Sweden's Queen Silvia, pretty down-to-earth, but still a queen
Marry into royalty, and your life becomes an endless photo-op. Case in point: Queen Silvia of Sweden, who came to Washington Thursday for . . . a lot of pictures, not much time for conversation.
There's a mystique about royals, even the ones who can walk around unrecognized outside their own country. But Sweden's reigning family always seemed pretty laid-back -- Silvia was a commoner before she married King Carl Gustaf in 1976, and their eldest daughter and heir to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, broke the barriers further when she married her personal trainer this summer.
But still -- queens walk a fine line. "Of course it's a balance," she told us in perfect English. (She's fluent in six languages.) "Even if you have a question close to your heart, I don't want to interfere politically. I feel that people understand that and respect me for that."
Silvia, 66, came to D.C. for her work with the Mentor Foundation, an international drug prevention organization. Her visit included a stop at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School and the foundation's awards dinner that night at the Four Seasons hotel. No crown either time: tomato-colored suit, low-heeled black shoes and simple gold jewelry during the day, a gold and green gown accented by diamond and emerald necklace and earrings for the gala.
The bulk of the school trip was private -- the foundation is considering a grant -- and reporters were allowed to take pictures (but not ask questions) as the queen greeted school officials. Later, she popped into a SAT-prep class and chatted briefly with students. "May I be your king?" cracked one student.
Nope, she's already got one. "Thanks to my position when I married His Majesty, I can attract attention to certain issues like the handicapped, drug problems, sexual abuse of children, or elderly dementia," she said later. "I'm very thankful for that."
But it's not all official business. This summer, her oldest child (and future queen) married in a spectacular ceremony that combined her private and public roles.
"As a mother, it was a very big moment. Of course, you have all those questions with the dress, the cake, all those bits and pieces. . . . I must say, the people of the court did a wonderful job. But I think the best job was the Crown Princess and Prince Daniel. They were able to make a private area around it, but share it with everybody. So I think everyone felt they were a part of it."