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Privy Council of Sweden

The Council of the Realm, or simply The Council Swedish: Riksrådet: sometimes in Latin: Senatus Regni Sueciae was a cabinet of medieval origin, consisting of magnates Swedish: stormän which advised, and at times co-ruled, with the King of Sweden

The 1634 Instrument of Government, Sweden's first written constitution in the modern sense, stipulated that the King must have a council, but he was free to choose whomever he might find suitable for the job, as long as they were of Swedish birth At the introduction of absolutism, Charles XI had the equivalent organ named as Royal Council Swedish: Kungligt råd In the Age of Liberty, the medieval name was reused, but after the bloodless revolution of Gustav III, the old organ was practically abolished

The 1809 Instrument of Government, created a Council of State, also known as the King in Council Swedish: Konungen i Statsrådet which became the constitutionally mandated cabinet where the King had to make all state decisions in the presence of cabinet ministers Swedish: Statsråd Throughout the 19th century and reaching its culmination with the enactment of the 1974 Instrument of Government, this new Council gradually transformed into an executive cabinet of ministers chaired by a Prime Minister that governs the Realm independently of a ceremonial monarch


  • 1 Middle Ages
  • 2 Early modern Sweden
  • 3 Parliamentarism vs absolute monarchy
  • 4 Developments in 1809 and beyond
  • 5 List of Lords High Chancellor and Presidents of the Chancellery from the advent of Absolutism in 1680 to 1809
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References

Middle Agesedit

During the reign of Magnus III between 1275 and 1290 the meetings of the council became a permanent institution having the offices of Steward Swedish: Riksdrots, Constable Swedish: Riksmarsk and Chancellor Swedish: Rikskansler Particularly from the reign of King Gustav Vasa, with his efforts of creating a centralised State, the members of the Council Swedish: Riksråd gradually became more of courtiers and state officials rather than the semi-autonomous warlords they once were

Early modern Swedenedit

Following the change of policies upon the death of Gustav II Adolf in action at Lützen in 1632, the 1634 Instrument of Government written by Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna laid the foundation for the administration of modern Sweden For instance, the roots of the present-day administrative subdivision into counties Swedish: Län is a legacy from this time

From 1634, the council was headed by the five Great Officers of The Realm, each leading a branch of the state administration:

  • Lord High Steward or Lord High Justiciar Swedish: Riksdrots
  • Lord High Constable Swedish: Riksmarsk
  • Lord High Admiral Swedish: Riksamiral
  • Lord High Chancellor Swedish: Rikskansler
  • Lord High Treasurer Swedish: Riksskattmästare

Parliamentarism vs absolute monarchyedit

The councillors had the highest position in the kingdom after the royal family and were styled "the King's cousins" From around 1672, the year of the coming of age of Charles XI, the council was assembled less and less frequently and eventually the king ruled autocratically, using an ad hoc group of trusted relations and advisors to discuss a particular matter or group of matters The Scanian War 1674–1679 gave the king the opportunity to establish - with the approval of the Estates - an absolute Monarchy along the lines of Renaissance Absolutism Council, Parliament, local government, legal system, Church of Sweden, all were brought within the power of the King and his secretaries

This was the culmination of a long power-struggle between the kings and the aristocracy The first of the Riksdag Acts ratifying the change of system was a declaration that the king was not bound by the 1634 constitution, which no king or queen had ever consented to freely The councillors were now titles Royal Councillors, being appointed and dismissed at the king's pleasure

In 1713, the son and successor of Charles XI, Charles XII, issued a new working order for the Chancellery to enable him to conduct government from the battle-field, but his sudden death at the siege of Fredricshald in Norway in 1718 provided the opportunity for the parliament Riksdag of the Estates to write a new constitution in 1719 and 1721, that gave Sweden half a century of first renewed conciliatory, and then parliamentary government

The first Estate, the nobility, dominated both the parliament and the council The council now had 16 members and was chaired by the King Each councillor had one vote, while the king, as chairman, had two The council was the government of the country, but also the supreme judicial authority

From 1738 the Estates could remove councillors to create a majority corresponding to that of the Estates, the Estates also appointing the President of the Chancellery the prime minister, along party lines The Freedom of the Press Act 1766 was also passed during this period

This Age of Liberty lasted until the bloodless coup d'état of king Gustav III in 1772, which restored royal sovereignty under the guise of the 1634 Instrument of Government

In 1789, by the Act of Union and Security Swedish: Förenings- och Säkerhets Acten, an amendment charter to the constitution, the exclusive right of the nobility to high offices was abolished and the Estates of the Burghers and the Peasants also received these privileges - a step towards modern democracy Aristocratic control of state organs ceased, as among other things the Privy Council was able to be abolished altogether by the Act, although the then councillors retained their titles for life The council's judicial function devolved on the King's Supreme Court Swedish: Konungens Högsta Domstol composed of an equal number of noble and non-noble members In the 1789 constitutional amendment Gustav III, having desired to abolish the constitutional power of the Council a pesky limitation to royal rule of the executive branch, in his view, had instead received the right to determine the number of councillors He decided to have zero of them, and appointed instead Councillors of State - a circumvention that enabled him to deny their constitutional prerogatives if need arose

The loss of the Finnish War in 1809 prompted a military coup which removed Gustav IV Adolf, replacing the Gustavian era with a new dynasty and a new constitution restoring initiative to the Estates

Developments in 1809 and beyondedit

Main articles: Instrument of Government 1809 and King in Council Sweden

On 6 June 1809, a new constitution was adopted, and while the King still appointed the members of the Council, one again called the Council of State, the legislative powers were once again shared with the Riksdag of the Estates

The new Council had nine members; the leading members being the Minister of State for Justice Swedish: Justitiestatsminister and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Swedish: Utrikesstatsminister The departmental reform of 1840 created seven ministries headed by a minister, and in 1866 the four Estates were abolished and the new bicameral Riksdag was constituted

In 1917, as the outcome of the 1914 Courtyard Crisis Swedish: Borggårdskrisen, the parliamentary system was firmly established in Sweden, and the King could no longer independently appoint cabinet members without taking the will of the Riksdag into account

List of Lords High Chancellor and Presidents of the Chancellery from the advent of Absolutism in 1680 to 1809edit

  • Count Bengt Oxenstierna June 1680 – 1685; acting 1685 – 12 July 1702
  • Count Nils Gyldenstolpe 12 July 1702 – December 1705; acting December 1705 – 4 May 1709
  • Count Arvid Horn 21 March 1710 – 10 April 1719
  • Count Gustaf Cronhielm 15 May 1719 – 12 December 1719
  • Count Johan August Meijerfeldt 12 December 1719 – 22 April 1720; acting
  • Count Arvid Horn 22 April 1720 – 18 December 1738
  • Count Gustaf Bonde 18 December 1738 – 16 April 1739; acting
  • Count Carl Gyllenborg 16 April 1739 – 9 December 1746
  • Count Carl Gustaf Tessin 9 December 1746 – 5 December 1747; acting 5 December 1747 – March 1752
  • Count Andreas Johan von Höpken 17 March 1752 – 5 February 1761
  • Count Claes Ekeblad 10 April 1761 – 12 August 1765
  • Count Carl Gustaf Löwenhielm 9 September 1765 – 7 March 1768
  • Baron Fredrik von Friesendorff 7 March 1768 – 30 May 1769; acting
  • Count Claes Ekeblad 30 May 1769 – 9 October 1771
  • Count Ulrik Scheffer 9 October 1771 – 22 April 1772; acting
  • Count Joachim von Düben 22 April 1772 – 22 August 1772
  • Count Ulrik Scheffer 23 August 1772 – 5 June 1783
  • Count Gustaf Philip Creutz 5 June 1783 – 30 October 1785
  • Baron Malte Ramel 30 October 1785 – May 1786
  • Baron Emanuel de Geer May 1786 – 13 June 1787
  • Count Johan Gabriel Oxenstierna May 1786 – 14 November 1789
  • Count Karl Wilhelm von Düben 1788 – 8 November 1790
  • Baron Evert Wilhelm Taube 29 March 1792 – 1792
  • Baron Fredrik Wilhelm von Ehrenheim 28 May 1801 – 28 March 1809
  • Count Lars von Engeström May 1809 – June 1809

See alsoedit

  • History of Sweden
  • Monarchy of Sweden
  • Riksdag of the Estates
  • Government of Sweden


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