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Queen Silvia praises Swedes' generosity

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09:20 CEST+02:00
Queen Silvia, who was born in Germany, raised in Brazil and joined the Swedish royal family three decades ago, quickly won the hearts of the Swedish people especially with her tireless work on behalf of children.

"The Swedish people have been very sweet to me, and very warm. It has been very easy to feel at home," Silvia said in an interview with AFP.

Silvia was born a commoner in the southern German city Heidelberg in 1943, moved with her German father and Brazilian mother to Sao Paulo, Brazil, four years later, before returning to her native country in 1957.

She later trained as an interpreter and worked as chief hostess at the organization committee for the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich, where she met Crown Prince Carl Gustaf of Sweden.

The couple were married on June 19, 1976, making her Swedish queen.

In a first indication that she would be a hit in her new Swedish homeland, world-famous Swedish pop band ABBA wrote and premiered the song "Dancing Queen" for the event.

The arrival of Silvia gave the Swedish monarchy's reputation a great boost. But soon curiosity about the dazzlingly exotic foreigner gave way to respect, especially for her commitment to the welfare and rights of children, which has gone down well in this nation fiercely protective of its young generation.

In 1999, she founded the World Childhood Foundation, which supports projects against sexual abuse among others, and has worked on behalf of the handicapped, which earned her the German prize "Deutsche Kulturpreis" in 1990.

Silvia is also on the board of the international Mentor Foundation, which fights against drug abuse.

Queen Silvia and King Carl Gustaf have been praised for being close to their people in difficult times, such as during last December's Asian tsunami during which 543 Swedes died or went missing.

The royal couple's approval ratings surged following the disaster, when Carl Gustaf declared that he wished, "like the kings in the fairytales" that he could bring about a happy ending. "But I am just like you... We are all just humans without clear answers".

In the interview, Queen Silvia remembered that "nobody was prepared for this. You couldn't reach anybody. At first we were told five or six people had died and 500 were missing."

"And then the news came, like an avalanche. I still get goosepimples when I think about it. It was happening so far away, and there were so many. It was so hard to get information, which was terrible for the families".

The royal couple, who went to Thailand in February to honour the dead and thank the Thai people for their support, was also praised for that initiative.

And Silvia returned the compliment, saying the Swedes "have always been very generous, and they continued throughout these difficulties".

This confirmed the view that Silvia had of Sweden since childhood. Her father, Walther Sommerlath, who ran the Brazilian subsidiary of Swedish company Uddeholm when Silvia was a child, "always spoke of this 'correct and well-organized country'", she said.

Queen Silvia and King Carl Gustaf have three children, Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip.

Asked whether royal wedding bells will soon toll for Victoria, 27, and her boyfriend, Daniel Westling, Silvia replied:

"Of course as parents, we want the happiness of our children. But everything is written in the stars".

(AFP)

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