The complicated world of royal names

The Swedish royal family has a recent addition with the birth of a daughter to Crown Princess Victoria.  The child is now second in line of succession which means that Sweden can expect to go quite some time before seeing a king (after the reign of the existing kind, that is).

The child was just named and after the announcement was made eyebrows were raised.  She was named Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary which broke with tradition as none of those names were ever held by a Swedish princess and royalty is supposed to be nothing if not traditional.  There was (at least according to Mrs. TwShiloh’s description of the Swedish press) a bit of disappointment with this apparent lack of tradition.

The reason behind the name is now being speculated on and, if true, provides some interesting insight into international relations.

Estelle Bernadotte (Bernadotte is the surname of the Swedish royal family) was the wife of Folke Bernadotte, the godfather of the previous king of Sweden.  Folke was a UN mediator in Palestine after WWII and was assassinated by Jewish terrorists (the Stern Gang) in 1948.  Never satisfied with the Israeli investigation (especially when former group members eventually admitted to the killing, avoided all prosecution and became senior members of the Israeli government).  The Swedish royal family, in an apparent statement of displeasure about the whole thing has never visited Israel.

So, if this is the source of the new princesses’ name, one wonders what sort of message (if any) it’s intending to send. One Swedish biographer speculates:

When Israel’s President Herzog visited Sweden the royals wanted say something pointed about Folke Bernadotte, but the foreign ministry wouldn’t allow it.

It is not unreasonable to interpret the Royal Family’s choice of name for Sweden’s new princess is an attempt to contribute to the restoration of the Folke Bernadotte’s legacy.

It is important to note that the Swedish royal family has no direct (and probably little indirect) influence on Swedish foreign policy.  Still, one could see how this could complicate matters.  The two have had a rocky relationship with past Swedish governments supporting Palestinian causes, and Israel complaining over unfavorable press coverage in Sweden. Given Israel’s current state of tension (what with Iran and everyone freaking out that the U.S. is waffling between unquestioned support for Israel and unquestioned support for Israel) perhaps they’ll see this as another poke in the eye that ratchets up the paranoia meter another (little) notch.

So, perhaps we’ll see a tempest in a teapot or maybe this will all go unnoticed.  Still, it’s interesting to see how naming a baby might have serious policy implications…

*And just for the record, I had a lot of angst about publishing this post.  In part because I’m afraid some anti-Semetic nutjobs will link to it and start spewing their racist filth and in part because I’m afraid some hyper-nationalist Israelis will start calling me a nazi.  (You really don’t need to worry about either of those possibilities…no one reads this stuff anyway.  eds.) And yet I publish it anyway and all for you, dear reader.  I selflessly do it all for you. (um…yeah)


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