Prince Axel of Denmark
|Prince Axel of Denmark and Iceland|
12 August 1888|
|Died||14 July 1964
|Spouse||Princess Margaretha of Sweden|
|Issue||Prince George Valdemar
Prince Flemming (later Count of Rosenborg)
|Father||Prince Valdemar of Denmark|
|Mother||Princess Marie of Orléans|
Axel Christian Georg, Prince of Denmark and Iceland, RE, SKmd (Danish: Prins Axel Christian Georg til Danmark og Island; 12 August 1888 in Copenhagen – 14 July 1964 in Copenhagen) was a Danish and Icelandic prince, a grandson of Christian IX of Denmark and a first cousin of Christian X of Denmark, Haakon VII of Norway, Constantine I of Greece, George V of the United Kingdom, Nicholas II of Russia and Ernest Augustus III, Duke of Brunswick. Prince Axel was a popular patron of sports. He was a prominent International Olympic Committee member and activist and also a business executive. In 1963, Prince Axel became the first honorary member of the IOC in history. He was an officer in the Royal Danish Navy.
Life and family
Early life and military career
Prince Axel was born on 12 August 1888 at Copenhagen. He was the second son of Prince Valdemar of Denmark and his wife, Princess Marie d'Orléans. His parents' marriage was said to be a political match.
Prince Axel served in the Navy and gained the rank of Admiral.
Marriage and family
On 22 May 1919, he married Princess Margaretha of Sweden, his first cousin once removed and the eldest daughter of Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. The wedding took place in the Cathedral of Stockholm and was celebrated with great festivities around the city. Princess Margaretha's mother, Princess Ingeborg of Denmark, was Prince Axel's paternal first cousin, as they shared the royal grandfather, King Christian IX of Denmark. The marriage was a love match and the bride's mother remarked that the couple were so much in love that they could not be left alone in a furnished room.
Prince Axel and Princess Margaretha had two sons:
- Prince George Valdemar Carl Axel was born on 16 April 1920 and died on 29 September 1986. He married Anne, Viscountess Anson in 1950 and had no children.
- Prince Flemming Valdemar Carl Axel was born on 9 March 1922 and died on 19 June 2002. He was morganatically married to Alice Ruth Nielsen in 1949. He became a Count of Rosenborg and had three sons and one daughter.
The couple was given the Bernstorffshøj, a villa located near Bernstorff Palace in Gentofte, outside Copenhagen, as their wedding gift and settled there immediately in 1919. The Bernstorff estate was the residence of Prince Valdemar and his family inherited by him from his father, Christian IX, in 1906. The Bernstorffshøj was the birthplace of Prince Axel and Princess Margaretha's elder son, Goerg Valdemar, in 1920. In 1922 the Prince lost most of his money when the Landmandsbanken collapsed. In June 1936 the original 19th-century house was seriously damaged by a fire caused by a maid leaving an electric iron plugged into a socket. After that accident, Prince Axel rebuilt it on a grander scale. He chose Helweg Møller as the main architect. Møller's logo, a star, appears on the door handles and other places in the home. Prince Axel had been a naval officer and the house was designed to evoke being on a ship, with the bridge situated on the top terrace and the compass set into the marble in the front hall. After the death of Prince Valdemar in 1939, the right to use the whole Bernstorff estate passed to Prince Axel, but he chose to remain in the more modest Bernstorffshøj. Since he ceased to use the Palace and until very recently, it was used by the Danish Emergency Management Agency as an academy for non-commissioned officers. However, the Prince petitioned the government to permit him and his family to be buried on the grounds of the Palace.
During the German occupation of Denmark during the 2nd world war, the Bernstorffshøj villa was the place of meeting of members of the Danish Resistance and the neighbouring Brødrehøj was used as an arsenal for the Resistance. Because of that, Prince Axel was finally for a time put under house arrest.
After the death of Princess Margaretha in 1977, the site of her and Prince Axel's residence in Bernstorff was bought in 1978 by the British Government and changed into the Residence of its Ambassador in Denmark. The new occupants however kept the late Princely couple's private library, containing an admirable number of books about fishing and sailing, most of them in English and Danish and also some of them, containing written messagges to Prince Axel from other European royals.
Death and burial
Prince Axel lived with his wife, Princess Margaretha, at the Bernstorffshøj villa until his death. He died on July 14, 1964, in Bispebjerg Hospitalet, Bispebjerg. His wife died on January 4, 1977, in Tranemosegård, Kongsted near Fakse. They are both buried on the grounds of Bernstorff Palace, alongside their sons and daughters-in law.
Official duties and interests
Prince Axel and Princess Margaretha accompanied Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Knud on their longtime tour of Asia in 1930. Prince Axel was one of the godparents of future Queen Margrethe II of Denmark at her baptism on 14 May 1940 in the Church of Holmen in Copenhagen. In 1947, Prince Axel and Princess Margaretha with their sons, Princes Georg and Flemming, were among the official guests at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, future Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh. On September 4, 1948, Prince Axel represented King Frederick IX at the inauguration of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. In 1953, Prince Axel and Princess Margaretha represented the King at the coronation of Elizabeth II.
Prince Axel was a popular figure in Denmark, involved in the promotion and development of sports as well as business. He was a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee for Denmark. At the 55th IOC Session in Tokyo in 1958, Prince Axel, a member of the IOC taking part in the session, officially proposed making the work composed by Spyridon Samaras the official Olympic anthem. Prince Axel was a prominent member of the IOC and he openly supported Lord Porritt's proposal of limiting the age of the Committee members to 70 since the St. Moritz session in 1948. However, the proposals were not accepted by the majority of the Committee and they were finally implemented in 1966. For his services to the Olympic movement, he was awarded unanimously the Olympic Order of Merit in 1963. Since his election as a member of the IOC in 1932, Prince Axel travelled over 160,000 kilometres around the world in advance of his duties. In 31 years of his active service in the Committee, the Prince missed only one of its sessions. In 1963, Prince Axel was nominated to become the first honorary member of the IOC.
Prince Axel was a pioneer of the motor sports in Denmark, the President of the Royal Danish Automobile Club from 1920 until 1938. The Prince held Denmark's number 10 pilot's licence, gained in 1912.
Prince Axel was a member of the Board and for some time Chairman of the Board of the SAS, Scandinavian Airlines System. In 1937 he succeeded Hans Niels Andersen, the founder of the East Asiatic Company, as its Chairman of the Board and managing director. The Prince stopped managing the company in 1953, but retained the position of the Chairman until his death in 1964. In 1948, during his visit to Melbourne, Australia as an IOC member and an executive of the 1956 Summer Olympics organising committee, he discussed also widely possible expansion of the SAS air business in Australia, in his capacity as a member of the board of the company.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 12 August 1888 – 14 July 1964: His Royal Highness Prince Axel of Denmark
- Thailand : Knight of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri
- Belgium : Knight Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
- Norway : Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav
- Sweden : Knight of the Order of the Seraphim
- Prussia : Knight of Order of the Black Eagle
- British Commonwealth : Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
- Olympic Diploma of Merit (1963)
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