Princess Elisabeth of Denmark dies at 83

Skærmbillede 2018-06-25 kl. 23.04.03

The Danish “Royal House Flag” covered the coffin of Princess Elisabeth of Denmark at her funeral in Kongens Lyngby on Monday. This flag was introduced in 1905 for members of the Danish Royal Family who do not have their own personal flag. Princess Elisabeth was a first cousin of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Princess Elisabeth was No. 12 in the line of succession to the Danish throne at the time of her death. On Tuesday 19 June 2018 she died peacefully in her home town of Kongens Lyngby north of Copenhagen. The funeral service took place on Monday 25 June in the parish church of Kongens Lyngby.

The Princess was born on 8 May 1935 in Copenhagen as the eldest grandchild of Christian X, King of Denmark and Iceland, and Queen Alexandrine. Elisabeth was the daughter of the King Christian’s younger son Prince Knud and his wife Princess Caroline-Mathilde. Elisabeth’s parents were first cousins as her paternal grandfather King Christian X and her maternal grandfather Prince Harald were brothers.

In 1953 when the Danish Law of Succession was changed for women to be able to inherit the throne, on the condition that they had no brothers, Princess Elisabeth became the seventh in line to the throne. Her father went from being first in line to being No. 4. His brother King Frederik IX had only daughters, so during the first five years of his reign Prince Knud as his closest male relative was the heir to the Danish throne.

The funeral service of Princess Elisabeth was attended by her only surviving brother Ingolf, Count of Rosenborg, formerly Prince of Denmark, and her first cousins Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Princess Benedikte of Denmark and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece. A wreath from Queen Margrethe prominently placed in the church had the name “Daisy” on a red-white ribbon; Queen Margrethe is known by that name among her closest friends and family.

Princess Elisabeth never married and had no children. From 1956 till 2001 she worked for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was awarded the Royal Medal of Merit in Silver after 40 years of service. The medal together with the collar and badge of the Order of the Elephant decorated a pillow which was placed on her coffin.

As a member of the Danish Royal Family, Princess Elisabeth was entitled to use a version of the Dannebrog with swallow-tails and a royal crown in the middle of the cross. Since 1905 this has been the distinguishing flag for “other members” of the Royal House i.e. those who do not have their own personal flag, like the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince and the Regent (who acts as head of state when the monarch is absent or incapacitated).

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The Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg dies at 82

Skærmbillede 2017-03-19 kl. 16.45.21

Prince Richard, brother-in-law of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and head of the Sayn-Wittgenstein family, passed away on Monday 13 March 2017. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday 21 March, in the Evangelische Stadtkirche Bad Berleburg. 

Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg was the third son-in-law of King Frederik IX of Denmark. He married Princess Benedikte in 1968 at Fredensborg Palace, Denmark. Her younger sister Anne-Marie had married Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, in 1964 in Athens, Greece. In 1967, the older sister Margrethe, heiress to the Danish throne, married Henri de Laborde de Monpezat who became Prince Henrik of Denmark.

Richard was a man of humour, and of temper, totally devoid of the stiff upper lip and the jetset lifestyle so often associated with royalty. He met his future wife at the wedding of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus in the Netherlands in 1966. “In the royal corner,” as he once explained. From birth, Prince Richard belonged to that inner circle of closely related princely houses of Europe, but he never liked the pomp and circumstance and would rather wake up early to a day of hard work in the forest.

His main occupation in life was the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg inheritance, one of the largest private estates in Germany. Prince Richard took that responsibility seriously. “One would hate to be the weakest link in a long chain,” he said. The Prince has been praised for his work in wildlife conservation. He was an accomplished hunter and angler. And he was a central figure in local life in the town of Bad Berleburg. His family’s presence in the area goes back 800 years.

Prince Richard was a male line descendant of the medieval Counts of Sponheim. The chequered arms of the House of Sponheim were however not used by that branch which inherited the County of Sayn in the 13th Century. In stead, the arms of Sayn (Gules, a lion guardant Or) became the central element of the family’s heraldic achievements.

The County of Wittgenstein, where Bad Berleburg is located, was added in the 14th Century. Its arms (Argent, two pallets Sable) are the same as those of the medieval Counts of Battenberg and, in modern times, the Mountbatten family: the Marquesses of Milford Haven, the Marquess of Carisbrooke, the Earls Mountbatten of Burma and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1792, the reigning count in Berleburg was raised to princely rank by the Holy Roman Emperor. The Principality of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg in the Rothaar Mountains on the border between Westphalia and Hesse was one of the many tiny German states that didn’t survive the Napoleonic Wars. Until the fall of the monarchy in 1918, the head of the family sat in the Prussian House of Lords.

The arms of Sayn and Wittgenstein can be seen together with the arms of the lordships of Homburg (Gules, a castle twice towered Argent, windows and port Sable) and Freusburg (Sable, on a bend sinister Argent three boar’s heads Sable) on the family’s armorial banner which was lowered to half mast on Berleburg Castle at the news of the Prince’s death.

Prince Richard’s only son, Gustav, is the new Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. Prince Gustav is named after his paternal grandfather Prince Gustav Albrecht who was reported missing in action in Russia in 1944 during World War II. In the 1960s the prospect of the Danish king getting a German son-in-law was disliked by many Danes. It was decided that any children of Prince Richard and Princess Benedikte would only succeed to the throne on the condition that they were raised in Denmark and became Danish citizens.

It is one of Prince Richard’s achievements that his nationality became a non-issue. As a young child he had lived in Sweden with his widowed mother who was a member of the Fouché d’Otrante family, Swedish nobles descended from Napoleon’s Minister of Police. So, Prince Richard had learned Swedish. Later in life he also spoke Danish, albeit in his own charming, “mixed Scandinavian” version. He was the German prince who put a friendly face on Germany at a time when it was needed.