After a few weeks in Stockholm, Belgium's new ambassador Francine Chainaye was received by The King at a formal audience. She presented her letter of introduction, or "credentials", to the Head of State, and was thereby granted the formal right to work in Sweden.
Francine Chainaye came to Sweden last autumn as the new ambassador for Belgium. Before that, she was Belgium's permanent representative at UNESCO in Paris. She has previously served at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has also been stationed in Tunis, Prague and Washington.
Shortly after arriving in Stockholm, Ambassador Chainaye received a note – a written communication – from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In this note, the Minister for Foreign Affairs gave notice of the date and time of the formal audience.
A formal audience should be arranged as soon as possible after the ambassador has arrived in the country. It is only after submitting his or her credentials that the new ambassador formally assumes his or her position and has the right to work in Sweden.
The credentials are a form of authorisation issued by a country's head of state for the ambassador who has been appointed to represent his or her country abroad.
According to the 1974 constitution, it is The King who – in his capacity as the nation's leading representative in relation to other countries – accredits foreign ambassadors. The King also signs the Swedish ambassadors' credentials.
At formal audiences, the new ambassadors normally also hand over a letter of recall. This is a document confirming that the departing ambassador has ended his or her service.
The note from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs informs Ambassador Chainaye that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs' introducer Bengt Lundborg will meet her at the Belgian ambassador's official residence and will accompany her to the formal audience. It also states that she and two accompanying colleagues will be collected by a car from the Royal Mews and driven to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, at the Prince Royal's Palace on Gustaf Adolfs Torg, and that she will travel from there in a parade coupé drawn by four horses to the Royal Palace of Stockholm. In addition, the note details the dress code. This is a ceremonial occasion, and the ambassador wears an evening gown, a dress suit, a diplomatic uniform or national costume.
How did you prepare for the formal audience?
"I was aware of the various stages involved in the formal audience. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs' introducer Bengt Lundborg visited our embassy on Kungsholmen a few weeks before the audience. I also read up on The King's interests, but ultimately it was more a matter of being mentally prepared for the audience."
How was the ceremony?
"It was a unique day. This was the first time I had presented my credentials. It was a sunny morning after days of rain. It's such a beautiful ceremony, and the time-honoured traditions reinforce the sense of occasion. Once we'd arrived at the Royal Palace of Stockholm in the beautiful parade coupé, got out at the East Gate and ascended the grand marble steps, I was really caught up in the moment."
Did you do anything special after the formal audiences?
"After the ceremony at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, I invited the embassy's staff, our honorary consuls and representatives of Belgian organisations and associations in Sweden for a glass of champagne at the official residence, Villa Josephson in the diplomatic quarter. It's traditional for Belgian ambassadors to host a reception at the official residence after the formal audience."