The Kingdom of Sweven
Sweven lies somewhere beyond the fields we know, in the vicinity of Gormenghast and Lud-in-the-Mist. It is a large island in a temperate clime, with mild summers and winters and frequent rainfall. It has deciduous forests in the lowlands and evergeen forests in the highlands, but is mostly cultivated. Its green and pleasant fields are divided by hedgerows and stone walls. Many small rivers flow from the mountains, providing the habitat of such exotic fauna as platypuses and freshwater squid. The coastline is long and intricate, with many bays, estuaries, peninsulas and offshore islands.
There are one or two big cities, and of course there are rural areas and villages, but the tone of the country is set by many small cities and large towns. Practically every family owns its own house, though these range from great, hundred-room mansions to humble cottages. Practically every house has a garden and wall around it.
Classical music is popular, and every town has its concert-hall, which needs no public subsidies to thrive. Museums and subscription-libraries are also successful commercial ventures. Coffeehouses proliferate as centers of conviviality. Vice exists, as it does everywhere, but is remarkably well controlled and limited; one could travel from one end of the country to the other without encountering any evidence of perversion, prostitution, drunkenness or drug abuse. The women are renowned abroad for both their beauty and their chastity.
The Kingdom is a federal and constitutional monarchy. It is ruled by the Osling line of kings, founded by Osrick the Great, and continued by Oscar, Oswald, Oswin, Osmund, Osbert, etc., down to the present day. In his own person, the King unites several principalities and provinces, of diverse sizes and circumstances, each with its own peculiar history, customs, constitution, devices and flag. All major towns and cities are similarly organized and autonomous.
The King of Sweven has ruled, for time out mind, together with the Witan, which is comprised of the Lords Palatine (the King's uncles, brothers, sons, and nephews) and the Archbishop of the Apostolic Church of Sweven. There is also a Folkthing, comprised of hereditary Earls and elected representatives of the 37 Shires and 42 Boroughs.
Among the body politic, there are two formal parties: the Folkish-Whig Tories, whose colours are blue and green; and the Social-Democratic Liberals, whose colours are yellow and red. As their names intimate, these are broad, popular coalitions of narrow, elite factions, which are the real political life of the land. Behind the FWTs are the Agrarian Defence League, Brotherhood of the Pointed Arch, Crown and Mitre Upholding Group, Distributist League, Fellowship of Yeomanry, Goldbugs, Law and Rights Protection League, Outlander-Outpushers, Partnership for a Jew-Free Sweven, Sweveners Brotherband, Union for Defence of Shopkeepers and Artisans, Village Green Preservation Society. Behind the SDLs are the Democratic Socialists, Disestablishmentarians, Free-Traders, Incomers Welcoming Committee, Labourites, One-Worlders, Radicals. Each party publishes a daily national newspaper, the Herald and Tribune, respectively. (The third national newspaper is the Independent, which unlike any American newspaper really is nonpartisan and unbiased; if it were not, it would lose its market niche and quickly go out of business.) Wavering between the two are Christian Socialists and Guild Socialists, on the one hand, and the Libertarian Alliance, on the other. (These act like a seesaw: when the X&G Socialists align with the SDLs, the LAs align with the FWTs, and vice versa.) Way out in left field are the Sons & Daughters of Anarchy, who fly the black flag and are the haven of hashish-smokers, pacifists, polyamorists, Sodomites & Lesbians, vegetarians, and the like; they issue an irregular publication called the Tidings. At the time of writing, the heads of these two and half parties are Nigel Grimlow, Humbert Underbower, and Waldo Bogsley.
The most conspicuous result of Sweven's unique political culture is that the role of government is modest by European standards. Social welfare, as in America, is more a matter for private initiative and philanthropy. On the other hand, in contrast to both Europe and America, the laws have a much wider role in guaranteeing the goodness and beauty of Swevenian life.
The chief public-welfare provisions are for the prevention of vagrancy. Vagrants, if mentally unsound, are hospitalized; otherwise they are sent to the penal colony on Barren Island, where they work in the uranium mines. Rape, bestiality, and pedophilia are punished by castration and a sentence in the uranium mines. Obesity is punished by hard labor and a diet of bread and water. Self-mutilation -- e.g. tattooing and body-piercing -- is forbidden on penalty of high fines.
The spirit of Swevenian philanthropy is best exemplified by two institutions, the Royal Conservation Society and the Royal Eugenic Society. Both are entirely private; the King lends only his title and prestige to them. They are devoted to preserving and increasing the natural beauty of Sweven: its land and its people.
Most of Sweven's woodlands are owned either by timber companies or the RCS. Its whole purpose is to maintain public parks, gardens, and zoos. There is no wilderness in Sweven, and if you tell a Swevenian that there is some inherent value in wilderness he will certainly think you a fool, though he will probably be too polite to say so. Instead, he would say what a waste it is to have natural beauty put aside where no one can enjoy it.
The main purpose of the RES is to fund research for the cure of inherited diseases and the prevention of birth defects; in this it is much like the March of Dimes in America. But it also pays ugly people to be sterilized (mental defectives are sterilized as a matter of course, though a few soft-minded Liberals and sentimental Distributists object to this), and for beautiful people it provides everything it can to encourage child-bearing, from obstetricians to babysitters. The main beneficiaries of this are the Order of the White Rose. Each year, the King selects the most beautiful women in the land and gives them white roses and silver medals with the image of a rose. It is something like the Miss America pageant, except that every woman in Sweven is a contestant and there is no limit to the number of winners. There is also a Royal Breast Endowment that provides silicone breast implants, free of charge.
This keen concern for beauty, especially female beauty, also affects the immigration laws: beautiful women, of all races and nations, are freely welcomed into Sweven, subject only to the most minimal restrictions (screening for communicable diseases, etc.). Similar preference is given to cooks and restauranters. The basic Swevenian attitude toward immigrants is that they must have some obvious benefit to offer before they are allowed in.
Though public office is restricted to (at least nominal) adherents of the Apostolic Church of Sweven, there is complete private freedom of religion, except for Muslims. According to the Mohammedan Exclusion Act, anyone who comes to Sweven from an Islamic country must eat a pork chop and wash it down with a glass of wine before he is allowed to enter, even to visit. Gypsies are not allowed into the country under any circumstances. Would-be immigrants are required to wipe their feet on the flags of their native lands to show their total repudiation of prior loyalties, and are only granted citizenship individually, by a particular Act of the Folkthing.
The determining number of people are financially independent, either rentiers or self-employed. There is no insistence on perfect, arithmetical equality, but neither are there extremes of wealth and poverty. The bulk of the people have modest but comfortable means, and generally leisure is valued more highly than wealth. Taxation is levied primarily on consumption (tariffs and excises), then on incomes, and finally on productive property; there is also a nominal capitation tax, and a surtax on resident aliens.
The basic monetary unit is the sovereign, a coin of one troy ounce of .999 pure silver, so called because it bears the profile of the King on the obverse. Twenty shillings make a sovereign, and twelve pence a shilling. Thus, the sovereign is worth about US$6 (ca. 1999), and a Swevenian penny is worth about 2.5 US cents. The Monetary Decimalization Act recently introduced a new coin: the quinter, which is worth 1/5 of a shilling (1/100 of a sovereign). Pence are still in circulation, but no longer being coined. The shilling, penny and quinter are all copper coins. The crown (5 shillings) and florin (2 shillings) are silver coins the size of an American quarter and dime, respectively.
Being an island, Sweven's main defense is its navy. The Royal Navy currently maintains five major and nine minor naval bases, six carrier groups, eight coast-guard flotillas, two divisions of Marines, and a classified number of submarine squadrons. There is no separate air force; all aircraft are attached to the RN, either on carriers or on airfields near naval bases. Ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are carried by submarines.
There is no professional army. Instead, every able-bodied male adult is required by law to own an assault rifle and know how to use it. The militia is called out once a year for Weaponshow Day, a national holiday though the actual date varies from province to province. Target-shooting is the national sport, and sharpshooters win prizes and prestige.
The King is nominally Captain-General of the militia and Admiral of the Royal Navy, and as such usually makes his public appearances in uniform. Because women do not serve in uniform, women are debarred from the throne.
© 2000, 2011 by Karl Jahn