Swedish king pleads for peace after sex-filled scandal book

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf meets the media outside a hunting lodge in the woods of Hunneberg, south west Sweden, Nov. 4, 2010.

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf has appealed for peace and quiet after a new book shattered a long-held tradition among Swedish media not to print intimate details about his private life.

Speaking to throngs of reporters at his annual moose hunt Thursday, the figurehead monarch said he had not read the book, which includes claims of visits to seedy nightclubs and an extramarital affair in the 1990s.

Without addressing those claims directly, the 64-year-old king said he understood from media headlines that the book dealt with events that happened “far back in time” and that he had spoken with his wife, Queen Silvia, about it.

“We’re turning the page, much like you do in your newspapers, and look ahead instead,” he said.

The king appealed to reporters to leave the royal family in peace, “because we have certain duties to fulfill and we have work almost every day.”

Rumours about the king’s private life have swirled around Sweden for years, but even the tabloids had refrained from putting them in print until the book Carl XVI Gustaf — The Reluctant King, which is being released this week.

Based mostly on anonymous sources, it paints an unflattering image of the king’s inner circle of friends, describing visits to underground night clubs in the company of scantily clad women.

While tabloids have focused on the salacious details, more highbrow media have sought ways to report on the story without getting stuck in sleaze, for example by focusing on whether the head of state’s alleged nighttime activities exposed him to security risks.

“If you don’t write about it, it’s perceived as an attempt to silence information that could be important,” respected daily Dagens Nyheter wrote on Thursday. “If you do write about it, you risk being accused of giving dignity to rumours and gossip.”

The newspaper said it declined an offer to publish excerpts of the book before the release because it questioned the reliability and the relevance of the material.

Agneta Lindblom Hulthen, chairwoman of the Swedish Union of Journalists, said the book marked a watershed moment in royal reporting, opening up the royal family’s private lives to closer scrutiny.  The royal family is hugely popular in Sweden, and media had refrained from publishing material about them that could be considered offensive by the readers.

When Princess Madeleine — the youngest of the king’s three children — broke off her engagement this year, many media tiptoed around the rumours that her fiancé had cheated on her.

One of the book’s three authors, Thomas Sjoberg, brushed off questions about the reliability of the sources, saying they would be “willing to appear as witnesses in a trial” if necessary.

In a telephone interview with broadcaster TV4, Anders Lettstrom, one of the king’s closest friends, called the allegations in the book “speculations, falsifications and slander and so there’s not much that is correct.”

A Sifo survey of 1,300 Swedes presented by public broadcaster SVT on its debate program SVT Debatt, showed 48 per cent said the media should not dig for scandals in the king’s private life. Twenty-three percent said scandal-digging was okay and the rest were undecided in the poll, which had a margin of error between two and three percentage points.

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