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King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden - Biography

All you need to know about King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden...

King Carl Gustaf in ceremonial military uniform
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Early life

Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus was born on April 30, 1946, at Haga Palace in Stockholm, the eldest son of Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha. His father was never to accede the Swedish throne, dying tragically in a plane crash at Copenhagen airport when Carl Gustaf was just nine months old.

This meant that when the current king's grandfather Gustaf VI Adolf came to the throne in 1950, four-year-old Carl Gustaf became the crown prince and his education started in earnest. At first he was taught privately at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, before going on to attend Broms School and later Sigtuna Boarding School.

Like many young princes, he trained for over two years with the armed forces before studying political science, sociology, history, financial law and economics at the University of Uppsala. He then read economics at Stockholm University.

Ascension to the throne and royal duties

With the death of his beloved grandfather, Carl Gustaf became king on September 15, 1973. However, in 1974, Sweden's 1974 Instrument of Government came into force, stripping the young royal of duties normally carried out by a head of state, including the signing off of legislation and becoming the head of the military.

The royal still carries out ceremonial roles and visits and he still carries out the opening of Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on a yearly basis. He also is the presenter at Nobel Prizes and he personally hands over the Polar Music Prize.

He is currently the longest-reigning monarch in Sweden's history, surpassing King Magnus IV's reign on 26 April 2018. The record had been in place since 1364.


King Carl Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath at their wedding© Keystone

Upon his ascension to the throne, he had already met the young women who would to become his queen. While attending the Munich Olympics the previous year, the then crown prince was introduced to a young interpreter called Silvia Sommerlath, who was working at the Games. Four years later, in March 1976, the couple announced their engagement. They were married on June 19 of that year and went on to have three children Crown Princess Victoria (born 1977), Prince Carl Philip (born 1979), and Princess Madeleine (born 1982).

In 2001 they celebrated their silver anniversary with a two day event in the Swedish capital complete with costume ball and performance by Spice Girl Mel C.

Sporting activities

King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia at an Olympic game© Pascal Le Segretain

The Swedish royal family is very sporty and all of its members love the outdoors life, spending much of the winter skiing in Storlien and the summer at the Solliden Palace on the island of Öland. Here they indulge their love of riding, water sports and gardening.

A keen huntsman, sailor and water sports enthusiast, Carl Gustaf also participated in the famous Vasa Ski Race in 1977, 1987 and 1997. He is chairman of the Swedish arm of the World Wide Fund For Nature and has been awarded the United States Environmental Protection Agency Award in recognition of his environmental commitment.

In 1977, he also took on the role of Honorary Chairman of the World Scout Foundation, an organisation of which he was a member as a child.

Click here for more information on the Swedish royal family

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