mainau

Count Lennart Bernadotte, a Swedish royal rebel who designed and implemented a superb garden and who rejected his title of prince so he could marry a commoner, died on December 22nd, 2004, at his home, the Mainau Estate in Germany. His garden/estate, known as Mainau, continues to be a wonderful garden that attracts thousands of tourists, year round ~ in fact 1.7 million.

As a nephew of the Swedish King Carl Gustav’s grandfather he was a peripheral member of the Swedish royal family. His father was Prince Wilhelm and his mother was Maria Pavlovna, a cousin of the last tsar. They divorced when Lennart was five years old and he went to live with his grandfather and grandmother, King Gustav IV and Queen Victoria. Apparently it was quite a strict upbringing.

But, as the Swedish newspaper, Expressen, put it, "he won the people’s hearts when he put love before royalty." By marrying in
England
in 1932, Lennart Bernadotte was the first member of the Swedish royal family to marry against the palace’s wishes. He married Karin Emma Louise Nissvandt, the daughter of a Swedish industrialist, against the wishes of his family. He assumed the family name of Bernadotte which, under the Swedish Act of Succession, is mandatory for any prince or princess who marries without the royal family’s consent. He was consequently stripped of his inheritance.

You can get to the island by walking across a bridge from a small town on the mainland in southern Germany, or by a number of different boat lines from Switzerland or Italy ~ all are close by.

 The Count described how he developed the 18th century mansion, with its botanic garden and park, into a training and conference centre. Lennart Bernadotte combined his interest in horticulture with a passion for photography, and often displayed his pictures of the thousands of plant varieties at Mainau. "We have so many that we can’t count them any more," he told an interviewer 12 years ago, when his photographs were on display in Stockholm. "But I think we have around 1,200 types of rose and over 700 different tulips." In 1971 he hit the headlines again when he divorced Karin Nissvandt. According to the German press he said he would never marry again!

But a year later the 63 year old announced that he was marrying his gardener’s daughter, Sonja Haunz, who was just 28. "She is the joy of life itself," he told a newspaper at the time. They had five children together, adding to the four he had with his first wife.

The Swedish Expressen noted that while he may have lost his royal title, he and his second wife were named 1991’s "World Swedes of the Year". Indeed, his longevity seemed to bring him back into the bosom of the royal family. In an interview in 1994, Bernadotte, said he looked back on his life with no regrets. "I have lived a happy life and I still think it is fun," he said. In May of 2004 King Carl Gustav, Queen Victoria
 and their children joined Lennart Bernadotte at Mainau to celebrate his 95th birthday.

"Without humor, one doesn’t become old," he once said. And, 72 years after being stripped of his title by one king of Sweden, was amused to be receiving another at his home.

 The first time I visited Mainau was for training with Bodenseewerk Perkin-Elmer GmbH in 1976. This island-garden remains as beautiful and scenic as ever. The posted pictures are from the Mainau library. [Personal photos are posted under "shared" folders].

 

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