Sweden’s consort was born as Silvia Renate Sommerlath on 23 December 1943 in Heidelberg, Germany, to Walther and Alice Sommerlath.
The half-German and half-Brazilian grew up with three older brothers – Ralph, Walther, and Jörg – in their mother’s native Brazil and their father’s native Germany.
The family spent time in São Paulo, Brazil, from 1947 to 1957. During their ten years in Alice Sommerlath’s hometown, Walther worked the President of the Brazilian subsidiary of Swedish company Uddeholm, as well as other positions at the business.
Silvia was educated at the German private and bilingual Colégio Visconde de Porto Seguro before returning to West Germany. She completed her education in Düsseldorf in 1963 and went on to study at the Munich School of Interpreting from 1965 to 1969. There, she focused on the Spanish language, which would lead her to a job at the Argentinean Consulate in Munich as an interpreter.
The 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich would change her life. Silvia, a polyglot, was working as an interpreter at the Games where she encountered the Crown Prince of Sweden, Carl Gustaf. He asked her out on a date, and that same evening they had dinner. The pair said that they “just clicked” upon meeting.
Carl Gustaf became the King of Sweden the next year, and his relationship with Silvia was still going strong. They were photographed by the Swedish media together in the country in 1973, but the media believed she was Margareta of Romania, as the King had been linked to her in the past.
The pair continued to meet up around Europe in places like Switzerland and France. By 1974, Silvia relocated to Stockholm and moved into an apartment owned by Car Gustaf’s older sister, Princess Christina.
Carl Gustaf and Silvia dated for four years before becoming engaged. He had proposed with Princess Sibylla’s – his late mother – engagement ring, and their betrothal was announced on 12 March 1976. During their engagement interview, Silvia showed that she was already in the process of learning Swedish – her sixth language. She also speaks German, Portuguese, English, Swedish, Spanish and French.
Their engagement announcement was postponed to allow Silvia, who was working as the Deputy Head of Protocol of the Organizing Committee in 1976 for the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, to finish her Olympic role.
The couple wed on 19 June 1976 at Stockholm Cathedral, just two days after she had become a Swedish citizen. It was the first of a reigning Swedish monarch since 1797.
The couple lived in an apartment in the Royal Palace of Stockholm during their first years of married life, and the King’s older sisters helped Silvia learn the ropes of royal life. Queen Silvia has said that all of his sisters were helpful but has specifically pointed out Princess Christina for always being someone to lean on.
Carl Gustaf and Silvia welcomed their first child, Princess Victoria, on 14 July 1977 at Karolinska University Hospital. Their second child, Crown Prince Carl Philip, was born on 13 May 1979; however, Carl Philip was only the heir to the throne for a few months because the Swedish constitution was due to be changed.
In January 1980, the laws of succession were changed to absolute primogeniture and were retroactive, meaning that Carl Philip lost his status as heir to the throne. The King and Queen’s firstborn child, Victoria then became the Crown Princess of Sweden.
A third child for the couple, Princess Madeleine, was born on 10 June 1982, and the family relocated to Drottningholm Palace ahead of her birth.
Queen Silvia has been passionate about charity work, especially regarding children and the elderly with dementia. In 1999, she founded the World Childhood Foundation, which aims to support children who have been victims of abuse and sexual exploitation, street children, children in alternative care and families at risk. Princess Madeleine works alongside her with the charity.
The Queen’s father died in 1990, and her mother passed away from dementia in 1997. She lost her brother, Jörg in 2006.
Queen Silvia is a proud and devoted grandmother to seven grandchildren: Princess Estelle and Prince Oscar (through Crown Princess Victoria and her husband, Prince Daniel), Princes Alexander and Gabriel (through Prince Carl Philip and his wife, Princess Sofia), and Princesses Leonore and Adrienne and Prince Nicolas (through Princess Madeleine and her husband, Chris O’Neill).