Princess Birgitta of Hohenzollern, Princess of Sweden, turns 75 today. The older sister of King Carl XVI Gustaf, Princess Birgitta Ingeborg Alice was born at Haga Palace outside Stockholm, now the home of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, on 19 January 1937.
She was the second of the five children born to Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla and had only just turned ten when her father died in a plane accident on 26 January 1947. Princess Birgitta studied at the Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm, but was not allowed to pursue her intention of training as a physiotherapist.
Having turned down a proposal from Shah Mohammed Reza of Iran, Princess Birgitta eventually married Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, a younger brother of the late Fürst Friedrich Wilhelm of Hohenzollern. The civil wedding was held at the Royal Palace in Stockholm on 25 May 1961, followed by a religious blessing in Sigmaringen five days later.
At the time of her marriage Princess Birgitta converted to Catholicism, but has stated that she has since “distanced” herself from the Catholic church due to her resentment over how “they forced me to sign a paper saying that I should live as a Catholic and raise my children as Catholics”.
Furthermore, her grandfather King Gustaf VI Adolf’s wish that a Lutheran priest should bless the couple was vetoed by Pope Johannes (John) XXIII himself. Apparently unbeknown to Princess Birgitta this seems to have been the result of a dispute between the Swedish and Belgian royal families and Pope Pius XI when the Lutheran Princess Astrid of Sweden married the Catholic Prince Léopold of Belgium in 1926.
As she was the only of the four sisters to marry “equally”, Princess Birgitta is also alone among them of remaining the style Royal Highness and her membership of the Swedish royal house. However, she is not in line of succession to the throne.
Following their wedding, Princess Birgitta and Prince Johann Georg settled in Munich, where “Hansi”, who holds a doctorate in art history, eventually became head of the Alte Pinakothek.
The couple had three children – Carl Christian, Désirée and Hubertus – but when the children moved out, Princess Birgitta realised that she and her husband had nothing in common and consequently left him in 1990 to set up home in Majorca, where she has lived ever since, spending most of her time playing golf.
However, the couple are neither separated nor divorced and Princess Birgitta insists that this arrangement works well for them. They keep up appearances by attending family events together, and the Princess vented her fury in public when her husband some years ago was photographed at some event with his mistress.
While Princess Birgitta goes to Munich twice a year to visit her family, Prince Johann Georg has not been to Munich since her seventieth birthday in 2007. Their golden wedding anniversary last year was celebrated in Munich.
In 1997 Princess Birgitta published her memoirs, Min egen väg(“My Own Way”). She has also given many interviews through the years and become known for her outspokenness. On the occasion of her anniversary today she has been interviewed by Svensk Damtidning, but this does not contain much of interest (perhaps except for the fact that she has “thrown away the family silver”). The birthday will be celebrated by a dinner with friends.