Anna Lindh was one of Sweden's most popular politicians and was tipped as a likely successor to Prime Minister Goran Persson.
Anna Lindh's smile and open manner set her apart
The 46-year-old foreign minister had a reputation for competence and consistence and won plaudits for her negotiating skills.
She grabbed the international limelight during Sweden's 2001 presidency of the European Union, when she toured the world's hotspots with senior European Commission diplomats.
A vehement pro-European, she was at the heart of the government's campaign to win a sceptical public round to euro membership.
"The government has lost a competent politician and a good working colleague. Sweden has lost its face against the world," Mr Persson said.
Among other EU foreign ministers - usually men in dark suits - Anna Lindh shone.
Not only because of her blond hair and bright smile, but because she was unconventional - for example, she once quoted Bob Dylan in a speech to the United Nations.
She would also say openly what other politicians might only say behind closed doors.
During Sweden's EU presidency she argued forcefully for human rights and called US President George W Bush "the Lone Ranger" for going to war with Iraq.
She also criticized Italy's current EU presidency, saying Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did not enjoy wide support.
And just a few days before her death, she spoke out blaming the US and Israel, as well as Yasser Arafat for the crisis in the Middle East.
In the tributes which flooded in after her death, colleagues and voters emphasised her integrity and openness.
"Outstanding was the word for Anna. Outstanding as a mother, outstanding as a political leader, because she was courageous and straightforward and she was honest," said Margot Wallstroem, European Commissioner for the Environment, one of Anna Lindh's generation of Social Democrats.
"She was the only one who made me listen to politics. She could talk on our level. She could tell us things so simply," said 24-year-old Stockholm nurse, Lisa Nilsson.
An active Social Democrat politician since her early 20s, Lindh rose rapidly through the party.
She joined parliament in 1982 and became chair of the party's youth league.
She later joined the party's policy-making executive committee.
She won her first cabinet post in 1994 as minister for the environment and had been heading the foreign ministry since 1998.
Married to another politician - Sodermanland county governor Bo Holmberg - she had two sons.