Swedish King, Queen Tour a Magic Realm

Times Staff Writer

The Magic Kingdom got some real monarchs Wednesday when King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden visited Disneyland, kicking off a daylong visit to Orange County.

The king's visit was the first official visit of a reigning monarch to the county, according to Werner Escher, director of public affairs for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons and a member of the county's protocol commission.

Had the king, during his 15-year reign, done anything quite as silly as shaking hands with two short adults dressed as mice before a crowd of several thousand tourists and reporters and photographers?

"There's only one Disneyland," said a palace spokeswoman, who asked not to be named.

After being serenaded with a medley that included "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and "Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier," the royal couple were entertained by Swedish folk dancers and the International Peace Choir. The choir sang the familiar "It's a Small World," complete with a verse in Swedish sung by Scott Bagg, 12, of Long Beach, although many among the royal entourage failed to recognize the language.

Took 'Star Tours' Ride

At the king's request, the royal couple departed from their carefully choreographed itinerary at the park to take in the popular, bone-shaking "Star Tours" ride designed by film maker George Lucas.

"It was terrific," said Erik Tornell, who was part of the king's party. "Just like driving in Italy."

En route from the Magic Kingdom to the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts in Costa Mesa, the royal motorcade skirted the edge of South Coast Plaza Shopping Center, the commercial kingdom of Henry T. Segerstrom, who hosted a luncheon for the couple and the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

During luncheon, Segerstrom recalled meeting the king and queen in Sweden in 1983, while traveling to the city of Malmo to arrange for the distinctive red Napoleon granite used to build the Performing Arts Center.

He told the king that Orange County has been "a pioneer in culture as well as technology. Listing the various aerospace industries in the area, Segerstrom said, "We are Vikings exploring the frontiers of space."

Swedish-American Ties

The king, speaking in English from notes, called Segerstrom "a distinguished Swedish-American, a very good example of Swedes and Swedish-Americans who have helped build this country over the past 350 years."

With their day in Orange County, the king and queen concluded a 17-day, coast-to-coast tour of the United States, celebrating "The Year of New Sweden," the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish colony in America, in Wilmington, Del.

The king, who will be 42 on Saturday, characterized the visit from Delaware to California as a journey from "the past to the present" in "your young and dynamic country."

Security agents scrambled briefly during lunch when a fire alarm went off, but Joe Gatto, assistant manager of the Center Club where the royal entourage was dining, said the alarm proved false. He said someone in the lobby level of the building pulled the alarm, and it went off in the club. He did not know why the alarm was pulled but added: "It happens around here all of the time."

The king and queen were escorted through Orange County by California Highway Patrol officers.

"There were apparently no problems," said CHP spokesman Kirk Clerico.

Security Guards

They were protected by a security contingent that included 24 Secret Service agents, 10 private security guards from the Center Club and South Coast Plaza and an unspecified number of Swedish security agents accompanying the royal entourage, Gatto said. There were "probably 20" people in the entourage, he said.

Secret Service officials in Los Angeles said Wednesday night that they would not discuss security arrangements for the royal visit.

After lunch, the king and queen got a tour of the Orange County Performing Arts Center from Segerstrom, which ended on the stage of Segerstrom Hall.

"We'd like to have you bring back the Royal Swedish Ballet," Segerstrom told the king, who seemed interested in the idea.


Heritage: King Carl XVI Gustaf is a descendant of a French marshal in Napoleon's army, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, chosen Sweden's king in 1810. King Carl Gustaf inherited the throne in 1973 from his grandfather. His father died 1947.

Government: Sweden has been a constitutional monarchy since 1720 and a parliamentary democracy since 1917. The king has no real authority, but he has helped open doors for Swedish businesses as a self-appointed ambassador.

Family: King Carl XVI Gustaf met his wife--German-born Silvia Sommerlath--at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

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