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The day Sweden's Royal Couple came to campus — 25 years ago

On Sept. 13, 1996, Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia made their first joint appearance at Augustana College during a four-day visit to the United States. The following Augustana College Magazine article recounts the historic day for Augustana, and for the Quad Cities.

Hours before the King and Queen of Sweden arrived on the Augustana campus, dedicated fans of the throne positioned their lawn chairs in front of the platform stage near the library. As one older man explained, “I’ve waited too long not to get a good look now.” It was a smart move. By late afternoon, close to 1,500 alumni, faculty, students and Quad-City residents awaited the Royal Couple.

Surrounding streets were closed, and Secret Service agents surveyed the grounds. Then, as scheduled, the College Concert Band began playing Richard Strauss’ “Königs Marsch.” Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia slowly walked down the library steps, accompanied by an entourage including Augustana President Dr. Thomas Tredway '57 and Dr. Larry Scott, chair of the Scandinavian Department. 

A visit from any king and queen would be a grand occasion, but Swedish royalty reigns supreme at Augustana. Close ties between the College and the Swedish Royal Family extend to Augustana’s early days. For Marie Lindmark ’65 of Bettendorf, seeing the King and Queen was “absolutely a significant event in my life. I really wanted to get a chance to talk to the King. He’ll just have to come back.”

Dr. Scott presented the Royal Couple with a collection of books covering the Swedish immigration to America and published by the Augustana Historical Society and the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center. Their Majesties also received five Augustana sweatshirts — two for themselves and three for their children — from officers of the Student Government Association.

The King surprised everyone by raising his sweatshirt above his head to show his appreciation, and the crowd roared its approval. 

The Royal Couple smiled and waved throughout the reception, but chose not to speak publicly. It must have been difficult to resist acknowledging the adoring crowd, especially the children waving miniature Swedish flags. Many stood on tiptoes or convinced a parent to carry them so they could steal a glimpse of the Royal Couple.

Following the reception, the King and Queen walked to Denkmann Memorial Hall to visit the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center before leaving campus. Outside Denkmann, Queen Silvia graciously accepted bouquets of flowers from little girls who had come to see real-life royalty on a storybook day.

Everyone who attended the reception was invited to an old-fashioned picnic supper on the lawn.

Queen of Hearts

Later the King and Queen joined almost 200 guests of the College for a dinner cruise aboard the Queen of Hearts. Given the Royal Couple’s busy four-day visit to the United States, Augustana’s planners hoped that the cruise would be a pleasant stretch of time on a pleasant stretch of river. Nature obliged. The visit was blessed by one of the first days of fall, with crisp dry air and a crystalline sky. As the boat cruised, the sun set over the river that imperceptibly shifted from blue to turquoise to black. It was evening on the Mississippi, and it felt good to be sharing it with visitors.

A fine meal was served, along with a superb Cabernet Sauvignon made by Gus Anderson '52 and Phyllis Bood '52 Anderson. The Royal Couple enjoyed the music of the Augustana Faculty Jazz Ensemble, an arresting talk on the many virtues of the Mississippi River by geography professor Dr. Norman Moline '64, and a 21-gun salute from Arsenal Island. The King and Queen stood near the rail, almost at attention, and watched each blast’s yellow flame fly well ahead of the boat’s bow.

“[The King] was impressed and honored that we had done the gun salute,” said Major General James Monroe, the top-ranking officer on the Arsenal. Monroe and his wife, Charlyne, pointed out landmarks and related the history of the Arsenal to the Royal Couple during the cruise. 

At the end of the evening, after the Queen of Hearts docked and security agents cleared the walkway, the Royal Couple was escorted to an awaiting sedan. The King and Queen brought their own drivers, but Lundahl Motors in Rock Island provided the cars for the motorcade. Volvos, of course.

Our thanks to Dr. Michael Nolan '77, assistant professor of English, for his contributions to this story.

Our congratulations to all those who contributed to successful staging of the Royal Visit, especially members of the special committee appointed by Augustana President Dr. Thomas Tredway '57. The committee was chaired by Dr. Harold Sundelius '52, professor emeritus of geology. Members were Richard Swanson '54, chaplain of the College; Dr. Larry Scott, chair of the Scandinavian Department; Sue Rector '79 and John Doonan '92, alumni relations; Jill Seaholm '88, Swenson Center; and Kai Swanson '86, public relations.

Members of the committee spent five months working out the hundreds of details involved with the event. Considering that the King and Queen were in the Quad Cities for five hours, that puts a month of planning into each hour of Their Majesties' presence. It showed.

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