- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

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A decided lack of pomp and circumstance marked the officially "private" visit of Sweden´s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to Washington this week.

There were no fanfares, flags or anthems, no arrival ceremonies to speak of, not even an announcement that would have brought the audience to its feet as the king and queen entered the Kennedy Center´s Concert Hall Monday night. It was their specific wish to quietly preside over a performance of Verdi´s "Requiem" by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir.

Unlike many of their crowned counterparts especially the British the Swedish royal couple are skilled at melding into a crowd, which they demonstrated at the Washington Performing Arts Society´s small pre-concert reception in the Israeli Lounge. Their down-to-earth attitude and talent for chitchat especially the queen´s put protocol-shy guests immediately at ease as did Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson´s effort to present everyone to the royals, whether it be the spouse of a midlevel embassy staffer or a major dignitary such as Tennessee Gov. Donald Sundquist (who is of Swedish descent).

The queen, looking understated but chic in a tailored black velvet dress, mink coat and emerald necklace, seemed especially pleased to talk to Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosa and his wife, Maria Ignez, about the country where she spent much of her youth.

"My father was German but my mother´s family came to Brazil from Portugal in the 16th century," the queen told a reporter later.

Another topic of conversation was Crown Princess Victoria, who completed two years of study at Yale University last May. Asked about her current activities, the queen said that her 23-year-old daughter is now back in Sweden and will be concentrating on matters pertaining to the European Union, which is under Sweden´s leadership this year.

No one, of course, brought up the subject of the princess´s recent, much-in-the news revelation that she has her first official boyfriend: schoolmate Daniel Collert, a banker´s son.

The even better news is that he is Swedish.

"If they marry and produce an heir, it will be the first time in history that our monarch will have one drop of Swedish blood," a Swedish guest pointed out, noting that the country has always been ruled by dynasties of Danish, French and German origin.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice turned more than a few heads when she arrived to sit with the royals in the presidential box along with the ambassador and his wife, Kristen, and World Bank President James Wolfensohn and his wife, Elaine. (The queen met with Mr. Wolfensohn earlier that day to discuss the work of her World Childhood Foundation).

After a stunning concert and four standing ovations, the 200 musicians and singers trooped next door to the Suissotel Watergate for a second reception along with such VIP guests as Sens. Richard Lugar, Evan Bayh and Paul Sarbanes; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Librarian of Congress James Billington and most of the European ambassadorial corps.

The most charming moment came at the end of the party when the two choirs gathered to sing traditional Swedish songs. There was ´nary a dry eye in the room when male choristers got down on one knee to dedicate the last number, an old student ballad called "Serenade," to the queen.

But it wasn´t over yet. Then they shouted, "Everyone wants a kiss," followed by laughter and cheers.

Her Majesty, completely dissolved in smiles, was deeply touched. And you could tell so was the king.

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