has no need to become a member of the royal household, unlike the woman who married Madeleine’s brother, Prince Carl-Philip. Sofia, famous from the Swedish equivalent of Love Island, reportedly agreed to remove all her tattoos with a laser to get a seat at the royal table.

Princess Madeleine’s American exile is going pretty well. She has lived abroad nine out of the last ten years, and Swedes don’t seem to mind. She returns to Sweden quite a lot, spending last summer there. She gives interviews with magazines like Mama, which portrayed her as an amazing mother. She’s almost as adept at Instagram as Meghan, and shares pictures of happy half-Swedish children on sunny Florida beaches.

They’ve also agreed to forfeit royal titles for their children. At the end of last year, Sweden’s King decided that children not in direct line of succession should not be called “royal highness” nor expected to perform official royal duties, and therefore they won’t receive money from the state. He was apparently inspired by Prince Charles. A good example of slimming down the monarchy in quite a non-radical way.

The royal family in Sweden gets roughly £12m per year from taxpayers and the King decides how to split it within the family. While there aren’t any public figures detailing how much each member usually gets, it is understood that it is in proportion to their royal duties. Princess Madeleine’s house in Florida is not paid for by the state (she has a rich banker husband to fund all of that) but she does get compensated for showing up on Sweden’s National Day in traditional dress. Seems only fair.

So why can’t Prince Harry do the same? If he wants to move to Canada with Meghan, get a job and try to live a normal life – and if the burden on the taxpayers could be limited to compensating him for the royal duties he performs – I don’t see any reasons why not. Their popularity could only increase from what it is now.

Both Princess Madeleine and Prince Harry have an older sibling with two (or more) children, to do the royal heavy lifting (without complaining). Prince William and Victoria, Sweden’s Crown Princess, give the public all the “young royal family” drama they can want. Madeleine has established an important principle: where their younger siblings live or what they do is really of little interest, as long as they’re not living extravagant taxpayer-funded lives. She has beaten a path out of the monarchy and out of the country - but respectfully, gracefully and with minimal controversy. The road is there for Harry to follow.