This weekend royal watchers itching for a fairy-tale wedding will have their wish granted—and not by Prince William and Kate Middleton. Instead, on Saturday, Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, will wed Daniel Westling in a lavish ceremony. But if this love story smacks more of Aladdin than Cinderella, it’s because the groom underwent a magical transformation: Westling has morphed from a fitness-obsessed country boy into prince material. And just in time! After the marriage, he will become His Royal Highness Prince Daniel Westling and receive the title Duke of Vÿstergötland to complement his bride’s title of Duchess of Vÿstergötland.
When Westling entered Victoria’s life, the Princess was emerging from a long-term relationship and struggling to control an an eating disorder. The two met at one of the gyms owned by Westling, who started his own fitness company in 1997 (making theirs the best met-on-the-treadmill love story we’ve ever heard). Early on, the future prince was the subject of criticism for his rural accent, which betrays his upbringing in a small village in central Sweden, as well as for his scruffy attire and predilection for old baseball caps. To become an acceptable consort for the Princess, and to win over her disapproving father, King Carl Gustaf XVI, Westling was, well, made over. Under the supervision of Brigadier General Jan-Eric Warren, master of ceremonies at the Swedish court, Westling took language classes to smooth his accent and make him conversant in French, English, and German; he started wearing spiffy suits, sophisticated eyeglasses, and an incredibly suave slicked-back ‘do. (He does maintain his inner jock—the Swedish palace lists skiing and golf as his “greatest interests.”) While his carriers were unleashing his inner Prince, they also uncovered the Westlings’ aristocratic roots. (Coincidence?) Note his squeaky clean lineage: his ancestors have extremely few criminals in their midst, the most notable troublemakers include a 19th-century drunk and a pardoned witch. A healthy family too, especially considering that Westling’s kidney disease is not hereditary. He also traded his Alfa Romeo for a Lexis, a change being touted as significant by the U.K. press, though we’re not sure why.
Despite Westling’s willingness to spruce up for his fianceé, and the couple’s evident adoration for one another, some stuffy observers continued to express concern that the Princess is marrying a “commoner” until Westling’s almost mother-in-law, Queen Silvia shut down the attacks. “Daniel has been very active in these years and has set up his own business,” the Queen said in an interview aired on Swedish TV. “I hope he can share his experiences and help bring modernity to the court.”
Eyebrows were raised again, though, when the Princess announced her intention to be given away by her father at the wedding—a practice not traditional to Sweden, but rather adopted from Anglo-Saxon wedding ceremonies. This decision upset Swedish Church leaders, who consider it sexist for a father to hand off his daughter to the groom, as if she were being ushered from the custody of one man to another’s. (Apparently Swedish priests keep copies of The Second Sex next to their bibles.) Even the head of the Swedish Church, Archbishop Anders Wejryd, has publically stated his disapproval. “Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden. I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses’ equality,” he said. “The couple know where I stand on this matter.” The Archbishop had better hold his tongue on Saturday—he’s conducting the wedding ceremony. The Swedish royal court has countered by explaining that the act is more symbolic of the current monarch leading his heir to the nation’s throne and to the partner the Princess has chosen to help her bear this responsibility. The groom has certainly cleared his schedule to help the Princess with her ever-mounting duties—in an e-mail to VF Daily, a Swedish royal-court spokesperson confirmed that “since January 2010 Mr. Westling is passive indirect owner of the companies and have no operational mission.” Now he’s a full-time Prince!
In fact, Victoria’s status as Crown Princess is the result of progressive Swedish gender equity—until 1980, the Princess’s younger brother, Prince Carl Philip, was the Crown Prince, until the Swedish Act of Succession was changed to make the monarch’s eldest child the heir, regardless of gender. Speaking of the Prince, we wonder if Carl Philip will attend the wedding with his reported flame, Sofia Hellqvist. If Sofia does show up, we hope she’ll have her favorite photo-op props: a writhing python.
If Sofia’s invitation has gotten lost in the mail, however, she can join the deluge of onlookers and well-wishers on Saturday, as they fight for a glimpse of the royal couple. Hey, even the Swedish subways will be operating free of charge to accommodate the crowds. Many details about the wedding, including those about the dress and the cake, are being kept under wraps until Saturday, at which point the information will be posted on the Royal Family’s Web site. Until then, we know the wedding is an all-day event, starting with the 3:30 p.m. marriage ceremony at the Stockholm Cathedral, followed by a horse-drawn journey to the royal barge, and culminating with a lavish banquet. Given the rigorous program set for Saturday, it’s not surprising that the ailing 94-year-old Princess Lilian is unable to attend. The Welsh-born Princess is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Happily, Victoria’s sister, Princess Madeleine, will be attending the nuptials, despite her recent relocation to New York following a split from fiancé Jonas Bergstrom, who may have cheated on the Princess with a Norwegian student.
Those wishing to congratulate the Crown Princess and new Prince can send a message here, and they’re encouraged to donate to the newly established Crown Princess Couple’s Wedding Foundation, which promotes good health and fights exclusion among Sweden’s young people. The issue strikes a personal note with the Crown Princess, who has admitted she was bullied as a child owing to her dyslexia. “I used to think I was stupid and slow,” she said in 2002. “I don’t have any problems talking about it openly. But there are many who haven’t received as much support as I.” Perhaps the foundation will help change that.