The Funeral of Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg

Many people from Bad Berleburg had been saying goodbye to their Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg already during the weekend. Possibly one of the reasons why there were not that many people standing in front of the church where his funeral service was being held on Tuesday 21 March. According to the local newspaper “Westfälische Rundschau” there were 72 men and women standing along the street (they apparently counted). Not that much, but then it was a Tuesday and many people were working, and above all, it was raining! At least in the afternoon. A few of them surely came from elsewhere. A friend of mine came from the South of Germany, others even from the Netherlands. The newspaper also lists a few people from Hessen.

In the morning the family zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg gathered at the castle chapel. At 9am the coffin containing the corpse of the prince was taken from the chapel by six pallbearers. They carried the coffin across the castle courtyard and placed it in a vehicle waiting there. His closest relatives – including his wife, children, two eldest grandchildren, siblings and some cousins – attended the short ceremony. Gustav, the new Prince – who as the new head of the family will call himself Fürst – followed the coffin with what looked like a cushion with orders, before joining his family. The car left accompanied by representatives from local marksmen’s clubs, and travelled at walking pace to the Evangelische Stadtkirche (Protestant Town Church) of Bad Berleburg, just a few hundred metres away. The family didn’t follow and disappeared inside the castle. The coffin was brought into the church.

The church opened its doors again at 12.30pm, the service itself started at 2pm. Because of the weather and security reasons several guests were taken to the church by car, whether other guests parked elsewhere and walked despite of the rain. Although the onlookers had no idea who was on the guestlist, they kept their eyes wide open – as you always should – and despite of the more important people being driven up to the entrance of the church, they managed to see something. Although sometimes only the number plate helped. Luckily for my friends they know the German nobility rather well nowadays, most of them came by foot.

Some small tables with red clothes that were placed at the bottom of the church hill, were never used. Usually that is where the guests probably would have written their name in condolence books, but that was of course impossible because of the rain. The service was led by Claudia Latzel-Binder. Some songs and psalms were sung, there was music by Edvard Grieg and Vivaldi, prayers and readings during the service that took over an hour. After the church service a reception was held at the castle for specially invited guests. Prince Richard is to be buried in private at the family cemetery at Bad Berleburg later on.

The main guests were Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, Prince Joachim and Princess Marie of Denmark, Queen Silvia and Princess Madeleine of Sweden, King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie, Crown Prince Pavlos, Princess Alexia, Prince Nikolaos, Princess Theodora and Prince Philippos of Greece, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, Princess Sarvath El Hassan and Princess Sumaya El  Hassan of Jordan, King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands.

The guestlist furthermore contained names of illustrious families like Bentheim und Steinfurt, Bentheim-Tecklenburg, Erbach-Erbach, Hessen, Hohenlohe-Oehringen, Leiningen, Lippe, Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg, Oettingen-Spielberg, Oettingen-Wallerstein, Ratibor und Corvey, Salm-Horstmar, Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Schaumburg-Lippe, Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, Solms-Laubach, Stolberg-Wernigerode, Stolberg-Stolberg, Toerring-Jettenbach, Waldeck und Pyrmont, Windisch-Graetz, Ysenburg und Büdingen, and of course many members of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, as well as guests from Denmark.

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