Relaxed king prepares to turn 60

With one week to go until his 60th birthday, King Carl Gustaf has given an interview in which he talked about leadership, cows, and how his upbringing without his father has affected the way he has brought up his own three children. He also slammed media culture, in which young people are being exposed to the wrong kind of role models.

The king was in relaxed mood as he spoke to a reporter from news agency TT for his pre-birthday interview.

“I remember very well when the Crown Princess turned 27, and I said, jokingly: “just so you know – I was your age when I succeeded my grandfather”.

“She was pretty terrified. She didn’t really feel ready for it – perhaps one never does,” he laughs.

The king is sitting on a green silk sofa in his audience room in Stockholm’s Royal Palace, and the conversation drifts through brain development, his own upbringing, the reflective peace of skiing and leadership.

As part of his birthday celebrations the king is founding the Young Leadership foundation, an idea from the Swedish Scout movement. The purpose of the foundation is to promote the education of young people as leaders.

“We have to support volunteers who work with moral and ethical questions with young people,” the king says.

“It’s the wrong type of youth leader that is most visible. Those who spread themselves across the media become the new leaders. There are other values that should be brought to the fore.”

Carl Gustaf’s father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, died before his son’s first birthday, and the little prince grew up with four older sisters and a mother, Princess Sibylla, who was often absent. The king says he thinks his upbringing without any close male role-models has had an effect on his own role as a father.

“I can’t think of any examples, but you try to treat your own children as you would like to be treated yourself.”

The king, who takes a keen interest in green issues, said as a boy that he wanted to be a farmer. He is now realizing that ambition on a farm in Stenhammar, where in partnership with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences he is planning to rear organic beef cattle. He also wants to focus on caring for the natural landscape.

“It will be a long journey to breed a better stock of Swedish meat cattle. I might be starting late, but you have to keep looking forward.

The future is also likely to contain grandchildren. The king says his 60th birthday is a good milestone, and a “time of reflection.” When he was a child his sisters used to wake him with a song and a cake – a tradition his own family has taken up, “and the dogs – that’s all part of it. They have lovely rosettes around their necks on my birthday.”

Asked if he had a birthday wish, the king answered “good weather.”

“There are going to be so many outdoor events, so good weather will make it more pleasant for everyone.”

TT/The Local

Side photo: photographer Olof Holdar, copyright Stockholm Visitors Board, source: