A Royal Fairytale, With a Twist

Most fairytales usually feature a beautiful girl who falls in love and marries Prince Charming. In Sweden, there is such a fairytale taking place -- but with a role reversal.
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Most fairytales -- real or fictional -- usually feature a beautiful girl (often of humble beginnings) who falls in love and marries Prince Charming, becomes a princess, and gets whisked away to live happily ever after in a palace. In Sweden, there is such a fairytale taking place -- but with a role reversal. The beautiful girl in this case is Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden -- the only female heir apparent in the world, and her groom-to-be is Mr. Daniel Westling, a commoner and a gym owner. The moment Westling says "I do" in front of a glittering gathering of royals and dignitaries from around the world in Stockholm Cathedral on June 19, the country boy who grew up in a village of 3,000 people in central Sweden will be transformed into His Royal Highness Prince Daniel, Duke of Väestergöetland. This is, after all, a country that tops international rankings for gender equality.

The couple met in 2002 when the princess started working out at one of his exclusive gyms in Stockholm, and he became her fitness instructor. While Westling's father is a retired social services worker and his mother a former post office employee, Victoria is the eldest child of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, of the Royal House of Bernadotte. Born in 1977, Victoria didn't become the Crown Princess until January 1980, when the Swedish parliament changed the Act of Succession to introduce equal primogeniture, which means that she took precedence over her younger brother as heir apparent to the throne.

There is also a younger sister, Princess Madeleine, who made headlines around the world a few months ago when she broke off her engagement to her cheating fiance, and then escaped the relentless press in Sweden by hanging out in New York and Miami. Her brother, Prince Carl Philip, is now dating a model and former reality TV show star who once posed topless with a python wrapped around her body. Not surprisingly, she has not been introduced to the royal family, and it is highly doubtful that he will be allowed to bring her (or the python) to the wedding.

Interestingly, Crown Princess Victoria is 196th in the Line of Succession to the British throne as well, as she's a direct descendant of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. I'd say her chances of ascending the Swedish throne is a much surer bet (Princes Charles and William have nothing to worry about), and when she does, she will only be Sweden's third reigning queen in modern times. The well-educated and well-informed princess even spent two years studying at Yale University, as well as attending university in Sweden, and had worked stints at the United Nations in New York and at the European Union.

The king had been widely reported to disapprove of his daughter's relationship with a man who comes from a completely different background. However, true love won out, and after a long, eight-year courtship, the king finally relented and an engagement was announced last year. The 36-year-old Westling had been given a royal makeover by courtiers which included a team of hairdressers, stylists and image consultants. There were lessons on how to stand, how to eat and what to say. "Prince's School" also included classes on Swedish history and political science, as well as intensively tutoring in English, French and German so he can converse when he accompanies the princess on travels abroad.

I'll be flying over to Stockholm this week to cover their wedding, which some have said will be one of the largest royal gatherings since the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. The royal families of Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Greece will be out in full force (Victoria's royal godparents include King Harald V of Norway and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands), and some others who have confirmed their attendance include Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex (representing the British royal family), Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan, and King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan.

One of the biggest questions of course is what will Victoria be wearing on her big day? Early on, Swedish tabloids have combed the wedding guest list for clues and zeroed in on Pär Engsheden -- one of the crown princess' favorite Swedish designers -- and the only fashion designer on the list. Royal wedding gowns tend to be modest so I'm predicting a dress with a relatively high neckline which also covers the arms, and there will definitely be a train. Since the afternoon wedding will be a white-tie affair, expect tiaras galore, lots of big jewels, and show-stopping designer gowns. Many are expecting that Victoria will follow recent tradition and wear the Cameo tiara which her mother Queen Silvia, as well as the King's sisters, wore at their own weddings. But you never know -- Victoria could surprise us and opt for any one of six tiaras she has worn in the past, or a previously unseen one from the royal vaults.

As for the other royal ladies, will the Princess of Asturias, commonly referred to as Princess Letizia of Spain, steal the show as she did when she wore a ravishingly sexy red number by Lorenzo Caprile to the wedding of the Crown Prince of Denmark? Will Crown Princess Mary of Denmark commit a fashion faux-pas and wear a near-white-colored gown again, as she did to her brother-in-law, Prince Joachim's wedding in 2008? Will any one of Victoria's young god-children who will be serving as her wedding attendants throw a royal tantrum? Stayed tuned! With the high-octane glamor quotient, fashion face-offs, and potential for high drama, this will be the royal extravaganza to watch!

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