The Comital Bernadotte af Wisborg Family, Current Events Part 1: April 2003 -
94-year-old Count Lennart Bernadotte (front) sits surrounded by his daughter Bettina (L) and his wife Countess Sonja Bernadotte standing behind him and smile at Bernadotte's estate on the island of Mainau, Germany, 27 March 2003. His 29-year-old daughter Bettina will take over the family business, the Mainau GmbH a tourism and management consultancy, in a few years time. Once Bettina turns 30 her title will change from Comtesse to Countess Bettina Bernadotte.
Lennart Bernadotte passed away at Mainau last night. Count Lennart Bernadotte, 95, is dead. He passed away last night in his home, the estate Mainau at the Bodensee Lake in Germany. According to the press service at the estate, he calmly fell asleep with his family present. The Count, who lost his right to the Swedish crown in 1932, was active into the end.
As late as in May this year, the father of nine received the whole Royal Family in his home when he had triple reasons to celebrate: his own 95th birthday, wife Sonja’s 60th birthday and their shared 32nd wedding anniversary. - I still feel young, he told Aftonbladet at that time.
Lennart Bernadotte was the son of Prince Wilhelm, King Gustav VI Adolf’s brother. He was by that our King’s grandfather’s nephew.
It really stormed around him at two occasions in his life – both times because of the women in his life. He married at a civil ceremony in England in 1932 with commoner Karin Nissvandt, a woman of the people, despite that King Gustav V was furious and took away his Princely title. The next storm was in 1971. That was when the Count announced that his marriage to Karin was over.
The divorce was given a lot of attention. To get away fro the rumours that he had left his wife for a younger woman, Count Bernadotte told German press: - I will never re-marry.
But two years later, on 6 May 1972, he announced his second marriage. At age 63, he was married to his secretary, Sonja Hautz, 28. - She is the joy of life in itself, Lennart Bernadotte said as he received Aftonbladet at Mainau a few days later. And it stayed she and the Count for life.
Count Lennart Bernadotte has passed away, writes Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Internet edition. Lennart Bernadotte, who became 95 years old, passed away in his home at Mainau on Tursday, says a spokesperson for the Mainau estate.
Lennart Bernadotte was born in 1909. He was the son of Prince Wilhelm, King Gustav VI Adolf’s brother, and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. When Lennart Bernadotte was four years old, his mother left the family, and Lennart ended up with his grandmother – Queen Victoria, where he was raised.
He was the first one in the Swedish Royal Family to revolt against the duty of marrying according to Court rules instead of following own emotions. When he in 1932 married Karin Nissvandt, he lost his right to the Swedish crown and also his Princely and Ducal title. Instead he got a Count title by the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg in 1951 – Count of Wisborg.
In 1932, Lennart Bernadotte took over his father’s estate Mainau on an island in the Bodensee Lake in Germany. On the island, there was a baroque palace from the 1700’s with a botanical garden and large park. There, Lennart Bernadotte founded a conference centre that has become a large attraction, and is also visited by many Swedes. Since 1974 it is owned and run by a foundation.
Lennart Bernadottes big interest has been gardening. He grew and worked with his garden, and it has through the years made Mainau what it is today. But his gardening interest has run side by side with his photographical interest and he was a skilled photographer who many times held exhibitions with his nature- and floral photographs. He hasn’t had a hard time to find motifs – on his Mainau there are thousands and thousand of different species.
- We have so many that one can’t keep track of it anymore, but I think we have about 1 200 different kinds of roses, and over 700 kinds of tulips, he said in an interview with DN eleve years ago in connection with his photographic exhibition at Haga garden in Stockholm.
In 1971, Lennart Bernadotte divorced Karin and after that re-married with the 35 years younger German born Sonja Hantz, daughter of a gardener. Lennart Bernadotte had nine children, four from his first marriage and five from the second.
On his 95th birthday in the beginning of May this year, which was celebrated together with the Swedish Royal Family, it was reported that he was in a great mood and planted a tree in the park together with Queen Silvia.
- Without a sense of humour, you won’t get to be very old, he said.
Count Lennart Bernadotte is dead. He passed away last night in his home Mainau at the Bodensee Lake in Germany. He became 95 years old.
Count Lennart Bernadotte on Mainau – born a Swedish Prince and Duke of Småland – born in Stockholm 1909. Lennart Bernadotte was since the mid 1930’s highly associated with Mainau, the palace and the flower island in the Bodensee Lake in south Germany close to the Switz border. His name was also mentioned with great respect in dendrological circles the world over. Mainau, that he took over after his father, Prince Wilhelm – who in his turn had inherited it from his mother Queen Victoria – he built up to be one of the worlds most beautiful palace garden and park establishments. The flower island became place tourist were attracted to. Every year Mainau is visited by several million tourists.
Lennart Bernadotte took over Mainau in 1932. Then the both the palace – built in 1745 – as well as park and garden were both in great decline. Queen Victoria inherited it in 1928, the palace had belonged to the Grand Ducal family of Baden, where Victoria’s father Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden, a known amateur dendrologist, had planted in a good numnber of exotic trees.
With hard and goal-oriented work, Lennart Bernadotte created his flower island. He often said that he and Mainau so easily understood each other. It can be mentioned that he in 1979 became a Honorary Doctor at the Stuttgardt-Hohenheim University and ten years later at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He was also president of a German society and he took the inititiative to “Our village will become more beautiful”, a national project that engaged the whole Germany and grew to become a national movement.
Lennart Bernadotte was also a known peacemaker. After living in neutral Sweden during the war, he returned to Mainau in 1946. He opened Mainau for camp activities under the direction of the YWCA/YMCA, and soon similar activities started to occur all around West Germany.
The new home country took his services immediately. He started and lead the Nobel Symposium in Lindau for 30 years. These had been initiated in 1951 by a group of German doctors to break the country’s isolation after the war; the symposiums opened the possibility for contact between the whole world of scientists. And it was on the island of Mainau that the “Mainau Manifesto” came to be, when in 1955 a number of Nobel Laureated called on the nations of the world to give up the devlopment of the atomic bomb.
Count Bernadotte also placed his island on the cultural map, becayse on Mainau, the “Mainau Green Map” was written. It was in 1961. It was a “life guide” in 12 items, the Count explained, that covered the basic conditions for a healthy human life. Lennart Bernadotte also developed to become a skilled nature photographer, specialised in so called macro techniques. He participated in exhibitions the world over. The interest for photography was something he had since being a child, he got his first camera in the early teens. During the war years at home in Sweden, he worked as a photographer and director for Europafilm and founded his own film company Artfilm.
Lennart Bernadotte’s upbringing was mostly taken care of by his grandmother, Queen Victoria. He described her as hard but loving. The relationship to his father he recalled as friendly; the cultural life on Stenhammar was very different in contrast to the Court etiquette that surrounded grandmother.
When Lennart Bernadotte in 1932 married Karin Nissvandt, he lost his princely rights. The scandal was a fact and the wedding was not allowed to take place on Swedish land. Therefore the couple was wed in London, in a civil ceremony. The marriage was started against Gustav V’s wishes. Lennart Bernadotte was titles “Mr” until he in 1952 was bestowed with the tile Count of Wisborg by Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg.
Lennart Bernadotte quickly adjusted to the role as a “normal Swede”. In Germany he was seen as German, which among things led to him – by his own astonishment – was suggested to run for President after Theodor Heuss!
Lennart Bernadotte was born on the Royal Palace of Sotckholm on 8 May 1909. Parents were Prince Wilhelm, Hereditary Prince, Duke of Södermanland, and Grand Duchesss Maria Pavlovna of Russia (grandchild of Tsar Alexander II).The couple divorced in 1914. Princess Maria is buried at Mainau palace church, Prince Wilhelm on the cemetery in Flen.
Lennart Bernadotte was the first one of Gustav V’s grandchildren who married in a civil ceremony. Also the Princes Sigvard and Carl Johan – and also Prince Carl’s son Prince Carl Jr. – lost their rights to the Swedish crown when they committed to civil marriages.
Lennart and Karin divorced in 1972. Lennart Bernadotte then married Sonja Hauntz, an employee of the palace. With her he has five children. In the first marriage he had four. Karin Bernadotte passed away in 1991. After the divorce she lived in Konstanz, a few kilometres from Mainau.
Count Lennart kept a continuous contact with his first wife, he was keen on bonding between his two families, and until Karin’s death the both wifes socialised. In 1995, Lennart wrote the second part of his memoirs, in which he among things tells openly about his first marriage’s happiness and agony.
Lennart Bernadotte was happy and spontaneous, had an easy time socialising and early on established a good relationship with the media. During the crisis years in Sweden, he worked with theatre and film, and was active in different cultural and organisations – and was the general of Barnens Dag (the Day of the Children).
The family spent the summers in Sweden, often “Stella Nova” was seen with the Count at the rudder, anchoring in Swedish waters. Then Mariefred became a set place (they have a summer home there somewhere).
Lennart Bernadotte called himself a world citizen. But the bonds to home was strongs – in 1991 he and Sonja were elected “The Swedish Person in the World of the Year Award” by Svenska Dagbladet (an award given out every year).
He said that he never let himself forget the smell of the Sweidh summer night, because was there anything more lovely? Well maybe, the Mainau paradise itself.
With the passing of Lennart Bernadotte, the Count of Wisborg - his wife Countess Sonja and daughter Countess Bettina will carry on in his spirit. Sonja has since many years now been the President of the family company, and Bettina the Presidential secretary - preparing her for one day taking over as the head of the company and family.
Since 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine convene in turn at intervals of three years in Lindau for one week, always at the end of June/beginning of July. The purpose of the meetings is the open and informal contact between Laureates and students and young researchers through round table debates, lectures and personal small group discussions.The meeting always includes a visit to the palace at Mainau.
These annual events are organized and conducted by the Committee of the Meetings of Nobel Prize Winners in Lindau, headed by Sonja Countess Bernadotte af Wisborg. Count Lennart was the Honorary President until his death now.
Declaration by HM The King after the notice of Count Lennart Bernadotte af Wisborg's passing
With great grief and regret, I and my family have received the notice of Count Lennart Bernadotte's passing. His memory lives on through his life work Mainau, where he created a botanical and cultural attraction of the highest standard.