The Swedish British Society
A brief History
The Society was founded on 13th November 1919 at the instigation of Crown Prince Gustav Adolf. Archbishop Nathan Söderblom was elected President and Marcus Wallenberg Vice-president. Crown Prince Gustav Adolf and Crown Princess Margareta (a grand-daughter of the English Queen Victoria), agreed to become Patrons. They both took a keen interest in the Society but, sadly, Crown Princess Margareta died in 1920. When the Crown Prince remarried in 1923, it was to another Englishwoman, Lady Louise Mountbatten, who continued to take a kindly interest in the Society until her death in 1965.
The Society’s aims were the furtherance of Swedish-British contact and cultural activities, and in addition to purely social occasions, lectures by distinguished visitors, amateur theatricals and exchanges of schoolchildren were regular features of the programme between the wars. Conversation classes were held from en early date, and there were lunches and bridge evenings.
1939 – 1945
After the war started, the Society had to rely more heavily on local talent to fill its programmes, and Crown Prince Gustav Adolf and Crown Princess Louise suspended attendance at Society functions for the duration of hostilities. Exchanges of schoolchildren gave way to English-language summer camps in Sweden.
1945 – 1969
The Society celebrated its first quarter-centenary a year late, in 1945, with a dinner for 274 guests. General Cederschiöld was President and Dr. G. Heckscher Honorary Secretary.
Royal patronage resumed its normal course after the war, and the royal couple continued to attend the Society’s annual festival on the 15th of January ( Crown Princess Margareta’s birthday ), even after they became King and Queen in 1950.
Speakers flowed in again from Britain, exchanges of schoolchildren were resumed and membership soared. Lectures in these years included J.B. Priestley, Eric Linklater, Peter Fleming, Kenneth Clark and Earl Attlee, and the Society entertained a galaxy of British Nobel Prize-winners.
Amateur theatricals became popular again in the 1950s, and had another bout of popularity in the late 1960s. When the Society celebrated its 50th birthday in 1969, The British Players gave a performance of Blithe Spirit at Spegelsalen before His Majesty The King.
The first Christmas Party took place in 1961, the same year as the first St. Andrew’s Ball, held in Mälarsalen with Princess Desirée as guest of honour.
Music Hall evenings were all the rage in the late 1960s and some (not many), members were persuaded to dress up. Outings by bus to places of interest outside Stockholm became popular summer features.
1969 – 1989
King Gustav VI Adolf died in 1973 and Prince Bertil took his place as patron. Later Princess Lilian joined him as an enthusiastic supporter of the Society.
Fashions changed and lantern-slides gave way to films and then videos. The first wine and cheese evening took place in 1976.
In 1978 Dr. Peter Wallenberg took over from Lars-Erik Thunholm as President of the Society.
In 1979, the Society was 60, and joined the British-Swedish Chamber of Commerce, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary, in holding a Ball for 500 guests at Grand Hotel Royal in the presence of Their Majesties King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia. The Stockholm Scottish Country Dance Society fielded over forty dancers and pipers on a memorable occasion – with all guests in white tie and decorations.
The Youth Section seems to have been founded in its present form in 979, but there is mention of a Youth League as long ago as the 1940s.
Events great and small were reflected in the Society’s programmes. In 1982 Britain was suddenly plunged into war in the South Atlantic and a couple of years later the Society listened to a lecture by the British defence attachés on The Falklands Operation. 1983 saw a happier occasion when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made a State Visit to Sweden and members joined an excited throng to welcome them in glorious weather at Museitrappan.
The Society celebrated its 70th birthday in 1989 with a Ball at Operakällaren attended by the King and Queen of Sweden, and a reception given by His Excellency the British Ambassador. The occasion was also marked by the launch of The Swedish British Society Essay Competition for schools in the Stockholm region.
1990 – 2000
In 1989 -1991, Language Essay Competitions for students in the Stockholm schools were successfully held. The prizes were presented by H.R.H Princess Lilian at special ceremonies for the schools hosted by the Society’s president, Dr. Peter Wallenberg K.B.E.
HMS Cornwall, one of the British Navy’s frigates visited Stockholm in 1992, and members of the Society were invited on board. The various events were well attended and the theatre Regina at Drottninggatan specialising in British plays was one of the attractions.
In 1994, the Society celebrated its 75th anniversary at Vinterträdgården at the Grand Hotel, with a grand Jubilee Ball attended by 290 guests in the presence of H.R.H. Princess Lilian and the British Ambassador Mr. R. Cormack and Mrs. Cormack. The Scottish dancers gave a splendid performance. Among other events was a Family History Section group that met once a week.
In 1995, Mr. David Ealand, the proprietor of one of England’s most successful wineries visited Sweden. A wine tasting of English wines was arranged. The English conversation classes started again. Among the many events in 1996, was a concert conducted by Andrew Davis at the Stockholm Konserthus. A reception was held afterwards. One of the popular British Brass bands “The Williams Fairey Band” gave a special concert for members of the Society. Golf evenings were included in the programme.
In 1997, our beloved Patron H.R.H. Prince Bertil tragically passed away. H.R.H. Princess Lilian graciously accepted the new Patronage of the Swedish-British Society.
In 1998, and 1999 the events included lectures on Samuel Pepys, Sir Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, B. Shaw, W. Shakespeare and Mary Woolstonecraft just to mention a few. There were tastings of Port wine and Rioja wine, excursions to Skultuna Brass Factory, Engsö Slott and Fiholm Slott, a visit to the National Archives, invitation to an auction at Bukowskis, an amusing talk on Walking Great Britain. Members from the Anglo Swedish Society in Gothenburg joined us for a buffet and drinks at the British Embassy after having visited the House of Parliament and had meetings with the MP. The 80th anniversary of the Society was celebrated with a Jubilee St. Andrew’s Ball at Hasselbacken in the presence of H.R.H Princess Lilian. The Carol Service was held at the British Church together with members of the British Commonwealth Organisation. Drinks were served at the British Embassy after the service. The English conversation groups were still very popular.
In 2000, the visit to the Foreign Office with dinner at the Café Opera afterwards was a very popular event and was repeated three times. There was a Lidingö Runt Brunch at Hotel Foresta to watch the sail race, a British Day at the Races at Täby Galopp including dinner, a Spring Excursion to the Valloon Works in Uppland and the Annual General Meeting at Täcka Udden. Many new members are joining and the Society is flourishing.
Many lectures and seminars were held during these years, among other events the annual St Andrew's ball, Spring dinner, Garden Party and Christmas lunch.
Since 2015 the Society has had regular "last-Wednesday-in-the-month" gatherings, the Society evenings. These are a tremendous success, the numbers of visitors continuing to grow each month.
This year, 2019, the Society celebrates its centenary. Festive and theme events will be organised, such as a Centenary Garden Party 1919-style, film evenings and a special visit to Drottningholm. These will culminate in a grand centennial banquet in November.