Every time there’s a royal event possible to reach in real life, the same question pops up: should I stay or should I go? That is: should one stay at home and enjoy the festivities via television via which one gets the best view, can see everything and at the same time follow photos being published online OR should one go to the event in person and actually see some of those royals in real life but on the other hand get a limited experience of the full event, having to come home and catch up on everything?
Yesterday, on Princess Madeleine’s wedding day, I decided to go. After all, the number of royal weddings is very limited, especially per generation and in a small country like mine. So off I went into Stockholm in the forenoon, arriving around 10 AM to a capital with beautiful clear blue skies and a scorching sun.
After suffering from decision anxiety about where to stand during the day I had decided to first watch the guests leave the hotel to go to the wedding and then make my way to Riddarholmen, the ending point of the cortège, to see all the guests leave on boat for Drottningholm.
So after arriving to Stockholm I first made a walk to look up the locations, joining my friend Johannes who was in the capital to help Aftonbladet with their web-TV during the day. The metal barricades were already up along the cortège route and everything was prepared at the ending point, with carpets laid out and flower decorations in place. Since it was told that the public would have a viewing point there we decided where a good place to stand could be.
Walking back from Riddarholmen, Johannes left to meet up with Aftonbladet and I stayed on the other side of the road to Grand Hôtel where they had also put up metal barricades and a special box for the media. Since I was there so early Stockholm was still quite calm and there was nothing to do but wait. After a while I noticed I was not alone however, and so I came to talk to a Finnish man who shares my interest in seeing and photographing royals. I even got a chance to practice my horribly rusty Finnish a little. He had found the best spot to stand at aside from the media box and so we came to share it for a few hours. Apart from a few guests occasionally stepping out on balconies to pose for gala portraits above us, there wasn’t much to see for a few hours.
My first royal sighting was Hereditary Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he walked back and forth to the hotel a few times, to and from somewhere. After a while Princess Benedikte of Denmark got into a car, dressed in a suit, and remained gone for quite a while.
Around noon Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, first cousin of King Carl XVI Gustaf on his mother Princess Sibylla’s side, came out through the main entrance and talked to his son for a bit. It’s not often one has the chance to see German royals in Sweden and because of the family connection with our Royal Family it always feels a little extra special to see that they come to attend events. As Prince Andreas was going for a walk I grabbed my courage and went up to him, he kindly accepted to pose for a photo and accepted my greetings.
By the time guests were starting to come out of the hotel to leave, after 2:30 PM, my friend Pia had joined me. The first to leave were the groom’s best man, Cedric Notz, and someone we couldn’t ID – but after that followed an amazing row of royals. Pia and I had a wonderful time and as really the only ones who could ID all the guests we called on their attention, to the amusement and joy of the by then large assembled crowds around us, and most of them waved and were happy to be recognized. The Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Nikolaos and Princess Tatiana of Greece, Prince Philippos of Greece, Princess Theodora of Greece, Princess Charlene of Monaco, Hereditary Prince Hubertus and Hereditary Princess Kelly of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Crown Prince Pavlos and Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark, Prince Leopold and Princess Ursula of Bavaria, Prince Manuel and Princess Anna of Bavaria, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and Ari Behn.
Those were the guests we were really there to see but of course a large number of others also passed review. At times it was really crowded with guests on the sidewalk but I think we also spotted Prince Pierre and Princess Silvia d’Arenberg and Princess Khaliya Aga Khan. A few guests, like Princess Takamado of Japan and Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Hereditary Grand Duchess Stéphanie of Luxembourg were staying elsewhere and the closest family at the royal residences of course. The groom’s mother Mrs Eva O’Neill and her daughters and parts of their families left together and wedding dress designer Valentino was one of the last to leave for the ceremony. Most of the guests were transported on blue public transport buses with Swedish flags and marked “The Royal Wedding” for route name for the day. Some special VIP guests were driven in white chauffeured Volvo’s.
After watching the guests leave the hotel we immediately walked to Riddarholmen to find a spot for the ending point of the cortège. Since they had announced that the bride to the island would be closed off and all traffic would be halted for the cortège later on it was best to be there early, I figured. When we got there a small crowd had already gathered but we managed to get a decent spot, the press enclosement down in prime location by the boats at the quay remained empty for a long time while the public was waiting. It was a mixed crowd that grew in size as we waited, from elderly ladies sitting on camping chairs to parents with children to keep calm and young people sitting on the stone pavement. Thanks to our smartphones we watched parts of the wedding ceremony live on SVT, with the sun still shining intensely upon us but a few dark clouds occasionally appearing.
A little after 5 PM the buses transporting guests began arriving. By that time the public had been warned ahead of time that the island would be closed off and everyone would have to remain in place until the boats had left. Unfortunately for the huge crowds gathered on Riddarholmen the last stop of the cortège was not planned as a good viewing spot for the public, despite expectations raised by talk of special viewing locations. The blue double-buses stopped right in front of us and we could only see the guests get off and walk down the stairs the quay on the other side – by the time the bus had moved, one after one, most guests were out of sight. This was of course much to the disappointment of the crowds, some boos and whistles were heard, mainly aimed at the “slow” bus drivers (of course everyone knew it wasn’t their fault, it was simply planned like this).
Three boats lay at the quay to received guests on board, the first one in the row was the family and royal boat and was the only one to remain until the bride and groom – Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill – arrived. A few minutes before 6:30 PM the cortège arrived but apart from a few waves from the bridal couple in the carriage, also they disappeared from view on the other side before the carriage and horses had moved on.
Around 6:40 PM Stockholm blasted its horn and sailed off for Drottningholm, a large fleet of private small boats following it in a tail and crowds gathered on all sides of the water waving it off into the horizon.
After standing for the entire day and not having had anything but a bottle of water to consume, feats were tired and shoulder sun-burned. We ended the day with a meet-up at a restaurant in nearby Old Town, finally having some food, drink and a chance to share each other’s experiences. When I came back home around 11 PM there wasn’t much to do but to have a small snack and then have lights out. It wasn’t difficult to sleep after a happy and eventful day in a perfect summery Stockholm.
To see a few more of my photos (and I might add more later) please look at my Flickr stream.