Monday, 31 October 2011

On this date: Carl Johan Bernadotte turns 95

The Bernadottes are famous for living to ripe old age and today yet another of them turns 95. Today’s birthday boy is Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg, by birth Prince of Sweden and uncle of the King of Sweden as well as of the Queen of Denmark.
Born on 31 October 1916 he is the youngest of the five children of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden and his first wife, Crown Princess Margareta, née Princess of Britain. Sadly his mother died when Prince Carl Johan was only 3 ½ years old and he regrets that he has no memories of her.
Prince Carl Johan lost his succession rights and was stripped of his royal titles when he married a commoner, the divorced journalist Kerstin Wijkmark, in 1946. As plain Mr Carl Johan Bernadotte he made a career for himself as a businessman. In 1951 his distant cousin Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg created him, his brother Sigvard and their cousin Lennart counts of Wisborg.
Widowed in 1987, Carl Johan Bernadotte married an old friend, Gunnila Bussler, née Countess Gunnila Wachtmeister of Johannishus, the following year. The couple, who are thus approaching their silver wedding, live in a villa in the hills above the popular summer resort Båstad on the coast of Scania.
Except the oldest, Prince Gustaf Adolf, who was killed in a plane crash at the age of forty in 1947, all the children of Gustaf VI Adolf have, like him, reached a great age. The former Prince Sigvard died in 2002 at the age of 94, while Queen Ingrid of Denmark was ninety when she passed away in 2000 and Prince Bertil nearing his 85th birthday at the time of his death in 1997.
For those who like to keep track of such things it is also noteworthy that Carl Johan Bernadotte is the only surviving great-grandchild of Queen Victoria of Britain. Except for a critical attack of illness some years ago, which was dealt with successfully in hospital, he continues to enjoy rude health for his age.
With the passing of his siblings Carl Johan Bernadotte has come to fill the role as the grand old man of the family and was consequently given a prominent position at the wedding last year of his great-niece Crown Princess Victoria, with whom he shares a fond relationship. In his old age it has also become increasingly clear to many what an asset this warm, generous gentleman would have been to the Swedish monarchy if one had not kicked him out of the royal house 65 years ago.
His plans for the birthday are not known, but on 14 October King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia hosted a private dinner party for him at Drottningholm Palace outside Stockholm. Among the guests were two of the King’s sisters, Princess Christina and Princess Margaretha (the latter herself turns 77 today).


  1. Based on the one interview with him that I have read, he does seem to be a very warm and humble man.

    One thing that has puzzled me is that he apparently has a close relationship with the royal family, yet he was the only ex-prince or ex-princess of Sweden whose children (or descendants) were not invited to the royal wedding last year. His children seem also to have been absent from other royal celebrations in recent years where other Bernadotte relatives have been present.

    By the way, could you please help me out with the rules of the Wisborg title? I assume that Luxembourgish noble titles descend in the male line and are shared with noblemen's wives, but not with noblewomen's husbands. But do noblewomen retain their titles after marriage, and do ex-wives retain the title?

  2. He looks like his grandfather the King.

  3. I believe Carl Johan Bernadotte's relationship with the Swedish and Danish royal families has become closer after he married Gunnila in 1988. Apparently his family was not too fond of his first wife Kerstin.

    Carl Johan and Kerstin Bernadotte's son Christian is a businessman who lives far away in the United States and I can imagine that means that he does not see much of relatives such as the Crown Princess and is consequently not close to her, and also that he does quite simply not have the time/opportunity to travel to Europe to attend all sorts of family events. (Although I believe he was present at one of Lennart Bernadotte's birthday parties - there were so many of them that I cannot remember which).

    Their daughter Monica Bonde lives in Stockholm and did attend the King's 50th birthday party with her father and stepmother. However there seems to have been a falling out and the relationship is obviously made more complicated by the fact that she is a journalist with the gossip magazine Svensk Damtidning. Several years ago there was an ugly episode where she was filmed calling up Princess Lilian to ask questions about Princess Madeleine's lovelife without telling her aunt that their conversation was being recorded and broadcast.

    I am not an expert on Luxembourgian nobility and the situation is more complicated because several of the noble Bernadottes have changed their legal surname from "Bernadotte" to "Bernadotte af Wisborg", which means that they should technically be described as "Comte X Bernadotte af Wisborg de Wisborg" in Luxembourg.

    Lennart and Sonja Bernadotte's daughters still use the title Countess Bernadotte af Wisborg having married, while his eldest daughter of his first marriage has reverted to "Countess Birgitta Bernadotte af Wisborg" following her divorce from Fritz Straehl. If this is strictly speaking legal I have no idea, but at least it seems the Grand Duke of Luxembourg has not objected.

    Apparently it is also deemed acceptable that divorced wives continue to use the title - at least Sigvard Bernadotte's second wife Sonja and Lennart Bernadotte's first wife Karin did so (I do not know what each of Jan Bernadotte's six ex-wives have done!).

    But the fact that Carl Johan Bernadotte's children were simply Christian Bernadotte and Monica Bernadotte (she later became Countess Bonde af Björnö by marriage) at least makes it clear that the title of count(ess) is not to be borne by adopted children.

  4. Trond,
    Have you ever heard of Princess Margaretha having a alcohol problem?


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