Today is the 85th birthday of a truly veteran royal lady – Countess Ruth of Rosenborg, who, since she became engaged to the then Prince Flemming of Denmark in 1948 has probably taken part in more royal events than any other living Scandinavian royal.
She was born Ruth Nielsen into a very wealthy Danish family and trained as a translator. She met Prince Flemming when still a young girl, became engaged to him in 1948 and married him in May 1949. King Frederik IX did not give his consent to this marriage between a prince and a commoner and Flemming therefore lost his royal title and succession rights, which he said meant nothing to him compared to Ruth. He asked King Frederik to be created Count of Kronborg, but like other Danish ex-princes he received the title Count of Rosenborg.
Flemming was the son of Prince Axel of Denmark and Princess Margaretha of Sweden, who was the sister of Crown Princess Märtha of Norway and Queen Astrid of the Belgians. This meant that the family had close links to the royal families of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Luxembourg. As long as Count Flemming lived they celebrated Christmas with the Norwegian royal family and they were frequent guests at all sorts of royal gatherings throughout Northern Europe.
Countess Ruth has met most of the royals of post-war Europe. She was particularly close to her husband’s grandmother, the fabulous Princess Ingeborg of Sweden. She has clear memories of long-dead monarchs such as George VI and Haakon VII, will never forget the kindness shown her by Crown Princess Märtha and is still able to tell of the day Queen Mary kissed her, pointing to her right cheek saying “I can still feel it”.
Having married into the royal family, Countess Ruth is able to look at it all with a somewhat humorous distance. For her the wedding in a way meant that she married down; Flemming was royal but had no money, whereas her family was very rich. She has said it was quite a shock when she had to run her home and family on what she had been used to spend on clothes in a month. Four children were born of the marriage – Axel, Birger, Carl Johan and Désirée.
Count Flemming and Countess Ruth shared an easy-going informality and a great sense of humour. For many years they lived in Britain or France, but after the Count’s sudden death in June 2002 his widow returned to live in Denmark. She now lives just outside Copenhagen, but some health problems in recent years means that she is no longer seen in public as often as before.