Tuesday, 13 September 2016

At the road's end: Countess Gunnila Bernadotte af Wisborg (1923-2016)

The Swedish royal court has just announced that the King's aunt by marriage, Countess Gunnila Bernadotte af Wisborg, widow of the late former Prince Carl Johan, died yesterday. She was 93.
She was born Countess Gunnila Märta Louise Wachtmeister af Johannishus on 12 May 1923, the daughter of Count Nils Wachtmeister af Johannishus, who was Master of the Horse at the royal court, and his wife Märtha, née Baroness de Geer af Leufsta. Her paternal grandfather, Count Fredrik Wachtmeister, had a distinguished public career and was Minister of Foreign Affairs in the autumn of 1905, which gave him a crucial role in the dissolution of the personal union between Sweden and Norway. Her mother's sister Marianne was the first wife of Count Carl Bernadotte af Wisborg, the eldest son of Prince Oscar Bernadotte.
On 31 October 1942, Gunnila married Carl-Herman "Bibo" Bussler, who became managing director of the Swedish branch of British Petroleum. They had four children: Louise (1943-1986), Catharina (1946-1946), Madeleine (born 1948) and Carl-Fredrik, always known as Fred (born 1951). Bussler died on 29 June 1981, but some years later Gunnila found a new love in Count Carl Johan Bernadotte, the youngest son of King Gustaf VI Adolf, who had forfeited his royal rights and titles when he married the journalist Kerstin Wijkmark in 1946. Gunnila and Carl Johan had known each other practically all their lives, he told me when I interviewed him in 2004 and related how he had found his own signature in the guest book at Tistad Palace from 1930, when he was at boarding school with her eldest brother Claes. During their first marriages they moved in the same social circles and the two couples were good friends. He described Gunnila's first husband as "a very charming man".
Gunnila Bussler and Carl Johan Bernadotte married on 29 September 1988 in Copenhagen, a wedding hosted by his sister Queen Ingrid. It was by all accounts a very happy marriage and although they married late in life they almost made it to their silver wedding. In a statement today, King Carl Gustaf says that Gunnila was "much appreciated, [a] close and loyal friend in our family and will be greatly missed by us".
Carl Johan and Gunnila Bernadotte lived in a small villa in the hills above Båstad in Skåne, on Sweden's southwest coast, but after his death on 5 May 2012 she moved to an apartment downtown (as she could not drive a car she found it impossible to keep living outside town). In recent years she had health troubles and lived in a nursing home in Båstad. I believe she was last seen at a royal event when Princess Leonore was christened in June 2014.
On a personal note I found Countess Gunnila Bernadotte a friendly lady with a quiet dignity and discretion. In an undemonstrative way, hers and Carl Johan Bernadotte's love for each other was obvious.


  1. Didn't she have three children with first husband, Louise, Madeleine and Carl Frederik

    1. I only know of two (Madeleine and Carl-Fredrik, always known as Fred) and only those two signed Carl Johan Bernadotte's death announcement in 2012. If there were indeed a third child named Louise she must have died early.

  2. I saw several sources that mentioned Louise born in 1943. Dag just confirmed that Louise was the first child and she died unmarried in 1986

  3. A very interesting article as always.

    The eldest daughter Louise Bussler (b. 1943 17/8) died 1986 26/12 in Nyköping, according to Sveriges Dödbok 1901-2013.

  4. Yes, Dag T. Hoelseth and I discussed this earlier tonight and I updated the text accordingly. The fact that she died before her mother married Carl Johan Bernadotte explains why I have never heard of her (I have little interest in genealogy for genealogy's sake) and why only two children were registered as Gunnila Bernadotte's heirs when Carl Johan Bernadotte transferred ownership of his villa to her in 2010.

  5. It seems that there was a fourth child, Catharina Bussler, b. 21 July 1946, d. 8 August 1946, cf. the cemetery register maintained by the Swedish Genealogical Society, http://grav.genealogi.se/Gravsokview.php?g_id=157290

    Catharina is buried next to Carl-Herman and Louise. Should of course try to find an independent source that confirms the relationship.


  6. thanks. I can concur that she was very nice. When they were in DC about a decade ago, they asked Count Peder Bonde to invite me to lunch at his house, when they were guests ... a wonderful afternoon


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