Today the family pages of Swedish newspapers announced the death of Court Marshal Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna on 6 April.
Palmstierna’s death happened almost exactly one month after that of her boss and companion Princess Lilian, who died on 10 March, and her passing concludes an amazing sixty years of loyal service at the Royal Court.
Baroness Elisabeth Palmstierna was as loyal as they come and was until 2012, many years after the princess had been retired from public life, seen coming into work at the palace. With her residence at the Royal Mews, not far from the palace, she remained active until the end when she was assisted at her appearances.
Eva Margareta Elisabeth Tham was born on 28 April 1917 as the second daughter of Wilhelm Tham (of untitled nobility) and Countess Margareta Hamilton. She would come to have three sisters and one brother and father Wilhelm was a well-decorated chamberlain for Crown Princess later Queen Louise and later Court Marshal for King Gustaf VI Adolf.
Elisabeth started her working life in the service of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for which she worked as a secretary at the Swedish embassies in Helsinki, Warsaw and Rome between 1940 and 1950. In an interview connected to her 90th birthday in Svenska Dagbladet in 2007, Elisabeth remembered the horrors of Warsaw at the time of her posting; all the ruins, the ghetto, the horrible stench on the streets and sometimes having to talk over human body parts.
After her foreign service Elisabeth worked for companies AB Nobelkrut, Bofors and Sveriges Kreditbank before being interviewed for a position at the Royal Court. In 1953 she started in a clerical position at the Office of the Marshall of the Court. In 1962 she became Prince Bertil’s secretary and after experiencing condescending treatment in her contacts with the male dominated world both at court and in civil service, Elisabeth herself went to Prince Bertil and asked if it was possible to give her a titled position so that people would take her seriously. So in 1974 she was given the title Court Intendant, from 1979 First Court Intendant, and her task was to handle the Prince’s office work and later also that of his wife. In 1991 King Carl XVI Gustaf promoted her to Court Marshal – the first female such ever.
In 1959 Elisabeth married Baron Carl-Fredrik Palmstierna (1903-1993), a historian and Ph.D. who was King Gustaf VI Adolf’s private secretary and manager of his vast personal library. The couple had one child, daughter Margareta who was born in 1960.
During the years in royal service Palmstierna travelled around the world with Prince Bertil and later Princess Lilian for their official business. As their trusted companion as well as manager of their official business, Elisabeth was always a given guest at the smaller official dinners that the princely couple hosted at the palace as well as at birthday celebrations. As the prince became weaker in health during the 1990’s Elisabeth’s relationship to Princess Lilian was cemented even stronger, she really became a close friend and companion. In 1992 when Prince Bertil had to cancel his attendance at the Olympic Games in Albertville, it was Elisabeth who went with Princess Lilian and stayed with her.
In 1986 Elisabeth was awarded H.M. The King’s Medal in the 12th size with the ribbon of the Order of the Seraphim, the third-highest grade of the medal, for her royal services.