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12. juni 2015 (feature-artikel om Sveriges dengang kommende prinsesse)
SOFIA HELLQVIST - SWEDEN'S NEW PRINCESS

When their romance was no longer a secret, it was dubbed as one of the most unlikely of its kind in Sweden, but Sofia Hellqvist and Prince Carl Philip have shown the world that the chemistry between them is more than just a fling. On June 13th the couple will say their vows in the Royal Chapel at the Royal Palace in Stockholm and begin their happily ever after.

This is the story of how Sofia - an ordinary Swedish girl - fell in love with a Prince and won his heart.

In the VIP room at Pepes Bodega

When Prince Carl Philip and his girlfriend of 10 years, Emma Pernald, parted ways in 2009, the Prince moved in by himself and was ready to spend some time living the single life. Little did he know that his bachelor days would be few and that he was about to run into the love of his life.

In the summer of 2009, Sofia Hellqvist had just returned to her home country after spending four years in New York and was recovering from a break-up. Together with a group of her friends, Sofia was enjoying an evening out at the night club Pepes Bodega in the beautiful coastal town of Båstad in southern Sweden.

The then 30-year-old Prince Carl Philip happened to be in Båstad at the same time and while he and his best friend Rickard af Trolle watched tennis during the day time, the two spent the nights in the VIP room at Pepes Bodega.

Here Sofia Hellqvist and the Prince, who had seen each other at different events before, spoke together for the first time and soon sparks were flying.

"I think that you notice almost immediately when you meet Carl Philip that he is a very humble and kind man. I felt it right at the beginning", the soon-to-be Princess said about her Prince and her feelings for him in a recent interview with Swedish daily, Aftonbladet.
 

Just an ordinary girl

When she was born, it wasn't on the cards that Sofia Hellqvist would one day run into a Prince and become a royal herself. Sofia Kristina Hellqvist was born on December 6th 1984 at Danderyd Hospital north of Stockholm as the second child of Erik and Marie Hellqvist. Sofia has an older sister, Lina, and a younger sister, Sara. In 1991 the Hellqvist family moved to Älvdalen, where Marie and Erik still lives. This Instagram photo shows baby Sofia pictured in 1985.

Here the young Sofia and her sisters grew up and when they weren't in school, they enjoyed things like skiing, dancing and sports. Sofia Hellqvist went to Vansbro high school and at the age of 18 the young beauty moved to Stockholm where she worked as a waitress and a glamour model. She also appeared on the 2005 version of the reality TV-show Paradise Hotel before moving to New York.

In the Big Apple Sofia Hellqvist became a certified yoga instructor and worked at Yoga to the People. She also began studying accounting, specialising in business development, at the New York Institute of English and Business.

In 2010, Hellqvist founded the charity, Project Playground, together with her friend, Frida Vesterberg, where she remained Secretary-General until April this year. She still plays an active role as Project Playground's Honorary Chairman.
 

Going public

2010, also marked the year when Sofia and Carl Philip's romance became publicly known. For a long time, the couple had kept their relationship a secret, sending each other coded messages and pretending to be talking to other people while they were on the phone together. But after they had been spotted walking hand-in-hand together on a skiing holiday in Sälen, Sweden around New Year's 2009/2010, the media picked up on their love story and the news were out everywhere.

According to the Swedish weekly, Svensk Damtidning, it was also around this time that Prince Carl Philip told his friends how much he was in love with Sofia and that she was the one, and during the summer of 2010 -- a year after the couple had met at Pepes Bodega -- the Prince took Sofia Hellqvist to Solliden Palace to meet his family. On this occasion, Queen Silvia gave Sofia a big welcoming hug, the Prince later told the press.

Despite the odds

As soon as the news about their romance was out, rumours started appearing that Prince Carl Philip's family wasn't very fond of Sofia, particularly the two Princesses were said to dislike Carl Philip's new girlfriend.

On top of this, her past as an underwear model and reality star was brought up on several occasions. Sofia Hellqvist - people thought - wasn't fit for a Prince.

However, Sofia and Carl Philip's love was strong and the couple moved in together in an apartment in the Stockholm park area, Djurgården. Here the couple bought a dog -- Siri -- together and Sofia continued her work with Project Playground that she described as "the proudest thing I have in life" in a documentary on the Swedish TV channel TV3.

Despite the rumours and the tough odds that comes with being part of the "most unlikely romance in Sweden", the couple stayed together and in the summer of 2014 -- five years after they met -- Sofia and her Prince announced their engagement.

A stunning shock 

Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist's engagement was announced on June 27th 2014 after the Prince had surprised Sofia by getting down on one knee and popping the question on that same morning.

The announcement came as a pleasant surprise to everyone and Sofia and Carl Philip were beaming with joy when they met the press later that day. The future Princess looked smashing in a red dress and proudly showed her engagement ring that Prince Carl Philip had helped design, while answering the journalists' questions about her and the Prince's magic morning.

"I had a bit of a feeling that it would happen in the near future, but that it would happen this morning was a bit of a stunning shock. He surprised me! I thought I knew what I was doing, but no, no idea! It feels fantastic", a smiling Sofia Hellqvist told the press.

And since that fairytale-like summer morning, Sofia and Carl Philip have spoken to the press several times. The Swedish TV channel, TV4, aired an interview with the couple ahead of their wedding in which Carl Philip expressed his love for Sofia and revealed that he knew very early on in their relationship that Miss Hellqvist was the one for him. In the interview Sofia also spoke about her feelings for the Prince, that she calls her best friend.

"Carl Philip is definitely the right one for me. He is my best friend in many ways. Love builds a person immensely", Sofia said according to Aftonbladet.

And if there were ever any doubt about Queen Silvia's thoughts on her new daughter-in-law, the Queen wiped them all away, when she praised Sofia following the couple's banns of marriage on May 17th.

"We had the banns of marriage yesterday and it was beautiful. Sofia is very nice, very well-liked and is a very sweet person", Queen Silvia said and continued to praise Miss Hellqvist's work with Project Playground:

"I think it's fantastic. I know how hard it is. I think that Project Playground is making a difference for more more than 400 children now. Instead of being on the streets, they come to this home and learn something good: to be together, to have fun and do something useful. Sofia has done a very good job. We are delighted that she is with us now", Silvia said.

June 13th marks the day, when Sofia Hellqvist is finally a part of the Swedish royal family and just like he helped design Sofia's engagement ring, the talented and creative Prince Carl Philip also has a hand in the design of his and Sofia's monogram that will be used at their wedding and in the future.