Formal audiences are normally held four times in the spring and four times in the autumn respectively. Four ambassadors are usually received on each occasion.
The custom of receiving specific ambassadors from foreign powers at formal audiences dates from the Renaissance, when the need to maintain good contacts with such envoys increased. In Sweden, the practice was developed by Gustav Vasa, and intensified during the period when Sweden was a Great Power.
It became common practice to send an "ambassador" to a country on a specific errand. An ambassador would often be accompanied by a large retinue that would bring with them expensive gifts. Ceremonies to mark the power of their own country, and to show courtesy to the foreign envoy, became an important element in international exchanges. The ceremonies conducted today remain largely unchanged from those of the late 19th century, and have their equivalents in other countries.
The ambassador is usually received at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and then taken by horse drawn carriage to the Inner Courtyard of the Royal Palace of Stockholm where a band is playing. The ambassador is then taken to the East Wing to watch a parade and band, before having a private audience with HM the King that lasts around 20 minutes during which the ambassador presents his or her credentials.