Theirs is a love story that began amidst the global spectacle of the Olympic Games and has continued for 50 years. As King Carl XVI Gustaf prepares for his Golden Jubilee next month, let’s look at the enduring romance between the King and his bride, Queen Silvia.
Crown Prince Carl Gustaf was part of the Swedish delegation at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Unbeknownst to him, he’d been placed in a group hosted by German-Brazilian interpreter and Olympics hostess Silvia Sommerlath.Embed from Getty Images
In an interview to coincide with their 40th wedding anniversary in 2016, Queen Silvia told Hola! that the Crown Prince caught her eye because he was staring at her through binoculars despite being close to her.
“Without great concern and despite being only a metre from me, was looking at me through binoculars,” she said. The King joked: “Did you really think I was watching you? I was looking at something else!”
From that moment, they were fascinated with each other. A few days later, Carl Gustaf was at an official dinner that Silvia finagled an invitation to. When he spotted her, he asked a waitress to ask Silvia to bring him a glass of wine, giving them an excuse to spark up another conversation.
Despite the strict protocol in the Swedish Royal Court at the time—blood princes were losing their succession rights for not marrying ‘approved’ brides—Carl Gustaf asked Siliva out to dinner. He didn’t care about any potential ramifications, he told Hola!, because “I wanted to know better who the Queen is today. I remember it was a fantastic evening, in an informal restaurant, where we even danced. We had a really good time.”
After the Olympics ended, the pair kept up their romance and tried to keep it under wraps. A year later, on 15 September 1973, King Carl XVI Gustaf succeeded his grandfather and became the King of Sweden.
By 1974, Silvia had moved to Sweden and revealed later that she used to travel around in blonde wigs to avoid detection. She lived in a residence owned by Princess Christina while she continued to work. One of her jobs was Deputy Head of Protocol of the Organizing Committee for the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.Embed from Getty Images
The couple announced their engagement on 12 March 1976. In their engagement interview, Silvia, who is fluent in many languages but hadn’t totally mastered Swedish at the time, turned to her husband and asked, in English, “Can you help me?”
Decades later, King Carl XVI Gustaf said that he knew Silvia was the one “from the first moment when I perceived her gift of hospitality. I was also very surprised by the number of languages she spoke, apart from her organisational skills and her ability to help others. She was perfect for the role of Queen Consort. On the other hand, she had visited Sweden as a young girl and had a wonderful family. What more could I ask for?”
Their wedding, on 19 June 1976, was preceded by several days of gala festivities and celebrations, including a performance by mega-pop group ABBA, who performed their iconic song ‘Dancing Queen’ at the Royal Swedish Opera in Silvia’s honour.Embed from Getty Images
Silvia is one of the rare modern royal brides who went straight from commoner to queen or princess consort (currently, only Queen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan and Princess Charlene of Monaco match this feat).
In her first year in Sweden, Queen Silvia recounted that it could be quite lonely at the Royal Court but that Carl XVI Gustaf was immensely supportive of her and stood by her as she navigated her new role.
After she became Sweden’s Queen, she devoted herself to her new country and is renowned around the world for her work with both childhood and early years and elder care and dementia study.Embed from Getty Images
King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia have three children: Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip, and Princess Madeleine and eight grandchildren: Princess Estelle, Prince Oscar, Prince Alexander, Prince Gabriel, Prince Julian, Princess Leonore, Prince Nicolas, and Princess Adrienne.
King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 2026.