Sweden's King Speaks From the Heart

Sweden's King Speaks From the Heart

Sweden’s monarch toasts
his daughter at royal wedding.

By Daniel Bengtsson

Photo Caption: King Carl Gustaf of Sweden (far right) speaks to Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling on their wedding day.

It’s not often that you hear the King of your country deliver a wedding speech. But when Swedish Crown Princess Victoria married Daniel Westling on June 19, the King of Sweden demonstrated how powerful a speech can be when it comes from the heart.

As the head of state, the King's words represent Sweden publicly, but his words at this wedding were directed only to the two families involved. As a public person, King Carl XVI Gustaf has so many things to be aware of; many duties and many speeches. This makes it hard to believe that he actually writes his own speeches most of the time. However, the speech during the wedding banquet was different: It was about his daughter, Victoria.

The speech could be divided into three distinct parts: two personal pieces surrounding a formal section. I would say the first part was a bit of a surprise, a piece of gold many audience members and television viewers did not expect. The King alluded to his own marriage, to Queen Silvia, and did it so vividly that I was captivated by his imagery. (This day was the King and Queen’s 34th wedding anniversary, and they had married in this same church – Storkyrkan Cathedral in Stockholm, Sweden.)

“We as parents take joy in the affection by which you look at each other,” said King Gustaf. “But – as so many parents before us have experienced – the joy of seeing one’s children standing on their own to build their families is also spiced with a touch of grief. I wish that you also one day will be able to experience such happiness that we feel today.”

The emotion expressed in the second part of the speech was different from the first. The King spoke about royal traditions and duties in a way that seemed to lack the true passion that existed when he spoke about his marriage. Addressing Victoria, he said, “You are the successor to the throne of Sweden. It is a mission that comes with duties and responsibilities.... One day you will – because it is so stated in our Constitution – succeed me as the head of state of Sweden.” This middle section was very formal and did not show much emotion.

Suddenly, in the third part, the tone returned to that of a father addressing his daughter. I was spellbound by the speech once again as the King told us about his and the Queen’s thoughts about true love, and how Victoria’s choices for marriage didn’t need to be confined to other royalty. “No one should believe anything else than that my highest wish has always been – and is – to see you happy,” he said. “It has therefore always been self- evident to your mother the Queen and me, that you...should have the freedom to choose your life’s companion as your heart desires.”

The King’s tone was compassionate and his body language animated. The nation was captivated.

I have seen King Gustaf give many speeches, and I have never seen him deliver one this well. I wondered, What is the difference between this speech and all his others? There was no change from his usual techniques and only a slight change in his vocal quality, but not enough to produce this kind of impact. It suddenly struck me that he was speaking from his heart.

The King’s speech demonstrated how important it is to put a personal touch on what you say. It doesn’t matter whether you’re speaking at a royal wedding or a community event: True, heartfelt emotion adds an extra dimension and lifts a speech to the skies, even for the experienced speaker. 

Daniel Bengtsson is a member of PwC Communication & Leadership club at PricewaterhouseCoopers, in Stockholm, Sweden. Reach him at daniel.bengtsson@se.pwc.com.