Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (1934-2017)

"It is with great sorrow that I, on behalf of Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte, announce that His Highness Prince Richard has passed away.
His Highness died suddenly at the castle in Berleburg yesterday evening, Monday 13 March.

Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte travelled home to Berleburg on Tuesday morning after a short stay in Denmark.
Tommy M. Paulsen, Private Secrtary for HRH Princess Benedikte

Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, the husband of Princess Benedikte of Denmark, died on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Schloss Berleburg.  The Prince was 82 years old.

HH Prince Richard Casimir Karl August Robert Konstantin of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg was born at Giessen on October 29, 1934, the eldest of five children of  Gustav Albrecht, 5th Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg  and Margareta Fouché d'Ortrante, a member of Swedish noble family.

The prince was named for his paternal grandfather, Richard, who had been killed in a car accident in 1925.

One of Prince Richard's godmothers was Queen Ingrid of Denmark, a princess of Sweden by birth. Margareta Fouché d' Ortrante was one of Ingrid's friends from childhood. They had grown up together as Marguerite's father, Charles Louis, Duke of Otrante, was equerry to Ingrid's grandfather, King Gustav V of Sweden.  Both the Bernadottes and the Fouchés came to Sweden from France.

A year before the end of the second world war,  Gustav Albrecht disappeared in the eastern front of the war.  He was officially declared dead in 1968.  Shortly after Germany's capitulation,  Margareta took her children to her parents' home near Stockholm.  Richard and his siblings were enrolled in Swedish schools.   Margareta was named as Richard's guardian until his 21st birthday in 1955.

He matriculated from Sigtuna, and, following his Swedish exams, he returned to Germany to study forest science at Munich University, and begin preparation for the running of the Berleburg estates in Germany and in Canada, where he also spent time studying.  He received a forestry diploma from the University of Göttingen.

Prince Richard and Princess Benedikte first met at the wedding of Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands in March 1966.

The first hints of an engagement came on March 1967, when the Palace in Copenhagen acknowledged their relationship.  A Palace spokesman told the press that the engagement was "still unofficial" because Princess Benedikte's father, King Frederik XI and the Danish Parliament had to give their assent.

The official announcement came on June 4, 1967, after the engagement had been "cleared through the State Council" after  all the "political groups in Parliament had approved the plans in talks with Premier Jens Otto Krag," reported the Associated Press at the time.

[In September 1966,  a Copenhagen newspaper, Ekstrabladet, reported that Benedikte was about to become engaged to Prince Robin, 28, of Sayn-Wittengstein-Berleburg.  Right family, wrong brother!)

Princess Benedikte, who was nine years Richard's junior, is the second of three daughters of King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid.  Her younger sister, Anne-Marie married King Constantine II of the Hellenes in 1964,  and her elder sister, now Queen Margrethe,  married Henri de Laborde de Monpetzat, six days after the official announcement of Benedikte's engagement.

The marriage between Princess Benedikte and Prince Richard took place at chapel at Schloss Fredensborg, 25 miles north of Copenhagen.   The bride;s gown was of, according to the New York Times, "off-white diamond satin with matching lace."   She wore the same veil  worn by her mother, Queen Ingrid, and her two sisters, Margrethe and Anne-Marie, at their weddings.  The veil was a wedding gift to Queen Ingrid's mother, Princess Margaret of Connaught, from Irish women, when she married Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden in 1905.

Princess Margaret was the eldest of three children of the Duke of Connaught, the seventh of nine children of Queen Victoria.  More than 200 guests attended the wedding and the reception held in the great hall of Schloss Fredensborg.

The guests included the bride's maternal grandfather, King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden,  her godmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, King Olav V of Norway.   After their honeymoon, the couple moved into a wing in Schloss Berleburg.

The couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 1993 in Copenhagen, after they had abandoned plans to celebrated at Schloss Berleburg.  Due to Germany's then "difficult economic situation," Prince Richard was forced to downsize his staff at Schloss Berleburg.  Queen Margrethe II came to her sister and brother-in-law's rescue, and offered to host the party in Denmark.

Prince Richard and Princess Benedikte, who chose to remained styled as HRH Princess of Denmark, divided their time between Schloss Berleburg and Denmark, where the Princess has continued to carry out official engagements.

In 2004, in an interview with the Hindu Business Line, Princess Benedikte was asked if her marriage was arrange or if she married for love.

"No, mine was not an arranged marriage. I met my husband at a wedding in Holland."

The princess was asked if the meeting was "love at first sight?"  

"Actually I quite fancied him." She added that there were some problems "because my husband was not totally royalty ... But we were in love and overcame the problems.  He is German and luckily he had a strong Swedish family tie -- his mother was from the Swedish noble family -- and there were other ties too."

At the time of their wedding, Prince Richard was described as a "practical businessman with no presentations with a disarming sense of humor."

At the time of his 75th birthday,  Prince Richard spoke to the media.  He talked about rejecting a Danish princely title: "I never regretted, and I never took the proposal seriously.  Neither did I take it seriously when it was suggested from Danish quarters that I should give up Berleburg and settle in Denmark.  I said 'No' as fast as I could."

Benedikte retained her succession rights, but because her children were German citizens and educated in Germany,  they have no rights to the Danish throne.

"It would have been a catastrophe for me if Benedikte had become queen. I was not born to that sort of life.  Had it come to that, I should have dentures by now, as I should have been grinding my teeth from morning to night."

Prince Richard said that Queen Ingrid (his godmother) was "downright unhappy" that Benedikte "chose me -- it was the last thing she wanted. She hated Germans until her death.  My luck was that Benedikte is as stubborn as her mother."

He also said that he "learned a long time ago" to never ask Queen Margrethe "about Danish history.  If I do, I get a never-ending lecture."

Prince Richard suffered with prostate cancer for many years.  He was also treated for skin cancer.  "Princess Benedikte didn't know how to help me, when I was ill.  She can't cope with illness, and she doesn't understand tell me when she is ill herself.  She tries to be kind-- she does, but I just don't think she understands how hard it is to be ill."

He preferred country life to cities.  "I hate cities," he said. "Then you have to go shopping with your wife. It's terrible -- a ground for divorce," Prince Richard added with a laugh.  It's the worst you can do.  Then she has to look at shoes, at least 20 pairs, it takes time, and none of them fit,.  Then we walk around the next corner another shoe shop. I can't stand it."

Prince Richard was raised in the Lutheran church.  He said, however, "Religion does not matter at all to me.  I know as little as anyone if there is a God or something else, but it means nothing for my part.  I am a declared Protestant and I certainly do not agree with the Pope, who preaches that you may only sleep with one particular woman to father children.  God is not to decide when I sleep with my wife, and if one should follow the Pope's words, one could hardly ever have an intimate moment in the marriage."

[The original interview was translated by Stig Sivebæk Nielsen.]

In 2013,  Prince Richard made plans to release a small herd of bison into the wild in North Rhine Westphalia, for the first time in nearly three centuries.  The Prince had a passion for animals since a childhood, a passion shared with his son, Gustav, who has run the estates since shortly after reaching his majority.

Prince Richard is survived by his widow, Princess Benedikte, their three children,  Prince Gustav, 48, Princess Alexandra, 46, the wife of Count Jefferson von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth, and Princess Nathalie, 41, who is married to Alexander Johannsmann, and four grandchildren, Count Richard and Countess Ingrid von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth and Konstantin and Louisa Johannsmann.   He is also survived by his brother, Prince Robin, and his three sisters, Princess Madeleine, Countess zu Solms-Laubach; Princess Tatjana and Princess Pia, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

In Denmark,  the late King Frederik XI gave an Order in Council that Prince Richard and his children would be styled in Denmark as His or Her Highness.   In Germany and elsewhere, the family remains Serene Highnesses.   Princesses Alexandra and Nathalie are naturalized Danish citizens (this action did not give them succession rights), and Nathalie has been a member of the Danish equestrian team.  In 2008, she was a member of the Danish dressage team that won the Bronze medal at the Summer Olympic Games.

Hereditary Prince Gustav succeeds as the titular 7th  Fürst of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg.

Prince Richard's death was sudden.  Princess Benedikte was in Denmark when her husband died.  She returned to Berleburg earlier today.

The funeral will be held on March 21 at 2 p.m., at the Evangelischen Stadtkirche in Bad Berleburg.


Marlene Eilers Koenig Collection

Marlene Eilers Koenig Collection

Marlene Eilers Koenig Collection





Kalnel said...

Marlene, nice obit, but I think your math was off on the children's ages. They're in their forties. :-)

Diane Brown said...

Well this is terribly sudden and sad news :(

Brent said...

This is indeed sad news.Thoughts and prayers to his family.

Furkat said...

Very sad news