The Duchess’ Diary

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The Duchess visits the American Swedish Institute August 25th, 2008

This was a positively lovely day in the Twin Cities – sunny, not too warm and not muggy.  It was a great day for a picnic (which we had for lunch today) and a nice day for a fun little junket with relatives (including the Duchess’ niece, affectionately known as Miss Emilita) to the American Swedish Institute, located at 2600 Park Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This is a pilgrimage made every so often in the Duchess’ life, as her mother is (an American-born) full-blooded Swede.  The trip was made this day because ten-year-old Miss Emilita was in town for a visit and, therefore, it had been deemed by Grandmama that Miss Emilita, thoroughly schooled in the Irishness of her father’s maternal side, needed some measure of acquaintance with the Swedish heritage on her mother’s enate side.  So off we all went – Miss Emilita, Grandmama, Grandpapa and Aunty Duchess.

Given the Duchess’ recent search for a gown appropriate for a Mother of the Groom – and having found one she felt worthy of wearing to meet a queen (this discussion having already been held the previous month with Merryn Flavell as the Duchess purchased that most wonderful dress she wrote of earlier in this weblog), she was most interested to discover that the Institute now has on display some of the personal attire of Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.  Both the Duchess and little Miss Emilita found this the most enjoyable aspect of the tour of the premises today (though there certainly is much of interest there beyond just the dresses).  The fact that there were photos of the Queen wearing each dress and, in several instances, mirrors placed behind the dresses so as to allow the viewer a peek at the backside design elements greatly enhanced the experience.  An animated discussion followed in the car on the way home about what was liked most – and least – of the display.  Note was also taken – since Miss Emilita and the Duchess are cut from the same cloth such as to be great appreciators of beautiful jewelry – of the necklaces and crowns worn on these high state occasions.  All-in-all, it was a rare treat to get a peek at these things, no doubt about it.

After the talk on the way home about likes and dislikes, the Duchess perused the copy of the ASI Posten, the newsletter she had been given by a volunteer just before leaving the mansion.  President and CEO Bruce Karstadt had a column just inside the front cover, wherein the Duchess learned some impressive things about what’s behind the display of stunning, high-fashion royal dresses.

Mr. Karstadt discusses the fact that Swedish culture places much emphasis on the welfare of children and families – including assisting vulnerable or explioted children.  He says, “…H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden has felt a compelling need to address “the social, emotional and material poverty of children around the world” through her World Childhood Foundation (WCF), which supports more than 100 programs in fourteen countries.  Its mission is to help children have the opportunities to develop into strong, secure and responsible humans.”

Further on, he writes:  “This work takes place in all parts of the world, including Minneapolis, where WCF lends its assistance to two key organizations, The Bridge and Youthlink.  You would be shocked to learn of the degree to which youth in Minneapolis need crisis intervention to prevent them from being explioted or trafficked.  Thankfully, WCF and its major local supporters, The Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation and Carlson Companies, are lending their strong support to our youth in crisis. 

“One of our goals through the presentation of this summer’s stunning exhibit of Queen Silvia’s gown is to give greater visibility to the humanitarian work of Her Majesty and her foundation.  You can find the information as part of the exhibit, or go to the World Childhood Foundation‘s website (  This offers yet another example of why I take such deep pride in Sweden and its Royal Family.”

Well, the Duchess had no idea what the purpose behind the display of gorgeous dresses was until that moment, but can say she felt impressed with the cause espoused by the good Queen – and also with the fact that the Queen’s supporting arm arm even reaches all the way from Sweden to Minneapolis to help the youth right here in our own backyard.  It opened the Duchess’ eyes about the importance of this organization and the work that it does.  She had always thought it a nice thing to preserve the record of the ethnic heritage, but had not formerly seen the larger scope of the work it does.  So the Queen’s purpose of raising awareness of the work of her foundation was completely fulfilled today – and all through the international language of fine fabric, creative design, vibrant color, beads and pearls. 

The Duchess’ only regret in all this is the discovery that she missed the fun of the “Fit For a Queen” tours, which included a program about Swedish royal etiquette, the Nobel Prize festivities and what is billed as Sweden’s favorite dessert, a confection they call “princess cake.”  (She’d give you the Swedish word for it, which actually looks more like “princess tart,” but WordPress doesn’t have the kind of type that will give the necessary letters, since one of them is supposed to have that little ‘o’ over it.)  But nevertheless, the princess cake is described as a “light sponge cake filled with cream and raspberry jam, wrapped in a delicious marzipan icing.”  They had her at the raspberries – so she is left wondering if there is ever hope for a repeat of the performance.  That would be something the Duchess wouldn’t want to miss! 

The raspberry jam suddenly brings to mind her great Aunt Ethel’s trick for filling Swedish pancakes:  she’d whip cream, fold in either fresh fruit or jam, and then roll up the almost paper-thin pancake around a chubby strand of the fruity cream.  Ooooh!  Was that good!

But the Duchess digresses!  She writes tonight for the purpose of encouraging you to visit the Queen’s collection of elegant frocks while they’re still at the ASI (the display continues through September 28th) and to acquaint you with the World Childhood Foundation’s efforts to assist children and families, a service for which there is certainly a huge need all over the world. 

G’night for now!

The Duchess