Friday, February 27, 2009

Engagement of Crown Princess Victoria

Swedish Crown Princess Victoria has become engaged to her boyfriend Daniel Westling, the royal palace announced Tuesday, ending years of speculation. The princess, 31, has been dating Westling, 35-year-old gym owner from Ockelbo — a small town unheard of to most Swedes — since 2002.

"Daniel and I have become engaged, the King and the government have given their consent to our marriage and the wedding is being planned for spring or early summer 2010," Victoria told reporters.

They met at the gym. Seven years later Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and her former personal trainer Daniel Westling told the world they are engaged to be married. It's hardly standard procedure for royal matchmaking, but Tuesday's announcement shows how relaxed the monarchy has become in this egalitarian welfare state.

"It was a friendship that grew and became love," a beaming Victoria told reporters at the Royal Palace in a joint news conference with her soon-to-be prince.

The princess is first in line to the throne now occupied by her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and the king has no political power. Victoria became the heir apparent in 1980 after a reform of the constitution meant that the throne would be inherited by the monarch's eldest child without regard to gender.

For Westling, marrying the next queen of Sweden will mean a major change in lifestyle — even if the monarch is a figurehead with purely ceremonial functions, like handing out the annual Nobel Prizes. For one, he will get a royal title: Prince Daniel, Duke of Vastergotland.

He said his life now would be focused mainly on "supporting the Crown Princess in her important work for Sweden" and that he would not continue in an active role in business.

Conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he was informed about the wedding plans Sunday. In an uncharacteristic display, Reinfeldt said he was moved by the news.

"I felt that love had been victorious," he said. He told reporters that the announcement was a ray of hope in a dark and dismal time for Sweden and for much of the rest of the world.

"I think we can all feel the warmth of the love these two exhibit for each other," he said.

Sweden's monarchy traces its origins back more than 1,000 years, though the current royal family assumed the throne in the early 19th century, when French marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became King. He had been elected as successor to the Swedish throne by Sweden's parliament in 1810.

Carl XVI Gustaf has been King of Sweden since 1973. The last Swedish royal wedding was in 1976 when he married German-born Silvia Sommerlath, whom he met at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The court announced the engagement after informing government ministers Tuesday. In a televised address, the king said he had given his consent to the marriage and requested the approval of the government, in line with Sweden's constitution.

"Obviously it is a special day for us, but also a special day for Sweden," the monarch said. Queen Silvia added she fully backed Victoria's choice. "We welcome Daniel into our family with open arms," she said, describing her future son-in-law as "wise" and "full of energy."

Royal expert Jenny Alexandersson, who has reported on the crown princess for the celebrity magazine Svensk Damtidning since 2003, said the wedding would be "fantastic" for Sweden, especially considering the current economic crisis.

"The fact that Sweden's heir to the throne will marry will give echoes around the world. It will be a great big wedding with more than 1,000 guests, including representatives from all big royal families," Alexandersson said.

She also said the wedding would be important for the Swedish monarchy.
"We have seen in our neighboring countries Norway and Denmark that the popularity of the monarchy has risen at times of royal weddings," she said.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Royal Palace in central Stockholm, where workers for the tabloid Aftonbladet handed out balloons and T-shirts with Victoria's and Daniel's initials and the word "congratulations" in the blue and yellow of the Swedish flag.

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