Queen Silvia

updated 05/08/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/08/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

TECHNICALLY, KING CARL XVI GUSTAF of Sweden married "a commoner," but the Inscription couldn't be less apt. Dark-haired, with her Brazilian mother's brown-suger eyes, Queen Silvia is a crowned jewel who look born to her part. "I felt a click the moment I saw her," Carl Gustaf has said—and, kicky for him, she was stunning and savvy. After their 1976 wedding, Silvia, daughter of German businessman, had the gowns she bought altered to reveal less of the royal flesh. "What would my people think," she asked, "if I went around showing my bosom?"

Spoken like royalty—but she hasn't lost her perspective. Silvia still frequents department-store sales, and her country folk aren't surprised when they see her, in sportswear and ponytail, out cycling with her son and two daughters. Radiant as ever at 51, the queen tends to brush ".off compliments. "It's nice when people say I'm beautiful," she has said, "but one I doesn't see oneself that way."

In that she stands alone. "If you called central casting looking for a queen, you wouldn't find anyone better," says Nelson Shanks, who painted her portrait. "Silvia is so beautiful your knees buckle."

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