Sweden royal wedding: Sofia Hellqvist becomes real-life princess
- 13 June 2015
- From the section Europe
Former model Sofia Hellqvist is marrying Sweden's Prince Carl Philip in a lavish ceremony in Stockholm on Saturday.
It is the first time a Swedish commoner has become a princess of Sweden in centuries.
"It's a real Cinderella story," says royal expert Roger Lundgren.
But like the fairytale, this royal love story has not always run smoothly.
News of the couple's relationship in 2010 caused quite a stir.
Tattoos and topless photos
The prince's new girlfriend was known for appearing in the popular Swedish reality show Paradise Hotel in 2005, which saw young, scantily-clad singles compete to stay in a luxury hotel the longest.
She had also posed topless with a boa constrictor for the men's magazine Slitz.
And her tattoos and belly button piercing raised some eyebrows, with reports that the royal palace may have asked her to have them removed ahead of the weekend's wedding.
"When Carl Philip and Sofia first met I think that many people were critical to her, because of her background and the fact that she had done those bikini-shots and had been part of a reality show," says Johanna Lejon, royals reporter for the newspaper Svensk Damtidning.
Meanwhile Catarina Hurtig, the journalist who first broke the news of the couple's relationship, says: "At first there was quite a lot of fuss about her.
"Perhaps it was quite normal [behaviour] for a Swedish teenager, but maybe not a very appropriate history when falling in love with the prince."
But both experts say that attitudes towards her have changed over the years.
"Sofia has shown... that she is not in this relationship for fortune and fame," says Johanna Lejon.
Ms Hellqvist, 30, herself has said she does not regret anything about her past, although she would not make all the same decisions again.
Meanwhile, the royal palace has set about highlighting her other achievements.
We now know that after her stint on Paradise Hotel, Ms Hellqvist spent time in New York where she studied accounting and became a yoga instructor, helping to set up a yoga centre.
In 2009, she worked as a volunteer in Ghana, and the next year she co-founded the organisation Project Playground, which helps vulnerable children and young people in South Africa.
The previous focus on the raunchier elements of her past caused a "big problem" for the royal house, says Catarina Hurtig.
So the palace turned its attention on transforming her image, she says. "Her charitable work has been great for the royal house to focus on."
A team of stylists also helped prepare her for her new life, replacing the fake tan with classic outfits and swept-back hairstyles.
Catarina Hurtig says they took inspiration from Prince Carl Philip's mother, Queen Silvia.
Born in Germany, the queen also does not have blue blood, but has gone on to become popular among the Swedish public.
It may be down to King Carl XVI Gustaf's own choice of spouse that Prince Carl Philip - who is third in line to the throne - has been able to wed whom he wants.
The prince, 36, must get permission from the king to marry a commoner, and his great uncles lost their royal titles and succession rights when they went ahead with a wedding without it.
King Carl XVI Gustaf has given each of his three children, who have got married within five years of each other, his blessing.
Carl Philip's elder sister, Crown Princess Victoria - the next in line to the throne - married her personal trainer, Daniel Westling, in Stockholm in 2010.
And Princess Madeleine married US-British businessman Christopher O'Neill in 2013.
Commoners who married royalty
- Princess Lilian and Prince Bertil of Sweden: Welsh model Lilian Davies was already married when she met Prince Bertil of Sweden in London in 1943. The couple fell in love but due to objections from the prince's father they only married 30 years later
- Kate Middleton and Prince William: The Duchess of Cambridge's middle-class background was the subject of vast media interest ahead of her wedding to Prince William in 2011
- Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano and Prince Felipe of Spain: When Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano married Prince Felipe in 2004, she become the first commoner in Spanish history to be in line to become queen
- Queen Rania of Jordan and King Abdullah II: A doctor's daughter, Queen Rania worked for Citibank and Apple before her royal wedding
- Charlene Wittstock and Prince Prince Albert II of Monaco: The former South African swimmer met the prince at a swimming event in Monaco in 2000
Roger Lundgren, royal expert and editor of Kungliga Magazine, says that like in the UK, the younger royals have taken the spotlight from older members in recent years.
And the glamorous couples will no doubt attract the cameras yet again this weekend.
Ms Hellqvist's past career choices are "not a problem" for the liberal Swedish public, Roger Lundgren says, and her experience with the media may well help her in her new role.
Meanwhile Catarina Hurtig says Ms Hellqvist has also helped her future husband to be more comfortable with publicity.
Sweden's royal family
- King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, above centre
- First in line to the throne - Crown Princess Victoria, above left, with husband Prince Daniel
- Prince Carl Philip, above right, with Sofia Hellqvist
- Princess Madeleine, far right
The new princess is expected to devote most of her time fulfilling her royal duties once married, and many hope she will be a role model for future generations.
"The royals have a lot of money and a lot of help with everything from cleaning their castles to taking care of babies, so they should be doing good things in the world and their country," says Catarina Hurtig.
Opinion polls have shown the Swedish royal family's popularity waning in recent years, particularly following a scandal in 2010 over claims the king had visited strip clubs.
But with as many as half a million people expected to line the streets of Stockholm on Saturday, the monarchy is still popular among many.
Fans say Ms Hellqvist - along with her story - has played a big part in this, arguing that she has changed the way people in Sweden view them.
"She is a small town girl and comes from a normal background, just like any of us," says Johanna Lejon.
"The fact that she is now becoming a member of the royal family says a lot about the Swedish king and the queen. They seem, and are, very open to change."