Sunday, 9 June 2013

Order of the Polar Star for Christopher O’Neill

Surely it will not be necessary for me to write an account of the wedding of Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill tonight, but one aspect which might be worth commenting on is that the groom was made a Commander of the Order of the Polar Star (second class) by King Carl Gustaf on 6 June.
The Vasa Order and the Sword Order are now dormant, meaning that the Order of the Polar Star is now the second highest ranking Swedish order. Since the introduction of the new Constitution in 1975 the King has been forbidden to give orders to Swedish citizens, while orders may still be given to foreigners.
That meant that King Carl Gustaf in 1976 gave the Order of the Seraphim to his fiancée Silvia Sommerlath before the wedding, when she was still a German citizen, and likewise gave the Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star to Lilian Craig before she married Prince Bertil and thereby relinquished her British citizenship.
It was only in 1995 that an exception was made for members of the royal house, making it possible for the King to invest his three children with the Order of the Seraphim on their eighteenth birthdays in 1995, 1997 and 2000 and to give it to Princess Lilian on her eightieth birthday in 1995.
This exception also meant that it was only on his way out of the Cathedral after having married Crown Princess Victoria and thus become a prince and a member of the royal house that Prince Daniel was given the Order of the Seraphim.
As Christopher O’Neill did not become a member of the royal house and is a foreign citizen no such restrictions applied in his case. But the fact that he did not become a member of the royal house obviously also made it more natural to give him the Order of the Polar Star rather than the highest-ranking order.
This also has a precedence, as three of King Carl Gustaf’s brothers-in-law - John Ambler, Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld and Tord Magnuson - were made Commanders of the Vasa Order when they married princesses Margaretha, Désirée and Christina in, respectively, 1964, 1964 and 1974.
On the other hand, Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern was, apparently much to his own surprise, given the Order of the Seraphim by King Gustaf VI Adolf when he married Princess Birgitta in 1961. At the same time the Order of the Seraphim was also awarded to his elder brother, Friedrich Wilhelm, while their father, who had been given the Seraphim as early as 1936, received the collar of the order. The reason for this was obviously that Princess Birgitta, unlike her sisters, married a prince and thus herself remained a Royal Highness and a member of the royal house.


  1. Trond, do you know the reason why the king made Christopher a commander instead of a knight grand cross? I have also wondered why Prince Carl Philip but not Prince Daniel received the collar of the Seraphim from him.

    I hope you had a wonderful time commentating on the wedding!

    1. Thank you. Personally I found commander suitable and it was also what I expected given that he would not become a member of the royal house and thus has the same status as the King's brothers-in-law, of whom the three commoners were made commanders of the Vasa Order. So Christopher O'Neill is treated equally with them.

      The collar of the Seraphim is not given to everyone (and rarely to women, except some female heads of state). So I suppose it is an honour Prince Daniel will have to "earn" - possibly not until the next reign.

    2. I appreciate your response. I concur that it is logical to treat Chris on par with other untitled royal consorts, but I wondered whether there was a particular reason that he and the king's brothers-in-law were granted that class of the order. I have no knowledge of what is typical, but I take it from your response that it is.

      Concerning the Seraphim, I have a difficult time perceiving what Prince Carl Philip has done to earn the collar which his sisters and brother-in-law have not done, but I suppose the king hasn't proffered an official explanation.

    3. I would think that the kings settled for commanders because grand crosses would be "too much" for someone married to a princess.

      Concerning the collar things are a bit illogical. Swedish princes have always been awarded the collar, whereas women are normally not given the collar unless they are heads of state. And this has for some reason not really changed after the introduction of gender-neutral succession. Crown Princess Victoria has the collar, while Queen Silvia has not, and Prince Carl Philip has it while Princess Madeleine does not.

  2. Trond, might you know whether Chris O'Neill became a member of the Swedish Royal Family (albeit not of the Royal House) upon his marriage, as did the wives of the former princes of Sweden, but not the husbands of the Haga princesses?

    One might infer from his omission from the royal court's Kungafamiljen webpage that he did not. However, as even the husbands of the Haga princesses are named therein, it is more probable that the court simply has not updated it.

    As several weeks have passed without clarification from the court, I thought I might ask you whether you have received any information from them.

    1. Your guess is as good a mine, I am afraid... I have always found it odd that the wives and widows of former princes who had lost their succession rights should count as members of the royal family while the husbands of princesses without succession rights should not, but on the other hand I have sometimes wondered if it is just an odd phrasing at the royal website that makes it seem that these husbands are not members of the royal family (if they are not, they need not have been mentioned at all). But then again, the website is not always up to date - it took days for Prince Daniel to be added in 2010, Sonja Bernadotte appeared on the list for weeks after her death and it also took several days for Princess Madeleine's marriage to be recorded in her biography. And if you go to the English version, there is no mention of the former princes' widows at all, nor of any of the King's sisters except for Princess Birgitta, who is said to be a member of the Swedish Royal Court (sic!). So who knows...

    2. To answer my own question, the court's website has (finally) been updated to indicate that Chris O'Neill is not a member of the Swedish royal family.

      I find it peculiar that the husband of a member of the Royal House, who himself has been treated as a de facto royal at, e.g., National Day festivities, is not a member of the royal family at the same time that an individual such as Princess Kristine Bernadotte, who is the widow of a former prince who had forfeited his royal title, and who rarely partakes in royal life, is a member.

    3. To me it is not quite clear that this is how the website should be interpreted - the phrase "gift med" ("married to") can also be interpreted as meaning that the spouse is also a member of the royal family (otherwise they might as well not have mentioned the spouses, and it does indeed seem strange that husbands of princesses are not included, while widows of ex-princes are).


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