Last Saturday, 12 March, I attended the Order of the Seraphim’s bell tolling in memory of Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern (1932-2016), husband of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s sister Princess Birgitta, at the Riddarholmen Church in Stockholm.
As per tradition, the bell of the Riddarholmen Church tolls for one hour between noon and 1 PM on the funeral day of a knight or member of the Order of the Seraphim, during which members of the public may visit the church and pay their respects. At some point after the service, the seraphim shield of the deceased is then mounted on the walls of the church. Since 1807 the Riddarholmen Church is no longer an active church but functions only as a royal resting place and church for the Order of the Seraphim, making the bell ceremonies after the death of a knight or member of the order one of the very few times one can hear the bell toll and visit the church as an active one.
King Carl XVI Gustaf had ordered flags to be flown at half-mast at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, Drottningholm Palace and Slottsbacken 2 until 1:30 PM on this day. Prince Johann Georg’s seraphim shield was taken from the Royal Palace to the Riddarholmen Church by a grenadier escort and placed on a table at the chancel of the church where a small group of musicians from the Life Guards were positioned. The bell tolled for one hour during which the musicians performed a few pieces of music and Tom Bergroth, senior curator at the Royal Orders of Knighthood, read out the basic details of the prince’s life in Swedish and German.
Prince Johann Georg was, together with his brother Fürst Friedrich Wilhelm (d. 2010), appointed to Knight of the Order of the Seraphim in connection with his marriage to Princess Birgitta in 1961.
Prince Johann Georg’s funeral took place at the Hedinger Church in Sigmaringen, part of a former Franciscan monastery and the final resting place for the Sigmaringen branch of the house of Hohenzollern. Apart from the widow Princess Birgitta and members of the Hohenzollern families guests included King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, Princess Désirée Baroness Silfverschiöld, Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld, Princess Christina Mrs Magnuson and Sibylla von Dincklage represented Princess Margaretha Mrs Ambler. From the German houses guests included Margrave Max of Baden, Duke Franz of Bavaria, Duke Max in Bavaria, Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Prince Andreas of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha.