Thursday, September 21, 2006

A dream about the king of Sweden

Kill us, please, kill us.

I recently returned from a short research trip to Sweden, where in the tourist office of the old university town I was visiting I saw a picture of the current royal family. The Swedish royals seem like they're OK; I was watching the Olympics a couple of years back, and there was the King of Sweden in the audience when they were playing, I dunno, team handball or something. Sadly, he didn't have a giant blue and yellow foam hand.

Now, some people don't have as high an opinion as I do of the Swedish royal family, so let's take a moment to review some of their hardcase antecedents, just as a little reminder that behind every meek, gray public-building opener and his brood of dashing and/or disposable wastes of money there lies someone who is a fucking hardass.

Yeah, this dude's a real viking.For starters, check this shit out: the current Swedish royal family, the House of Bernadotte, is no more fucking Swedish than I am. They're descended from a French guy, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who was one of Napoleon's Marshals. He was also king of Norway, although that came a little later.

The thing about Napoleon's Marshals is that they are, almost invariably, hard as a coffin nail. The chaos of the Revolution let good soldiers rise to the top in some cases, so although Bernadotte was a private in 1780, he was a colonel in 1792. Further advancement followed, and just for the fucking icing on the cake he married Bonaparte's sister-in-law, which is basically like having your own seat on the gravy train. So despite it all, he basically manages to fall out with Napoleon -- the most powerful man in Europe, for those playing along at home -- but, long story short, the Swedes he'd worked with before liked him so much they elected him crown prince, and in due time he became king Karl XIV. Talk about landing on your feet.

Didn't speak a word of Swedish either.

And he is hardly the only fire-eater who's held onto that crown. To make my friend Ted very happy, I'll mention Gustav II Adolf, better known as Gustavus Adolphus, a hard-riding, hard-fighting kind of guy. The sort of cheerful, amiable character that acquires affectionate nicknames like "the Lion of the North." The Thirty Years' War is one of those tedious goddamn European affairs about Protestantism or something, and I hate to get into it, but there's something to be said for any war in which the king can get capped because, while leading a cavalry charge into a dense cloud of gunpowder smoke, he temporarily got separated from his men. Those were the days when a king might just up and cut your head off if he didn't like your tone of voice, or at least the language you wanted him to hear mass in or something.

He also has a special pastry made just for his holiday, Gustav Adolf Day.

Make fun of my mustache and I will stab you up.

Now I'm hungry.

OK, OK, last one, I swear. Actually, this is a twofer, because it would be wrong not to include at least a mention of Erik the Victorious, just for the name. A threefer, actually, because the king I want to talk about is actually two kings, Erik VII (king 1066-7) and Erik VIII (1066-7). So, yeah, for a short time, Sweden was allegedly torn up by a civil war between two claimants to the throne, both of whom were called Erik.

Man, this European royalty stuff is easy. I should do some more of it.


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