The Privy Council, or Riksrådet, was the principal government institution of Sweden from 1319 to 1974.

The Privy Council originated as a council of personal advisers to the Monarch where the foremost advisor received the title of Earl of Jarl. The last Earl of Sweden was Birger Jarl who died in 1266 and during the reign of king Magnus I of Sweden between 1275 and 1290 the informal meetings became a permanent institution called the Royal Council or Kungligt råd. In 1319 the name had been changed to Rikets råd or Council of the Realm, and had the offices of Lord Chancellor (Kansler), Chief Justfice (Drots) and Constable (Marsk).

Table of contents
1 Modern Sweden
2 Parliamentarism vs. Absolute Monarcy
3 The Constitution of 1809
4 The Constitution of 1974
5 List of Lords High Chancellor and Chancellry Presidents

Modern Sweden

The Royal declaration of 1611, the Constitution of 1634 and government under King Gustavus Adolphus and Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna laid a foundation for the modern Sweden. The current administrative subdivision into Counties is a legacy from this time. The senior posts of the Privy Council had been expanded to five:

  • Lord High Chancellor (Rikskansler)
  • Lord Chief Justice (Riksdrots)
  • Lord High Treasurer (Skattmästare)
  • Lord High Constable (Riksmarsk)
  • Lord High Admiral (Riksamiral)

Parliamentarism vs. Absolute Monarcy

Charles XII had issued a new working order for the Privy Council Chancellery in 1713 to enable him to conduct government from the field. This provided opportunity for Riksdag of the Estates to influence the Constitutionss of 1719 and 1721, that gave Sweden half a century of parliamentary government. The Privy Council now had 16 members, was lead by the king, where each councilor had one vote, except for the king who had two. The Council was the government of the kingdom but also the supreme judicial authority. The estates could remove displeasing councilors, a tenet of parliamentary power and the majority would appoint the Chancellery President who was the first among equals in the Council. The Freedom of the Press Act was established during this period, 1766.

This parliamentary government would remain until the bloodless Coup d'Etat, or Revolution, perpetrated by king Gustav III in 1772 which restored royal sovereignty, under dictatorial forms. The loss of the Finnish War in 1809 by his son Gustav IV Adolf restored initiative to the Estates which used it to remove the King and replace him with a new dynasty and a new constitution.

The Constitution of 1809

On June 6, 1809 the new Constitution was adopted, and while the King still controlled the Council; the powers of Government had to be shared with the Estates. The Privy Council was revived, now with nine members where the leading members were the Prime Minister of State and the Prime Minister of Justice. The departmental reform of 1840 successfully created seven departments, or ministries, under the Council to better organize the tasks of government. In 1866 the Estates were abolished and the new Riksdag was organized in two chambers. The office Prime Minster was instituted in 1876, with Louis de Geer as the first head of Government.

In 1917 the parliamentarian principles had been firmly established in Swedish politics and the Monarch was no longer able to exercise any of his constitutionally granted political powers. The Government depended politically on support from the Parliament, but the powers were still exercised under the Royal authority of the Privy Council. The Swedish term used for the council, i. e. the Government, during this period was Kungl. Maj:t, an abbreviation of Kungligt Majestät (i Konselj), or Royal Majesty (in Council) in English.

The Constitution of 1974

In 1974 a new Instrument of Government replaced the previous one from 1809, which abolished the Privy Council as an active Government institution and replaced it, also formally, with a Cabinet Government under the Parliament.

Its function since 1975 has been limited to the initial meeting by each new Cabinet, which are held in Council, at the Royal Castle, chaired by the King, following approval by Parliament.

List of Lords High Chancellor and Chancellry Presidents

  • Bengt Oxenstierna (1685-July 12, 1702, acting from 1680)
    • Carl Piper (acting July 12, 1702-1705)
  • Nils Gyldenstolpe 1705-May 4 1709
  • Count Arvid Horn (April 10, 1719-1739, acting from 1709)
  • Carl Gyllenborg (1739-December 9, 1746)
  • Carl Gustaf Tessin (Deccember 5, 1747-March 1752, acting from 1746)
  • Count Andreas Johan Höpken (March 1752-1761)
  • Count Claes Ekeblad (1761-1765)
  • Carl Gustaf Löwenhielm (1765-March 7, 1768)
    • Fredrik von Friesendorff (acting 1768-1769)
  • Count Claes Ekeblad (1769-1771)
  • Ulrik Scheffer (1771-1772)
  • Joachim von Düben (April 22, 1772-August 22, 1772)
  • Ulrik Scheffer (August 22, 1772-1783)
  • Gustaf Philip Creutz (June 1783-1785)
    • Malte Ramel (acting 1785-1786)
  • Emanuel de Geer (1786-1787)
    • Johan Gabriel Oxenstierna (acting 1787-1789)
    • Karl Wilhelm von Düben (acting 1789-November 1790)
    • Ulrich Gustaf Frank (acting November 1790-1792)
    • Evert Wilhelm Taube (acting 1792)
  • Christofer Bogislaus Zibet (May 15, 1792-1793)
  • Count Fredrik Sparre (July 16, 1792-December 14, 1797)
  • Count Nils Anton Augustus Bark (August 1793-1799)
  • Christofer Bogislaus Zibet (October 1799-1801)
  • Fredrik Wilhelm Ehrenheim (1801-1809)

See also: History of Sweden, List of Swedish monarchs, Privy Council of the British monarch