Apr 2, 2014

Spring 1976: My Date with the King of Sweden

Prince Charles isn't the only royal that I've been associated with.  Rock Island, my home town, has strong Swedish roots, so on a visit to the U.S. on a hot day in the spring of 1976, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden stopped by.

He gave a speech at Augustana College, shook hands with the mayor, and had an "informal lunch with America's youth" at Rocky High -- by which they meant a catered affair around a big table in the cafeteria with 20 specially-selected students.  As the president of the Spanish Club, I was invited, and somehow I managed to steer myself into the position right next to him.

The King was 30 years old, tall, handsome, with a rugged, athletic frame and a firm handshake.  He had a reputation as a jetsetting gadabout who preferred skiing, bicycling, and hanging out on the beach to his palace in Stockholm.  He was not married, and I found out later that there were some gay rumors attached to him (he would marry that summer, and have three children, Victoria, Carl Philip, and Madeline).  Carl Philip (top photo) has turned out to be a hunk in his own right, with the requisite gay rumors attached (my friend Zack claimed to have been in bed with him.)



 It was a hot day, and the cafeteria wasn't air conditioned.  The fans were going full blast, but still, we were sweating.

I didn't know about gay vibes yet, but I knew that I liked Carl Gustaf, his smile, his handshake, the muscular physique obvious beneath his business suit.  We were sitting so close that I could "accidentally" brush my knee against his.


As far as I can recall, this was our conversation:

King:  What student organization do you represent?
Me:    The Foreign Language Club [it was really the Spanish Club, but I wanted him to think I was into Swedish).  
King:  Which languages do you study?
Me:    Spanish, French, German, and Swedish.
King:  Svenska ar ett vackert sprak.
Me:    [No idea what he said.]  Yes.
King:  You must come to Sweden, and study at Goteborg University.  They have a fine language faculty.
Me:    I will.

Not terribly interesting, in retrospect, but at the time I was glowing.  A cute guy had just invited me to visit him!  Oh, and he was a king!

A few years later, in college, I studied every language I could get my hands on and finally majored in Modern Languages, maybe trying to recapture the moment when a cute guy told me "Svenska ar ett vackert sprak."