Sweden's Royal Performance

Sweden's Royal Performance

Sweden’s new prince wins
praise for wedding speech.

By Paul Sterman

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

Over the summer, Sweden hosted the wedding of Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling, the biggest European royal wed- ding since Prince Charles married Lady Diana.

More than 1,000 guests, including politicians, rulers and dignitaries from across the world, filled Stockholm’s Storkyrkan Cathedral. Almost five million viewers across Europe tuned in to the pageantry-filled spectacle as well.

The June 19 nuptials reflected the lavish rituals of royalty, but it also reminded us of the power of public speaking. Westling’s words, in particular, had a dramatic impact, underscoring how a speech can shape the image of a public figure.

To fully understand the impression he made, one must have a sense of context: When he and Crown Princess Victoria met more than eight years ago, much was made of Westling’s background. To the Swedish public and media, he didn’t seem like monarch material. He was Victoria’s fitness trainer, sported long hair, dressed in casual clothes and spoke with a thick, rural accent that was reportedly mocked by members of the Crown Princess’s inner circle.

Consequently, when the wedding day rolled around, observers were curious about how the “commoner” – as he was referred to – would perform in this storybook setting.

Quite well, as it turned out. Confident and impeccably groomed, he stood and addressed his wife at the banquet following the wedding ceremony: “I love you, Victoria, and I am proud that we are here together, and I am so happy to be your husband.”

The heartfelt declaration brought tears to his bride’s eyes. Speaking without notes and alternating fluently between Swedish and English, the new prince told a story of how Victoria had once spent a whole night writing, before leaving the next day on an official trip to China. “When I got up, I found 30 beautiful letters, addressed to me, one for each day she would be away,” he recalled.

The 37-year-old also added levity to the occasion. Playfully alluding to his personal transformation, he quipped, “Once upon a time, the young man was – perhaps not a frog, [as] in the beginning of the fairy tale, but he was certainly not a prince.” 

An Excellent Evaluation
Prince Daniel won high praise for his graceful speech. Katti Sandberg, one of the top public-speaking consultants in Sweden, said his remarks were skilled and poignant.

“He spoke without notes and was very emotional,” she told The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden. “Not using a script makes it feel like it comes from the heart. We Swedes are not used to such emotional speeches – and that made the effect even greater. But it is risky, as there’s always a danger that you’ll lose [your composure].

“It was also impressive how easily he switched between English and Swedish,” she added.

Sandberg said Prince Daniel’s speech, delivered on such a grand stage, gave a big boost to his public image. “We Swedes have not seen much of Daniel. Now we got to know him a bit,” she said. “The speech was an answer to the question, ‘Can he do it?’”

The Swedish media heartily embraced Victoria’s betrothed. “Sweden takes Daniel to its heart after speech,” gushed a headline in The Local. The Web site of one of Sweden’s largest tabloids, Aftonbladet, could barely contain its enthusiasm, describing Westling’s speech as, “the moment he became our darling prince.”

Apparently, Daniel isn’t the only one in the Westling family with rhetorical skills. His father was also applauded for the speech he gave at the royal wedding. Olle Westling spoke movingly of the special bond he and his son share: Olle donated one of his kidneys to Daniel last year.

“As a 16-year-old, you discovered just how important health is,” he told his son.

Like Daniel, Olle also tossed in a few light-hearted remarks. He pointed out that it’s not every day your son begins dating the heir to the Swedish throne.

“We were very happy when Daniel met a girl and wanted to bring her home to meet the family,” said Westling. “We hadn’t banked on it being this particular girl.” 

Paul Sterman is an associate editor of the Toastmaster magazine and a member of Le Gourmet Toastmasters in Costa Mesa, California.