Book Chapter

A Visible Presence: Royal Events, Media Images and Popular Spectatorship in Oscarian Sweden


Chapter Author
Kristina Widestedt

Palgrave Macmillan UK


This volume brings together a fascinating selection of studies exploring the soft power tools used by heirs to the throne in order to enhance the communication of monarchies with their audiences during the nineteenth-century. How we perceive royals and their dynasties today – as families, as celebrities, as charitable figureheads of society or as superfluous relics of a bygone age – has deep roots in the monarchical cultures of nineteenth-century Europe. By focusing on the role played by heirs to the throne, this volume offers an original perspective on the ability of monarchies to persuade sceptical audiences, nourish positive emotions and thereby strengthen the position of each dynasty within its respective nation. Using examples from Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Norway and Prussia, an international team of experts analyzes and explains the development of the very soft power tools which are still being used by Ruling Houses today.

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This article adopts the perspective of those at the receiving end of royal soft power: royal subjects. While much historical research has focused on royal personages’ strategic and symbolic power demonstrations, the public reception of these communicative efforts has remained under-explored. However, newspapers and magazines provide us with the means to establish a connection with the crowd that constituted the historical public. The reign of King Oscar II of Sweden (r. 1872–1907) forms the backdrop for a case study that explores the concept of the historical public by deliberately looking away from the royals, directing its gaze towards the subjects looking at the royals, and towards the reporters looking at the subjects looking at the royals.

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About the Author

Kristina Widestedt

Associate Professor in Media and Communication Studies 2019. Senior Lecturer at Stockholm University since 2008. PhD in Journalism Studies 2001. The dissertation, "Reason sets the tone" (in Swedish), offers a critical exploration of discursive pow... Read more


Widestedt, K. (2016). A Visible Presence: Royal Events, Media Images and Popular Spectatorship in Oscarian Sweden. In: H. Mehrkens and F. Muller, eds., Royal Heirs and the Uses of Soft Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 45-61.