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State & CeremonialSweden

The Regalia of Sweden: a hidden treasure that tells a story

Like many other monarchies, Sweden also has a patrimony of crown jewels, each with its own history and precious metals and stones. 

Since 1907, however, the regalia has not been worn by members of the family but rather put on display during important moments like coronations, christenings and weddings. 

The monarch’s regalia mainly consist of the set of crown jewels made for King Eric XIV in 1561, which include a crown, a sceptre, an orb, and a key – the latter an object almost unique to Sweden (it is only seen when a new Pope is enthroned). 

The Eric XIV Crown was created by Cornelius ver Welden, a Flemish goldsmith, and is in typical Renaissance style. It was used until the ascension of the House of Palatinate-Zweibrücken and then substituted by Queen Christina’s Crown. It was only with the arrival of the Bernadotte dynasty that the Eric XIV Crown was put back into use. 

The first Bernadotte King, Carl XIV Johan, made some changes, switching the original monde and cross at the top with a new, larger monde “enamelled blue with a gold star and set with a diamond and with a cross of ten diamonds,” according to official sources. Other changes included replacing the pearls King John III placed on top of King Eric’s initials with a diamond rosette, replacing the original eight pearls with diamonds, and rotating the circlet by about 45 degrees. 

In the early 20th century, these changes were reversed, and the crown was brought back to the form it had under John III. 

The sceptre was created in the same year, 1561, by Hans Heiderick. It is made of gold, enamelled, and set with precious stones, including diamonds, sapphires and rubies. The original topper, a large round sapphire enclosed by two intersecting lines of pearls, was lost in 1778 during Prince Gustaf IV Adolf’s christening and was replaced two years later by a blue enamelled orb, which is still visible today. 

The orb is another unique piece. Made in the mid-1500s by Cornelius ver Weiden, its peculiarity stems from the fact that it is the only regalia in Europe to be engraved and enamelled with a map depicting the earth according to maps of the time. The engraving was probably done in 1568 by Franz Beijer, an engraver from Antwerp. 

Not only is the cartography unique and a rare example of a mistake: the northern hemisphere seems to have been designed upside down, but the topography is marked as if the image were right side up. This could also be at least partly the result of a later restoration that had to be conducted after the original black enamel got damaged during the coronation of King Charles XI, and it was substituted in 1751 with the blue enamel that we can still see to this day. 

In 1606, an anointing horn was created for the coronation of Carl IX, which was later added to the regalia. Made in gold, it has a lid attached to a chain to close the larger end of the horn and rests on a pedestal. The pointy end features a representation of justice holding scales, while the rest of the horn is decorated with so-called ornamental relief work, which surrounds the precious stones: ten diamonds and 14 rubies. 

The Crown Jewels of Sweden also include burial regalia, the Crown of Queen Christina, the regalia of the Queen Consort and various other coronets, all of which are or have been on display for the public to see. 

Among those, it is the so-called burial regalia that has probably attracted the most public notice, after some pieces of it were stolen on two separate occasions, once in 2013 from Västerås Cathedral and the second time in 2018 from Strängnäs Cathedral. 

The Crown of Queen Christina, in all of its magnificence, was selected to be a part of two exhibitions in the United States between 1988 and 1989, one in Washington D.C. and the other in Minneapolis, commemorating the foundation of the state of Delaware as a Swedish colony. 

Although it is known as Queen Christina’s Crown, it was actually made for her mother’s coronation as Queen Consort. Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg was Queen Consort as the wife of King Gustaf II Adolph between 1620 and 1632; for her coronation, and to honour her German roots, she commissioned German goldsmith Rupprecht Miller to come to Stockholm and create the basis for the piece we still see today: a circlet on top of which rested two arches “in a very fine foliage design” enamelled in black, set with diamonds and rubies. The arches were topped by a blue-enamelled monde and a cross.

The crown of Queen Christina. By Jacob Truedson Demitz for Ristesson – Southerly Clubs of Stockholm, Sweden, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Christina made three substantial changes: she added two more arches to the crown that matched the first two; she lined the crown with a purple satin cap embroidered in gold and scattered with diamonds; and she added more diamonds and rubies to the base of the crown. The result is the blinding piece we see today. 

However, probably because of its delicate design or its weight, the crown that is considered part of the Queen Consort regalia is almost a century younger. It was made in Stockholm by Andreas Almgren for the 1751 coronation of Queen Louisa Ulrika as King Adolf Frederik’s wife; unlike anything we have seen previously, this piece is made of silver, not gold. The base circlet is topped by eight crowns, from which depart eight half arches that bend on themselves to support a blue enamelled monde topped by a cross. The entire piece is scattered with diamonds, 44 of which were removed by Queen Louisa Ulrika herself to try and finance her 1756 attempted coup against Parliament for the restoration of an absolute monarchy. 

The sceptre and orb are much more ancient, both of them dating back to the 1500s. They were created for Queen Gunilla, second wife to King John III. Not much is known about the sceptre, but the Royal Court’s website offers a brief description of the orb, a piece made entirely in gold in 1585 by goldsmith Frantz Beijer. The orb features a central band decorated with 27 pearls, as well as an arch, topped by six pearls, and a cross on top, which features three pearls at the end of three of its arms. 

And finally, the pieces that have been seen in use the most in recent years: the coronets. The Crown Prince Coronet was created in 1632 for the coronation of Queen Christina, who succeeded her husband on the throne following his death in battle. Prince Charles X Gustaf was designated as her heir and wore this piece for her coronation. Interestingly, the coronet was created in a hurry, in roughly two weeks; this is why the materials used came from an earlier Queen Crown, which no longer exists.

The piece we see today is still in its original form, except for the 1772 addition of two enamelled black grains, a symbol of the Vasa dynasty, by Gustaf III for his coronation. The radial crown topped by eight triangle spikes is part of the original form. The current sky blue satin cap that lines the coronet is also a later change, as it is widely believed that originally the crown was worn on top of an ermine cap. 

The crown of the heir apparent. By Jacob Truedson Demitz for Ristesson – Southerly Clubs of Stockholm, Sweden, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

This coronet was on display for Crown Princess Victoria’s 2010 wedding to Prince Daniel, who was assigned one of the Prince’s coronets. There is an unknown number of these princely coronets, believed to be at least seven, the latest of which dates back to 1902 and was created for Prince Wilhelm as he reached the age of majority. All pieces mimic the shape and features of the Crown Prince Coronet, but on a much smaller scale, and they have been seen on display at the weddings of Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill, and Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, as well as the christenings of their children. 

If we sum up all of these pieces with the robes and the jewellery pieces we currently see being used by the Swedish royals we realise that the Bernadottes are the depositaries of a massive treasure, most of which is currently in museums and exhibitions around the country, ready to celebrate King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 50th anniversary on the throne of Sweden.