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Carl Gustaf delighted by gifts fit for a king

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18:15 CEST+02:00
A portrait from the Swedish people, homemade strawberry jam and masses of memories: the celebrations of King Carl Gustaf's 60th birthday began on Friday with an official gift ceremony at the palace in Stockholm.

"Fantastic!" the king kept repeating has the well-wishers queued to hand over presents before his birthday on Sunday.

Everything from a personal greeting from president Vladimir Putin via Russia's ambassador to a GPS receiver from the police was handed over.

"Mamma, that's going to take over your job as map reader now," joked Princess Madeleine.

First in line was prime minister Göran Persson and parliament's speaker Björn von Sydow.

The gift from parliament and the government - and therefore from the Swedish people - was a state portrait of the king by the artist Olle Hamngren, which will hang in Gripsholm Castle.

"One might say that after 33 years as head of state this should have been done before, but it should be painted when one is the middle of one's life, so here we are," said Göran Persson.

There was spontaneous applause from the whole royal family when the painting was revealed: the king, posing in a graphite grey suit, his profile reflected in a mirror in the background.

"As it happens, I've got the same shirt on today," said the king.

Only the red tie differed from the portrait.

Shunning the usual socks and aftershave, Sweden's regional mayors, represented by Östergötland's Björn Eriksson, then gave the king a conference on water quality in Kalmar.

"Fantastic. Wonderful," said the king.

A range of experiences followed. The state forestry firm Sveaskog promised an excursion in Småland, while the Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces invited him to a seminar on the future of the country's military. Not to be outdone, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences offered a symposium about the Baltic.

"Now we'll have to go home and try to squeeze it all into the diary," the king joked.

Donations to the king's newly formed Young Leadership Fund was another popular theme.

But perhaps the day's most original gift came from the Swedish Local Heritage Movement: home made cheesecake and strawberry jam from Ljungby in Småland.

The present-opening session closed as it began, with an image of the king. To great delight, representatives of Swedish business gave him an Italian-made marble bust, which had been hidden in a corner behind a set of doors.

"It's up to others to say whether it's similar or not," said the king, while the queen beamed, relieved that she had managed to keep the gift a secret.

"Yesterday we got very nervous when you came here and opened all the doors," she told him.

King Carl Gustaf will receive more presents at another ceremony on Saturday.

TT/The Local

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