STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria gave birth to her first child Thursday, a baby girl who will one day become queen, prompting banner headlines and 21-gun salutes across the country.
The news gave the royal family a respite from the negative headlines that have dogged King Carl XVI Gustaf, Victoria’s father, after a 2010 book made scandalous claims about his private life.
The girl, who is second in line to the Swedish throne, was born at 4:26 a.m. (0326 GMT), said Victoria’s husband, Prince Daniel. She was 20 inches (51 cms) long and weighed 7.23 pounds (3.28 kg).
Both the crown princess and the baby are “doing very well,” an emotional Daniel told reporters who had waited for the announcement all night at the Karolinska University Hospital in the Stockholm suburb of Solna.
“My feelings are a bit all over the place,” he said, switching to English mid-sentence.
“When I left the room, the little princess was sleeping on her mother’s chest and they were looking very cozy,” he continued in Swedish, folding his arms as if cradling a baby.
Victoria, 34, is next in line to the throne held by her father since 1973. Sweden changed the constitution in 1980, three years after Victoria was born, to allow the eldest heir to inherit the throne regardless of gender. Before that female heirs were excluded.
Victoria married Daniel, 38, a commoner and her former personal trainer, in June 2010.
Swedish media proclaimed the royal birth with bold headlines and live broadcasts Thursday from the hospital, where dozens of reporters gathered after the Royal Court confirmed after midnight that Victoria had checked into the hospital.
The court announced the birth on its website and on its Facebook page, where it also published the first picture of the couple carrying the newborn in a baby carrier. It said the family returned to Haga Castle later Thursday and the king plans to announce the girl’s name at a ceremony Friday.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt congratulated the couple, noting that Sweden stands before “a new era of queens.” Sweden’s last female monarch was Queen Ulrika Eleonora, who ruled for just one year until 1720.
As is custom when an heir to the throne is born, the Swedish Armed Forces celebrated the news with two 21-gun salutes at noon in Stockholm and other cities.
Like in neighboring Scandinavian countries, Sweden’s monarch is primarily a figurehead, representing the country as the head of state but with powers limited to ceremonial functions. One of the Swedish monarch’s most prominent duties is to hand out the prestigious Nobel Prizes at an annual awards ceremony in December.
Victoria is widely admired by Swedes for being down-to-earth and unassuming. She and Prince Daniel have often ventured out of their lakeside palace for a stroll in a nearby park, abeit with security guards in tow.
Dr. Lennart Nordstrom, who was present during the delivery, said the royal couple had requested that they not receive any special treatment.
“Both the crown princess and Daniel have been adamant that they should receive the same care as everyone else,” Nordstrom told The Associated Press, adding there were no complications during the delivery.
The popularity of the royal family in general and Victoria in particular helps explain why the centuries-old monarchy has survived even though the concept of inherited privilege runs counter to the egalitarian character of modern Swedish society.
Voices calling for a republic have been emboldened, however, following an unauthorized biography of the king in 2010 that claimed he had seedy nightclub visits and an extramarital affair.
A close friend of the king caused him further embarrassment when he was caught on tape negotiating with mobsters in an apparent attempt to keep unflattering information about the king’s entourage from the public.
The Swedish Republican Association, which calls for the monarchy to be abolished, sent its congratulations to Victoria and Daniel while still urging Parliament to change the constitution “for the good of the child and of Sweden.”
The Swedish monarchy rests on traditions stretching back to the end of the Viking age more than 1,000 years ago. The current dynasty, however, was founded in 1810, when French marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected as successor to the throne.