27 June 2014

Prince Carl Philip of Sweden engaged to marry Sofia Hellqvist

The engagement between Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist was announced today by the Royal Court. The press release read as follows:
Engagement between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist

The Marshal of the Realm is delighted to announce the engagement between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist.

After His Majesty The King of Sweden had given his consent to the marriage between Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist, His Majesty requested the approval by the Swedish Government, in accordance with the procedures set out in the Swedish Constitution.
- Sofia has today said yes to the question to spend the rest of her life together with me. Today is a very happy day for Sofia and I, says Prince Carl Philip.
The wedding date has not yet been decided but it is planned to take place during the summer of 2015.
The newly engaged and happy couple met the media for a short press conference and photo session, where we learned among others that Prince Carl Philip had proposed the same morning and that Ms. Hellqvist had been taken by surprise. They had been waiting for this day for such a long time... According to today's press, the couple met in 2009, became a couple in early 2010 and moved in together in 2011. She seems to have been welcomed by the royal family from the start and have attended several royal events, including Princess Madeleine’s wedding in 2012 and Princess Leonore’s christening earlier this month.

From the released CV, today’s newspapers and Dt.se we learn that Sofia Kristina Hellqvist was born at Täby (outside Stockholm) on 6 December 1984, but grew up in Älvdalen in Dalarna. She is the second daughter of Erik Hellqvist and Marie Hellqvist, née Rotman. Her big sister is named Lina, while her younger sister is Sara.

Sofia attended primary school at Älvdalen and the local Montessori school and studied at the high school in Vansbro. I cannot find too many details about her family, but Svensk Damtidning published a survey of her family in no. 14, 2013 (which I haven't read). Erik was born in Denmark and works or has worked at the local post office, while Marie, who comes from Älvdalen originally, used to be an active member of the Liberal People’s Party. I am sure we will get more details and more accurate information later.

According to the information released by the court, Sofia has studied accounting with computer application, specialising in business development, at the Institute of English and Business in New York. Sofia has also studied various courses such as global ethics, child and youth science, children’s communication and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in theory and in Swedish practice at Stockholm University. During her time in New York, Sofia also studied at YTTP, Yoga To The People, to become a certified yoga instructor. She was also involved in setting up a yoga centre. During September and October 2009, Sofia carried out voluntary work in Ghana. She visited orphanages and helped build a centre for women.

In 2010, Sofia founded the organisation Project Playground, together with her friend Frida Vesterberg. Project Playground is a non-profit organisation that helps vulnerable children and young people in areas and townships outside Cape Town, South Africa, primarily in Langa, which is the oldest township in the area. Project Playground strengthens children’s personal and social development via support programmes and organised activities. With a focus on children and young people’s leisure time and the individual, Project Playground creates a safe platform and meeting place with activities and programmes, run by adults that act as leaders and role models. The business has a total of 29 employees (26 in South Africa) and is one of the largest employers in the township of Langa. Sofia is President of Project Playground, and Frida Vesterberg is Vice President.

So far, so good. But the future Princess Sofia of Sweden has a past. Maybe not as wild as many would claim, but there are photos out there, from the time she was a glamour model and participant in a reality show. She surely regrets some of the choices she made when she was young.

The reactions of today’s news have obviously been mixed, as one could expect. You can read comments by the more Catholic than the Pope kind of people who find Ms. Hellqvist totally unsuitable to marry into the Swedish royal family and on the other side comments by the royalty is a fairytale kind of people who believes love conquers everything and nothing else matters. The republicans are always bothered by the cost of the wedding, and then again there are many who wouldn’t care less. If the monarchy falls, it will most likely not be because of Prince Carl Philip’s choice of bride.

Some will regard her as a gold digger and worse, while others prefer to talk about how they met at a party and fell in love. Regardless, the couple made a great impression at the press conference today. It is too early to say what impact the engagement and wedding next year will have on the support of the monarchy. She will most likely grow into her role and perform her duties well. She will be accepted by the majority, while the skeptics will never forget. Sofia Hellqvist seems to be a charming and warm-hearted person who will be of great support to her husband. Those who are critical of the union and want someone to blame, should go after Prince Carl Philip, who by his more or less controversial choice of a woman «with a past» is challenging the bedrock the monarchy is leaning on and exposing the royal house to more criticism and negative headlines. Something the royal house doesn’t really need. It is kind of sad, though. An engagement is supposed to be a celebration not only of a young couple’s love, but also of the monarchy itself. Instead we end up with mixed feelings and debates.

Constitutionally speaking, the king and the government have given consent to the marriage, cf. article 5 of the act of succession, just as expected. The Government gave its approval yesterday by the way. Upon marriage Sofia will become Princess of Sweden and Duchess of Värmland with the style of Royal Highness, and any possible children will be Prince or Princess of Sweden just like their cousins Estelle and Leonore.

Updated on 30 June 2014 at 10.05 (minor corrections about Sofia's parents, link added).

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