Yesterday I attended the funeral of Countess Ruth of Rosenborg, who died on 25 July, aged 85, after six months of illness. The funeral took place in Skovshoved Church in Charlottenlund near the Øresund coast north of Copenhagen.
Some 150 people gathered in the small church, which was filled with countless floral tributes and burning candles. The coffin was draped in a Danish flag and in front of it stood a huge wreath from the Queen and Prince Consort of Denmark, marked “Daisy Henri”. There were also wreaths from the four children and their families, the Norwegian royal family, the King and Queen of the Belgians, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the ex-King and ex-Queen of the Hellenes, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie, Princess Benedikte and Prince Richard, “Ragnhild, Erling and the entire family in Rio”, Count Ingolf and Countess Sussie of Rosenborg, “the family at Ledreborg” and many more, including Sømandsforeningen af 1856, of which Countess Ruth like her mother-in-law and her grandmother-in-law before her had been patron.
Opposite the immediate family sat Queen Margrethe, who made a deep curtsey in front of the coffin as she arrived. A few minutes after her arrival came the Queen of Norway accompanied by Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Märtha Louise, who took their seats on the first row next to Princess Kristine Bernadotte. Unfortunately the King of Norway had been unable to take time off from sailing at Majorca to attend the funeral of his cousin/best man’s widow.
Also present were two former princes of Denmark who, like Countess Ruth’s late husband, gave up their royal rights for love – Count Ingolf and Countess Sussie of Rosenborg and Count Christian and Countess Anne Dorthe of Rosenborg, the latter couple accompanied by their daughter Feodora af Rosenborg. Among the mourners were also Christian Eugen-Olsen, Master of Ceremonies at the Royal Court, and the 97-year-old businessman Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the only non-royal Danish Knight of the Elephant.
It was a service filled with gratitude for the long and rich life of a lady who meant a lot to many. Except for the priest’s the only eulogy was delivered by Countess Ruth’s eldest son, Count Axel, who drew a warm and balanced portrait of his parents, complete with anecdotes which caused laughter from the congregation. He ended with a poem by Benny Andersen, with whom Countess Ruth corresponded about the interpretation of his poems.
Most moving of all was the end of the service, when the two younger sons and four grandsons carried the flag-draped coffin out of the church to the tunes of a solo singer singing the beautiful hymn “Dejlig er jorden” accompanied by the organ and a trumpet. Large tears ran down Queen Margrethe’s cheeks as she walked out.
The final farewell took place outside the church, where the coffin and the wreath from the Queen and Prince Consort were placed in a hearse and we watched in silence as it departed. Princess Märtha Louise wept and was comforted by her great-aunt.
In the perfect summer afternoon following the funeral there was a reception at a nearby place called Sølyst, situated just above the coastline and next to the villa Hvidøre, which was Empress Dagmar’s home in exile after the Russian revolution. Following cremation Countess Ruth’s ashes will be interred in the park surrounding Bernstorff Palace, where her late husband and his family are already resting.