Wednesday, 16 December 2009
What to see: The Royal Burial Ground, Haga
While all Swedish monarchs who died between 1632 and 1950, with one exception, rest in the Riddarholmen Church, most of the country’s 20th century royals are buried in the Royal Burial Ground in the Haga Park in Solna, just outside Stockholm.
The idea to create a royal cemetery came from Prince Carl around 1910. This coincided with new ideas about burials in general but also with the fact that there was little space left in the Bernadotte mausoleum in the Riddarholmen Church and the erection of another mausoleum to that historic church was not considered desirable.
Princess Ingeborg supported her husband’s wish to be buried outdoors and they were joined by Crown Princess Margareta, who, after witnessing Dowager Queen Sophia’s solemn funeral in January 1914, wrote that she did not want to be buried in the Riddarholmen Church, but “out in the nature at some place where also my family may get their last resting place”.
Prince Carl had suggested that an area of the Drottningholm Park might be set aside for a royal burial ground, but when there was procrastination, he threatened to acquire a burial spot for himself and his family at the public Northern Cemetery – like his brother, Prince Oscar Bernadotte, was to do.
In the end one settled for a small island in the Haga Park. Prince Carl took a lease on it in 1915 and had the buildings on it demolished. He also presented some drawings for a mausoleum which were probably made by the architect Ferdinand Boberg, a friend of the family. One did however settle for a more “natural” solutions, with crypts built into the landscape and covered with large stone slabs. Boberg did however design a granite cross which was erected at the highest point of the Royal Burial Ground and probably also the bridge and the gate seen in the first photo.
The Royal Burial Ground was ready in 1922 and the body of Crown Princess Margareta, who had died suddenly two years before, was brought there from its temporary resting place in the Cathedral of Stockholm. Her grave is seen in the second photo. She has later been joined by her husband, King Gustaf VI Adolf, who died in 1973, and his second wife, Queen Louise, who passed away in 1965 – probably the latter’s stillborn daughter is also buried there.
In front of the granite cross is the grave of the parents of the present King of Sweden – Prince Gustaf Adolf, who was killed in a plane accident in 1947, and Princess Sibylla, who died from cancer in 1972 (third photo).
Next to the grave of Gustaf VI Adolf and his wives is the tomb of his third son, the much-loved Prince Bertil, who died in 1997 (fourth picture). Thereafter comes the grave of Prince Carl (died 1951) and Princess Ingeborg (photo 5) – the latter’s date of death is, interestingly, given as 11 March 1958, although she was found dead in the morning of the 12th. Their son, Prince Carl Bernadotte, in 2003 became the so far last person to be laid to rest in the Royal Burial Ground.
Finally there is the grave of Gustaf VI Adolf’s second son, Sigvard, who died at 94 in 2002 (sixth picture). Several years passed before the tombstone was ready and I am told that this was because of the dispute over his title. Prince Sigvard had been stripped of his royal titles when he married a commoner in 1934 and was later accorded the title “Count Sigvard Bernadotte af Wisborg”. But in 1983 he assumed the title “Prince Sigvard Bernadotte”, which the King refused to acknowledge and at the time of Sigvard’s death, the issue had been sent to Strasbourg. In the end one settled for the text “Sigvard Bernadotte, born Prince of Sweden”, which everyone could agree was the case. The name and date of birth of his third wife, Marianne, has already been added to the gravestone with only the date of death left blank, which seems quite morbid to me as she is still alive and kicking.
The Royal Burial Ground is open to the public one day a week between May and August.