Meet the Royals: Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia

Wilmington will get a glimpse of the Swedish royals on May 11 during their visit, which commemorates the 375th anniversary of the settlement of New Sweden.

Wilmington will get a glimpse of royalty on May 11, when King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden visit the city to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the settlement of New Sweden.

It’s a repeat visit for the couple, who attended celebrations commemorating the 350th anniversary in 1988. Donna-Marie King, then director of cultural affairs for Mayor Daniel S. Frawley, remembers them well. “They were pleasant,” King says. “They seemed genuinely pleased to be participating in the anniversary.”

This time, Eero Olavi Heinäluoma, speaker of the Parliament of Finland, will join the king and queen. Why Finland? When the Kalmar Nyckel arrived on the banks of the Christina River, Finland was part of Sweden. The ship carried both Finnish and Swedish settlers. Here’s some background on Delaware’s illustrious guests.

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H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf
Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus was just 27 when he became Sweden’s head of state in September 1973. He is the son of Princess Sibylla of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha and Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, who died in a plane crash in 1947. As a result of his father’s death, the young king succeeded his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf. (The king has four older sisters, but the Swedish Parliament did not pass the Order of Succession, which passes the throne to the oldest child, until 1980.)

The king, who served as an officer on Swedish naval ships and studied at the University of Uppsala and the University of Stockholm, participated in the work of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations in New York. He also spent time in Africa, London and France. He met Silvia Renate Sommerlath at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich. They married in 1976 and have three children: Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Phillip and Princess Madeleine.

In 2003, Crown Princess Victoria visited Wilmington for the 365th Jubilee Celebration. “She was delightful,” says Mary McCoy, past president of the Delaware Swedish Society, who took the princess to Old Swedes Church and to see the Kalmar Nyckel.

H.M. Queen Silvia
The daughter of Walther Sommerlath and his Brazilian wife, Alice, nee de Toledo, the queen was born in Heidelberg, Germany. Her upbringing was laced with international flair. The family lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, between 1947 and 1957, where her father worked in various positions, including serving as president of the Brazilian subsidiary of Uddeholm, a Swedish steel company.

After majoring in Spanish at the Munich School of Interpreting, she worked at the Argentinean Consulate in Munich. When she met her husband at the Munich Olympics, she was working as an interpreter. In fact, she speaks six languages, including English. “She’s very outgoing,” King remembers.

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Eero Olavi Heinäluoma
Speaker of the Parliament of Finland since June 2011, Heinäluoma was born in Kokkola. His interest in politics dates back to 1983, when he became involved with the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK). He served in several positions, eventually becoming the director from 1996 to 2002.

Heinäluoma became the Social Democratic Party secretary in 2002 and the party chair in 2005. He resigned in 2008. Meanwhile, he was elected a member of Parliament from the electoral district of Uusimaa in 2003. He became the minister of finance in 2005. Heinäluoma was elected chairman of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group in 2010, a position he held until he became speaker.

For more about the Royal Family, click here

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