King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden were greeted by hundreds of Delawareans as they celebrated the 375th anniversary of the New Sweden Colony, known today as the city of Wilmington.
The Swedish royals, along with Finland’s Speaker of the Parliament Eero Heinäluoma, began their day in Delaware with a luncheon at the Bunea Vista Mansion in New Castle with Governor Jack Markell.
“We have been truly honored that the king and queen have visited so many times and of course today they are joined by the speaker of the house of Finland and his wife,” said Markell. “So I think it says a lot about the strong historical ties and these ties are something that continues with this strong relationship today as well.”
For First Lady Carla Markell, the visit has special meaning to her family heritage. One of her grandmothers migrated to the United States from an area of Sweden just above Stockholm.
“My grandmother came over in 1912 on the Lusitania with her five other siblings and her parents and landed in New York and ended up in California,” she explained.
Mrs. Markell added that she still has family in Sweden and would like to visit the country one day.
Following the luncheon, the royals headed over to the Wilmington river front where they boarded a replica ship of the Kalmar Nykel and ceremoniously sailed to Fort Christina.
“The rocks” at the Ft. Christina State Park in downtown Wilmington is where the Swedish settlers first landed in 1638 and began establishing Swedish and Finnish colonies.
“When the first Swedes and fins sailed across the ocean, unlike the ships today, they did not have inertial navigation, they had a compass, they had the stars to guide them, they did not have a galley with refrigeration, they had food that they hope would last the journey,” explained Sen. Tom Carper. “And yet they made it. They didn’t come in the summer, they came really, in the worst part of the winter. They sailed across the Atlantic, they reached the Delaware Bay and headed north, the Delaware Bay became the Delaware River and they came to an uncharted river and made a turn to the west. They sailed about a mile and a half down this river and landed here and named the river after their child, Christina.”
A small ceremony was held at the rocks. The king and queen participated in a wreath laying at the statue marking the landing. Spectators lined the walkway as the royals headed to the Old Swedes Church for an evening prayer.