Last evening the Swedish royal court announced the engagement of Prince Carl Philip to his longtime girlfriend Sofia Hellqvist. The wedding will take place next summer, but there has not yet been time to make any decisions about the date or the place, what title(s) she will receive or where they will live.
At 5 p.m. the Prince and his fiancée met the press in the small garden of the Royal Palace in Stockholm, where they revealed that the Prince had taken her by surprise by going down on one knee at their country house in the morning. Praising each other’s qualities they spoke about the immediate attraction they felt upon their first meeting. Sofia Hellqvist seemed very at ease with the press and it was noticeable that Prince Carl Philip also appeared more assured and relaxed with the press than usual.
The daughter of Erik Hellqvist and Marie Rothmann, Sofia Kristina Hellqvist was born on 6 December 1984 in Täby, just north of Stockholm. At the age of five or six she moved north to Älvdalen, where she grew up.
After finishing school at the age of eighteen she moved to Stockholm, where she worked as a waitress and glamour model, sometimes posing nude, but mostly in bikinis. Having posed for the lads’ mag Slitz in 2004, she was voted “Miss Slitz” and went on to take part in the reality show “Paradise Hotel”, where scantily clad twenty-somethings pass the time in a tropical resort with partying, intrigues and romancing (no, she was not among the participants having sex on television).
Sofia Hellqvist gradually seems to have made a break with her past after she moved to New York, where she trained to become a certified yoga instructor and attended the New York Institute of English and Business.
In 2009 she did volunteer work at an orphanage and women’s centre in Ghana and in 2010 she and a friend founded Project Playground, an organisation which provides aid to less fortunate children and youngsters in South Africa.
In January 2010 the media revealed that Prince Carl Philip was in a relationship with Sofia Hellqvist and they soon moved in together. In recent years they have shared an apartment in one of the many houses owned by the King at Djurgården in Stockholm.
A Prince marrying a former bikini model may seem like a scandal to some, but it seems it is not considered as such in Sweden, except by dedicated royalists. This is probably partly due to the fact that the Swedes have had several years to get used to the idea as Sofia Hellqvist has gradually become a regular presence and royal events, and partly due to the Swedes’ not taking the royal family as seriously, if it can be put that way, as for instance their Norwegian neighbours do. In Sweden, which has had its own king since 1523 and which remained at peace throughout both world war, the royal family seem to be taken more for granted and the fact that the monarchy was deprived of its constitutional functions forty years ago may also have contributed to how many ordinary Swedes seem to view the royal family primarily as the country’s most famous celebrities, which makes Sofia Hellqvist an interesting addition to the cast.
And it should not be forgotten that more than one royal bride who have been deemed “unsuitable” have eventually turned out to be an asset to the royal family. There was much opposition in 2000-2001 against Crown Prince Haakon of Norway’s choice of Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, but after the wedding that was quickly forgotten and Crown Princess Mette-Marit is today fully accepted as a member of the royal family (except by some republicans, the haters who thrive in online discussion groups, the Swedish media and some people more royalist than the King) and widely respected for the often innovative ways she uses her role to try and make a difference rather than just cutting ribbons. Another example could be Princess Lilian of Sweden, whose background as a divorced former model, actress and nightclub hostess made her completely unacceptable as a bride for Prince Bertil in the 1940s, but who, after their eventual marriage in 1976, proved to be the perfect princess.
There is no talk in Sweden about Prince Carl Philip having to renounce his title or succession rights because of this marriage; indeed, as both King Carl Gustaf and the government have given their consent today he will retain both.
It remains to be seen what title his wife will receive. As she is heir apparent, Crown Princess Victoria’s husband obviously became a Royal Highness, Prince of Sweden and Duke of Westrogothia, but the spouses of the King’s younger children are in a different position. When Princess Madeleine became engaged to Jonas Bergström in 2009 it was announced that he would become Duke of Helsingia and Gastricia (her dukedom), but not a Prince of Sweden. However, upon her marriage to Christopher O’Neill last year it was stated that his not becoming a Swedish citizen and his business interests meant that it would not be appropriate for him to become either a prince or a duke, which seems to suggest that the King since 2009 may have changed his mind about the princely title, which was also extended to Princess Madeleine’s and Chris O’Neill’s daughter Leonore earlier this year. Thus it seems certain that Sofia Hellqvist will at least become Duchess of Wermlandia (her fiancé’s dukedom) and very possibly also a Princess of Sweden, and that the children they may have will also receive princely titles and dukedoms.