Copyright © Hans Högman 2019-12-24
What does “Kunglig Majestät”
mean and other similar terms
When you read old documents or books about old
Sweden, you often come across the term "Kungl.
Maj:t". It is certainly an abbreviation of "Kunglig
Majestät" but what does it really mean? Who or
what is hiding behind the designation? Is it the King
The correct term in English is The King in Council
but more commonly known as Royal Majesty.
The term is no longer used but disappeared with
the Swedish Constitution Act of 1974.
The Concept of “Kunglig Majestät” - The
King in Council
In older times, the term was very common and was
given a special meaning with the Constitution Act
After 1809, the term no longer referred to the King
as a person, but to the government agencies and
bodies that were entitled to make decisions in the
King's name, regardless of whether or not the King
had personally participated in the decision-making
Under the Constitution Act of 1809, it was the King
(or in his absence the Crown Prince, for example)
who signed all decisions on government matters
after the King's appointed advisers (the Cabinet
ministers) had presented matters to him in a cabinet
meeting (Konselj). Decisions were then taken by the
King and countersigned by a Cabinet Minister,
usually the rapporteur on the matter. However,
only a very small proportion of cases were dealt
with in this way.
When you come across "Kungl. Maj:t" in older
documents and books, however, the term usually
refers to the bodies that are today called "The
In Sweden, a konselj is a government meeting
chaired by the head of state. Before 1975, when the
Constitution Act of 1809 was in force, meetings of
the Cabinet normally took place every week at
Stockholm Palace, whereupon all government
decisions received Royal Sanction and then formally
became Royal Decrees ("Kungl. Maj:t" Decrees).
Under the new Constitution Act of 1974, which
came into force on 1 January 1975, this changed
and now the Prime Minister is only required to keep
the Head of State informed of the affairs of the
The image to the
right is from a
in 1938 at
Gustav V presides
at the end of the
table; to his right:
Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson.
Historical use of the term “Kunglig
Majestät” - The King in Council
The term Kunglig Majestät (Royal Majesty) can be
traced back to the 16th century, when Swedish King
Erik XIV adopted the title of Majesty (Majestät), as
did an increasing number of kings (Denmark,
France, England, and other kingdoms) during that
time. The word majesty is originally Latin and
The Kunglig Majestät is widely used in the Swedish
1719, 1720, and 1772 Constitutions to refer to the
King and the Royal Power.
The term "Kungl. Maj:t" was used, when in use, in all
decisions and documents issued by the King in the
Council and in all rulings and judgments issued by
the Supreme Court, which during this time was
considered to be exercising the King's jurisdiction
(1809 RF § 17), as well as in rulings by the Supreme
Administrative Court (Regeringsrätten) and the
Administrative Court of Appeal (Kammarrätten)
[though only in cases where the Kammarrätten was
the court of the last instance].
The term Kunglig Majestät (Kungl. Maj:t or K. M:t)
was the name given to the government body that
made decisions in the name of the King under the
1809 Swedish Constitution (1809-1974). It usually
referred to the executive branch of government
(also referred to as the King in the Council or just the
King), but also to the highest judicial power: the
Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative
“Kunglig Majestät” (The King in Council) was
abolished by the 1974 Constitution and replaced by
So, with the 1974 Constitution, "The King"
(Konungen) refers to the office of the King itself, or
the King personally.
In the 1809 Constitution, "Kungl. Maj: t" (The King in
Council) meant the power of the State itself (The
Government), regardless of who exercised that
power (the government, the judiciary, etc.).
Kunglig Majestäts Kansli - The Chancellery
of The King in Council
The Chancellery of The King in Council (Kunglig
Majestäts Kansli) is the name used until 1974 for the
current Government Offices (Regeringskansliet), with
its division into departments.
It has been known in a permanent form since the
reign of King Gustav Vasa of the 16th century. The
organization of the Chancellery was regulated in
Chancellery Orders and, with Chancellor of the
Realm Axel Oxenstierna's Chancellery Order of
1626, it was incorporated into the “kollegium
system” and was called the Chancellery Office
(Kanslikollegium) until 1801. With the 1974
Constitution, the term "The Chancellery of the King
in Council" (Kunglig Majestäts Kansli) was replaced
on 1 January 1975 by the term "The Offices of the
Kunglig Majestäts Befallningshavande -
Royal County Administrator
Under the 1855 Instruction of the County
Governors (Landshövdingeinstruction), the Kunglig
Majestät’s County Administration (Kunglig Majestäts
Befallningshavande) was the universal term for
the counties’ highest administrative authority in
Sweden, i.e. for both The Office of the Governor
of Stockholm (Överståthållarämbetet in Stockholm)
and the County Governors (Landshövdingar) in the
rest of the realm.
In the 1918 County Governor's Instruction, this
authority was instead called the "Länsstyrelse"
(The County Administrative Board), but the concept of
the “Kunglig Majestäts befallningshavande” was only
abolished in the 1958 County Governor's
The “Kunglig Majestäts Befallningshavande” was
abbreviated as K. B.
The Concept of the Crown (Kronan)
In older texts, one also often encounters concepts
such as the Crown (“Kronan”) and the Government
Agencies (“Statsverket”) as an economic body for
the part of the State administration that was under
the Kungl. Maj:t (the Government).
Both these terms mean the Swedish State and are
the central public power in Sweden, whose organs
consist of the Head of State, the Riksdag
(Parliament), and the Government, as well as the
courts and administrative authorities (Government
agencies) subordinate to them.
“Kronan” (Crown) was often used as a prefix to
many positions of government employees, such as
“kronobåtsman” (crown navy seaman),
“kronolänsman” (crown district police chief), etc.
The prefix "krono" is only used to clarify that they
were government employees. So, a “länsman” and a
“kronolänsman” are thus the same things.
Kunglig nåd - Royal Pardon
Historically, the Swedish government (before 1975,
the Kungl. Maj:t) could remit or mitigate a
sentence imposed on a person for a crime. Pardon
normally anticipated the application for it, and was
often considered to involve a final submission to
responsibility for the crime.
Applying for mercy or reparation was called 'going
to the king', which also meant any other kind of
matter in which any citizen thought the monarch
could do justice. Pardon in legal terms generally
means a remission or mitigation of punishment
(pardon) in an individual case.
Today, the Institution of pardon is regulated by the
Instrument of Government (Regeringsformen).
Befallningsman - County Bailiff
Befallningsman (County Bailiff) is a title of an
official or civil servant used in different times with
several different meanings.
It was common that the term “befallningsman” to
be used as a term for crown bailiffs (Kronofogde),
and in some cases also for Länsman (local police
chief). In these contexts, the term "Kunglig
befallningsman" (Royal County Bailiff) could also be
used, to indicate that it was a government official.
Kungliga ämbetsverk - Royal
Many former government agencies were formerly
known as royal agencies, such as the Kungl.
Lotsverket (Royal Board of Pilot Services), Kungl.
Postverket or Kongl. Postverket (Royal Post Office).
A central agency or government agency is a state
authority that is directly subordinate to the
government. These agencies originated in the
“kollegier” (agencies) that emerged in Sweden from
the time of Gustav Vasa (16th century) onwards,
notably with the adoption of the Constitution Act of
1634, and reached their modern form with the
departmental reform of 1840.
Further examples of royal designations were the
Swedish regiments earlier called royal, such as
Kungl. Södermanlands Regemente (The Royal
Södermanland Regiment). The Navy branch of the
services was formally known as the Kungl. Flottan
(The Royal Navy).
The prefix “Royal” was used by almost all Swedish
regiments from the latter half of the 18th century
until the 1974 Instrument of Government. The term
meant that the regiments were directly subordinate
to the king/government, but without "The King in
Grace himself assuming command". Until 1927, only
one regiment was not royal, namely the Crown
Prince's Hussar Regiment (K 7).
Concept of “Kunglig