Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Count Carl-Johan Bernadotte and his family

A couple in love
All photos Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

Several years ago, I was invited to a lunch at the Washington home of Count and Countess Peder Bonde. Their lovely home, which featured many photos of the Swedish royal family, including a then recent one of Crown Princess Victoria, who had stayed with the the couple during a visit to D.C. The Count's second wife, Clarissa, an accomplished landscape painter, teachers at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. They met in 1994, when Count Peder, visited the Swedish-American Historical Museum in Pennsylvania. The Count once served as King Carl XVI Gustaf's Court Chamberlain before settling in the United States. He is also the former chairman of Investor International.

The guests of honor were Count Carl-Johan Bernadotte, who had wanted to meet me, and his wife, Gunnila. Lunch was superb, and the conversation flowed. Carl-Johan was very close to his sister, Queen Ingrid, but his brother, Count Sigvard, was largely estranged from the family. This was largely due to Sigvard's insistence that his royal title be restored. Carl-Johan did not share his brother's view. He said he accepted that he lost his royal titles and right of succession (and ceased to be a member of the royal family), when he married a Swedish commoner, Kerstin Wijkmark.

Their marriage took place at Riverside Church in New York City on February 19, 1946. As soon as the marriage was pronounced as legal, HRH Prince Carl Johan of Sweden, Duke of Dalarna, ceased to exist. He emerged as Mr. Carl Johan Bernadotte. No title.

Kerstin, whose first marriage ended in divorce, wore a "champagne beige wool suit, with a wreath of pale roses in her hair." She was escorted down the aisle of the "quiet dim chapel," by Hugh Fenwick, a family friend. A reception at the 21 Club followed the wedding.

Mr. and Mrs. Carl Bernadotte lived in the United States for five years before returning to Sweden. During that time, Carl Johan, in an interview with Ted Rosvall, noted that "We were really out in the cold. I did have some contact with my father throughout the years in the US, but not much."
At the time, Carl Johan was the New York representative of the Anglo-Nordic Trading Company, a Scandinavian firm.

Carl Johan's uncle, Prince Wilhelm, was the only member of the family to send a congratulatory telegram following the wedding. He was also the first member of the Royal family to invite Carl Johan and Kerstin to his home at Stenhammar, when they returned to Sweden in 1951.

As the couple were unable to have children of their own, they decided to adopt two children. Carl Johan, who received the title of Count Bernadotte af Wisborg, from Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg in July 1951, is a private citizen, and he did not need the permission of his father, King Gustav VI Adolf to go through the adoption process.

The couple's first child, a son, Christian, was born on December 13, 1949 in Stockholm. His parents died shortly after his birth, according to news accounts about the adoption, which was confirmed by Sweden's high court in June 1951. The adoption process began in 1950, when Christian was an infant.

On the day that the adoption was ratified, Carl Johan, 34, told reporters that he and his wife were in the process of adopting an orphaned girl from Austria.
On September 4, 1951, little Monika Heissler, who was born "to poor Austrian parents," left her home in Salzburg for the flight to Sweden, where she became Countess Monika Bernadotte af Wisborg.

Count and Countess Carl Johan met the little girl a month earlier when they attended the Salzburg music festival. They were "captivated by her and decided to adopt her," the New York Times reported. They learned about Monika's situation from Venezuela's minister to Stockholm, who was active in the Save the Children campaign in Europe.

Monika and Christian, who were raised in Sweden, have lived largely out of the limelight. In 1976, Monika married Count Johan Peder Bonde, the son of Count Peder Bonde. They had three children, Ebba, Marianne, and Carl Johan, before divorcing in 1997. Christian lives with his Swiss-born wife, Marianne, and their three children, Christina, Richard and Philip.

Richard Bernadotte is a graduate of Newcomb-Tulane College with a degree in liberal arts. He is based in the New Orleans area and is a director of operations for MSC Haiti. Philip is also involved in MSC Haiti. Their elder sister, Christina, is a graduate assistant at the Gillings School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill.


Christina is a graduate of Tufts University and the University of South Florida. Christian and Marianne Bernadotte reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio, after living for many years in the Atlanta, Georgia area.


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