The Swedish royal family have always been among the most forward-looking of European nobles.
In Stockholm, it is not unusual to see the next in line to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, and her husband, her former personal trainer, Daniel Wesling, whizzing past on their bikes.
You can often see senior members of the royal family – even Carl Gustav XVI, aged 69, and his wife, Queen Silvia – in the city’s restaurants and theatres.
It’s all terribly modern.
But still, the announcement in 2014 that Prince Carl Philip was to actually go ahead and marry a former glamour model and reality TV starlet caused a certain amount of disbelief, even among the oh-so-liberal Swedes. Especially when it then was revealed that Sofia Hellqvist had once posed naked with only a boa constrictor to preserve her modesty for a magazine called Slitz and told an interviewer she had ‘made out’ with Jenna Jameson after meeting the porn star at a party in LA.
However, the guiding principle of a thousand fairy tales came true for Hellqvist, 30, on Saturday, when the winsome, gap-toothed beauty did indeed marry her Prince in a lavish ceremony in Stockholm.
The wedding was attended by senior European royalty, including Britain’s Prince Edward and Princess Sophie, representing the Queen.
The bride wore white (a dress by Swedish designer Ida Sjostedt, made from silk crepe, covered with Italian silk organza) and although the dress was cut high at the back, it didn’t quite reach high enough to hide the compass-like tattoo which adorns her back, just below the nape of her neck (although another tat of a winding flower on her upper right arm was lazered away shortly after she moved in with the Prince in 2011, following their meeting through mutual friends in a nightclub).
Another rock ‘n’ roll note was sounded at the ceremony when Swedish singer Salem Al Fakir performed Coldplay's hit "Fix You," followed by a Swedish-language version of Rihanna's "Umbrella."
Although an impression of serene indifference has been maintained across the establishment, the truth is that this marriage represents a huge gamble for the Swedish royal dynasty.
The Queen is known to be especially concerned that her son, well-known in Swedish society for his playboy lifestyle (he once went on a drunken ramble around central Stockholm in an alien mask) has wagered the Swedish royal family’s reputation in pursuit of only his own ends.
The Swedish royal family have traditionally been among the less popular monarchs in Europe. They are not particularly expensive on a per capita basis, but they are also not perceived to add a great deal to the country’s international brand appeal or status, as the British Royals undoubtedly do, hence their hard-earned attempts to identify with their subjects through a strategy of visible ‘just-like-us’ prudence, and their habit of publicly eschewing the trappings of wealth (witness the bicycles).
From day one, Sofia has represented a unique challenge and opportunity for the Swedish royal family’s PR team.
As unpopular as she is with the older guard, the delicate art of spinning her ‘naughtiness’ represents, as it does for the British royal family with Prince Harry, a definite moment of possibility. Sofia—or the Duchess of Varmland as she will henceforth be known—is an opportunity for the extended royal family to create an authentic point of reference that connects with the next generation of Swedes.
Millennials will not only shrug their shoulders at the notion of a young woman making some money for herself by appearing in a moderately saucy reality TV show (in one scene on the show, “Paradise Island”, Sofia was filmed topless receiving a back and butt massage), many of them would applaud the ambition--and salute the subsequent iconoclasm implicit in the marriage between reality TV star and third-in-line to the throne.
Sofia gets this, and has never seen any reason to attempt to deny her past, which has also included less controversial stints as a yoga teacher (when she was living in New York) and accountant.
"A lot has been written over the years, not only following our engagement," Sofia said in a documentary entitled “A Year with the Royal Family”.
"For me it's pretty boring, it happened ten years ago and I've moved on with my life. But no regrets. Experience shapes a person…I think everything will be alright."
There are many in the upper echelons of Swedish society who will be fervently praying this week that the new Duchess of Varmland is correct in that assumption.