Wilhelm & Jeanne

Wilhelm and son Lennart.
As I was reading about Gustav VI Adolf, I got to talking with mum-in-law about him and the royals in general. After a while we got into princes in particular and realized we had no idea who was in what generation. I decided to check the facts, and while I did so, I stumbled upon a prince I knew nothing about: Gustav´s brother, Prince Wilhelm.

Wilhelm was married off to a cousin of the Russian Tsar, a Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. Or she was married off to him, rather, as she was the one who had to come here. They had one son, Lennart, and then the marriage became so miserable that they were granted a divorce.

Lennart was raised by his grandmother Viktoria, more or less (I remember reading some article years ago about how she inspected her children in a similar manner to how she inspected the troops - she was Preussian, after all), while Prince Wilhelm tried to make it as a poet. Like his uncle Eugen before him, he wanted to be a real artist, not just an artistic prince.

He didn´t make it - if he had, I would have known about him. But in his time, he was a hardworking writer and filmmaker. He produced and participated in several hundred documentary films, then - before television - a regular feature at the cinemas. He wrote very popular reportages from his extensive travels and made several lecture tours in the United States, where apparently people happily paid to shake his hand. Unfortunately, he was inclined to be conservative and romantic, and his work is severely dated.

The cover is a portrait by Carl Larsson.
He didn´t remarry, but in 1914 he met Jeanne de Tramcourt, and after an on-off relationship for several years, he lived with her at his manor Stenhammar. She was known as "the hostess" of Stenhammar. She was French, the ex-wife of Swedish artist Christian Eriksson, and mother-in-law of Einar Nerman, the artist and illustrator who made the iconic caricature of Greta Garbo.

Jeanne was a true Parisian lady, very beautiful (she was in a few Swedish silent era films), had a fashion boutique for a while, and probably had at least one other wealthy lover. I couldn´t find a single picture of her online, but there is a book from 1971 with Wilhelm´s letters to her. I borrowed it and tried to read it, but unfortunately they are terribly boring. I did get some snaps from there, though, and she really was very beautiful.

Lennart, Jeanne, and Wilhelm at Stenhammar.

She lived quietly with Wilhelm and became one of the family - even Queen Viktoria decided that she wanted to meet her finally in 1930, but the Queen died before Jeanne had time to make the visit. In 1952 Jeanne died in a car accident, 76 years old. 

I guess I wanted Jeanne to be more interesting and intellectual. Or perhaps she was, maybe it was just Wilhelm´s letters to her that were dull. I don´t know if her letters have been saved, they have not been published anyway. She seems to have been the archetypal wife - even though she never got to marry her prince. Einar Nerman has said that she was a wonderful mother-in-law, quite the opposite of the stereotype.

As for Wilhelm and his ambitions, I don´t think he wanted to rebel. Seems like he was genuinely fond of his mother. He called his parents "morsan" and "farsan" in his letters to Jeanne, which is a very working class way of adressing a "mum" and a "pop". Perhaps Wilhelm and Jeanne are forgotten because they were just too ordinary. Just regular good folk.

I had to add Einar Nerman´s portrait of his mum-in-law. It reminds me slightly of his Garbo portrait, and Jeanne´s beauty is no lesser than the Divine´s - even though Jeanne must have been around fifty when it was made.

Wilhelm was heart-broken after her death and he wrote this poem for her:
Bär min älskade i paradiset 
vingar efter sista modet?
Går hon klädd i den svarta
som gjorde midjan smal och höften bred.
Sitter vårhatten käckt på sned,
hänger floret på nästippen,
kan hon spegla sig i naglarnas lack
där hon trippar bland liljor på sin svängda klack.
Det skulle vara likt henne. Det enda jag vet
är att hon sveper kring arbetslampan
slöjor av goda tankar från sin obefintlighet. 
Does my love wear in Paradise
wings after the latest fashion?
Is she dressed in the black one
that makes the waist thin and the hip wide.
Is the spring hat pertly angled,
is the veil resting on the tip of her nose,
can she see her reflection in the polish of her nails
where she trips among lilies on her curved heel.
It would be just like her. All I know
is that she wraps around the desk lamp
veils of good thoughts from her non-existence.
(my own translation)


  1. i enjoy these stories about the royals and their ordinary sides. sometimes there's disappointment, tho. i remember when the letters of king edward and wallis simpson were published. i expected high flowery romance, i guess, and what i saw in excerpts was staid and boring. i think royals are more fun at a distance lol

    1. I saw Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander as the duke and duchess of Windsor in "Any Human Heart", and they played them as rather boring and self-absorbed people. Brilliantly done, though, both are such wonderful actors. I guess the royal families are just like any other family; some members are cleverer and more likeable than others.