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In Memoriam: Remembering those who died in 2017

Remembering those who died in 2017

Many friends and relatives of the Royal Family have died this year, as well as royals from across Europe and the world. Here we remember some of those who passed away in 2017.

King Michael of Romania

Romania’s King Michael died early in December at the age of 96 in Switzerland. He was the last monarch of Romania before the country turned into a republic.


King Michael had been in ill health for some time and suffered from chronic leukaemia and epidermoid carcinoma. In early November 2017, Elisabeta Palace announced that the King’s “general state of health has worsened considerably.” They added that the Romanian Royal Family would be in discussions with his doctors regarding advice for going forward.

In the year before his death, he withdrew from public duties citing his frail health as the reason.

Before his death, King Michael has decided to pass to his daughter, Princess Margareta, the responsibility to represent Romania’s Royal House after his cancer diagnosis.

Thousands of people took to the streets to mourn the loss of their King as the funeral took place. Guests and dignitaries included Prince Charles and Queen Sofia of Spain.

The Earl of Snowdon

In January, Lord Snowdon, the former husband of Princess Margaret, died at the age of 86.

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The world-renowned photographer and filmmaker married The Queen’s sister in 1960, but divorced a few years later in 1978.

Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret had two children together before they separated, David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones.

Following his father’s death, the then Viscount Linley became the new Earl of Snowdon.

The announcement of his engagement to Margaret, on 26 February 1960, took the press by surprise. Margaret had taken care to conceal the romance from reporters.

On 11 July 1978, the Snowdons’ divorce was finalised. It was the first divorce of a senior Royal since Princess Victoria of Edinburgh in 1901. Though her marriage to Lord Snowdon had begun with great happiness, with the addition of their children David and Sarah, their unhappiness began to be well known within the family and eventually in March 1976, an announcement was made regarding their separation.

Dame Anne Griffiths

The Duke of Edinburgh’s longtime aide, librarian and archivist, Dame Anne Griffiths, died at the age of 84 earlier this year.

Dame Anne had been working for Prince Philip even before The Queen’s Coronation in 1952, and stacked up 65 years of service before her death.

She was described by a journalist who met her in 2011 as having a: “infectious sense of humour that instantly endears her to you and makes you think well of her boss: if Prince Philip likes her, he must be all right.”

Dame Anne was a close aide to the Duke of Edinburgh and controlled the public and media’s access to private footage and films that Philip personally shot in his younger years.

It is said that the Duke wanted some of the footage released, however, his staff vetoed this idea as they believed the footage was too personal for public consumption.

Speaking to the Daily Mail in 2010, one television executive said: “She [Dame Anne] is a wonderful old school royal servant – terribly charming but as tough as steel and she won’t let us near his stuff.’

Jana Novotna

Although not a royal, Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna’s death was a moment of great sadness for members of The Royal Family, not least the Duchess of Kent.

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The tennis player died in November at the age of 49. In 1993, she created one of the most iconic moments in sporting history when after losing her first Wimbledon final, she broke down in tears on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder.

The Duchess placed a comforting arm around Novotna and wiped away her tears as she was awarded the runners-up trophy, and consoled the tennis player during the emotional scenes on Centre Court.

Following the announcement of her death, the Duchess made a rare statement in which she said: “Jana Novotna was a brave, courageous sweet lady with a wonderful sense of humour. I am very saddened by the news of her death and all my feelings are with her family. 

‘Wimbledon will not be the same without her.”

Baron Niclas Silfverschiöld

The husband of Princess Désirée of Sweden, Niclas Silfverschiölddied in April after a brief illness at age 82.


His wife was by his side when he died during the night. Princess Désirée is an older sister to His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Désirée and Niclas had three children: Baron Carl Otto Edmund (22 March 1965), Baroness Christina-Louise Ewa Madeleine (29 September 1966) and Baroness Hélène Ingeborg Sibylla (20 September 1968). They also had four grandchildren.

Jorge Zorreguieta

Queen Máxima’s father, Jorge Zorreguieta, died in August at the age of 89. He had been ill with leukaemia for several years.

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Jorge Zorreguieta was born in 1928, in Buenos Aires, the son of Cesina María Stefanini Borella and Juan Antonio Zorreguieta Bonorino. He became the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture after the 1976 Argentine coup d’état of General Videla and was the Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock from March 1979 until March 1981. He stepped down as Secretary in 1981 and became the president of the president of the Centro Argentino Azucarero, an advisory body for sugar producers in Argentina.

He was also chairman of the supervisory organization for food Coordinadora de la Industria de Productos Alimenticios (Copal). When the news broke that Jorge Zorreguieta’s daughter was to marry the future King of the Netherlands, it caused controversy due to the many atrocities against civilians under Argentine President Videla. He claimed to have been unaware of the estimated 10,000 – 30,000 people who were kidnapped and murdered.

A professor who carried out an inquiry into Jorge Zorreguieta concluded that it would have been unlikely for a person in such a position to have been unaware of what was going on. Despite this, the marriage between Máxima and Willem-Alexander was approved, because Máxima herself had done nothing wrong. However, Jorge Zorreguieta was not allowed to attend the wedding.

Infanta Alicia, Dowager Duchess of Calabria

Infanta Alicia of Spain (née Princess of Bourbon-Parma) died in March at the age of 99 in Madrid.

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The Infanta was born on 13 November 1917 as the daughter of Elias, Duke of Parma and Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria. Her father was the youngest son of the deposed Duke Robert I of Parma and Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies while her mother was a member of the Teschen branch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

She married Infante Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, her second cousin, on 16 April 1936 in Vienna, Austria.

Alicia and Alfonso had three children together; Princess Teresa María of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (born 6 February 1937) Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria ( born 16 January 1938 – died 5 October 2015) and Princess Inés María of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (born 18 February 1940).

Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg

In March, Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg died at the age of 82. His Highness Prince Richard Casimir Karl August Robert Konstantin was the 6th Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg.

He was born 29 October 1934 in Giessen, Germany and had been the head of the House of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg since the death of his father in 1969. He is the husband of Princess Benedikte of Denmark, the younger sister of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Together, Princess Benedikte and Prince Richard have three children. Prince Richard was appointed Knight of the Elephant Order in 1968.

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

Socialite and reality star, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, died in February at the age of 45.

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She was the goddaughter to Prince Charles and was a close friend to The Royal Family, having attended the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall released a statement at the time express their sadness at the death Ms Palmer-Tomkinson.

The couple said they were “deeply saddened and our thoughts are so much with the family”.

Don Antonello Ruffo di Calabria

The brother of Queen Paola of Belgium, Don Antonello Ruffo di Calabria, died at the age of 87 in Rome in August.

He had been admitted to the hospital to undergo an operation. Antonello founded the first ornithological nature park in Italy, the Selva di Paliano. He was an avid collector of steam trains and even built a private railway in 1984.

Antonello was born in 1930 as the sixth child of Fulco, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda and Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana e di Sebastiano. He was married to Rosa Maria Mastrogiovanni Tasca in 1961, and the couple had four children together.

The family titles were inherited by the eldest son Fabrizio, and he was head of the family until his death in 2005. The titles were then inherited by his son Fulco, who was born in 1954. He is the current head of the House of Ruffo di Calabria.

David Somerset, the 11th Duke of Beaufort

David Somerset, the 11th Duke of Beaufort, died this year at the age of 89.


Badminton House said in a statement that the Duke died peacefully at his home in Gloucestershire Estate on Wednesday, August 16.

The Duke was a sixth cousin of The Queen through their ancestor William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire.

He is survived by his second wife, Miranda, and four children Harry, Anne, Edward and John.

His eldest son Harry, The Marquess of Worcester, succeeded his father to the Dukedom becoming the 12th Duke of Beaufort.

Countess Mountbatten of Burma

The 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, godmother to The Prince of Wales and third cousin of The Queen, died this year at the age of 93.

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The Countess of Mountbatten of Burma was born on 14 February 1924 as the eldest of Louis Mountbatten, later the 1st Earl of Mountbatten of Burma and uncle to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Through her father, she was a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was educated in Malta, England and New York. She entered the Royal Naval Service and served at the supreme allied headquarters in Sri Lanka, where she met Lord Brabourne, who became her husband in 1946.

Her bridesmaids were the then Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Lady Pamela, her younger sister, and Princess Alexandra of Kent. They went on to have eight children. Lord Brabourne died in 2005. They had been one of the few married couples in England who both held a peerage in their own right.

Senior members of The Royal Family attended the funeral service, including The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and their children.

The Queen Mother of Tonga

The Queen Mother of Tonga, Her Majesty Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho, died in February at the age of 90.

She died in an Auckland hospital with family at her bedside.

Born in 1926, Queen Halaevalu Mata’aho was the mother of two kings: George Tupou V and the current King, Tupou VI. She was the great-granddaughter of the last King of the Tuʻi Tonga Empire. She married Siaosi Tāufa‘āhau on 14, June 1947. He later became King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV after the death of his mother.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Tonga with the Duke of Edinburgh in December 1953. She received both the current King and Queen of Tonga in 2013 and in 2015 at Buckingham Palace.


Zara Tindall’s beloved horse, Toytown, died in June at the age of 24.

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Toytown, who was owned and ridden by Mrs Tindall, was a 17 hands tall chestnut gelding who won many prestigious equestrian awards during his long career.

Paying tribute to Toytown, Mike Tindall said: “Sad to say goodbye to the big man today, been a massive part of our lives giving us so many highs! RIP Toytown.”

Born in 1992, the horse was first spotted at the age of seven by Zara’s father, Mark Phillips. A few months later after watching him jump, she bought the horse marking the start of a relationship lasting for almost two decades.

In that time, the duo won individual gold and team silver at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Germany.

He also achieved many other medals and awards in the world of showjumping until his retirement in 2011.

Most recently, Toytown came out of retirement briefly for the 2012 Olympic Games where he carried the Olympic torch with Zara on board for the relay across the country.


Ziggy, one of Denmark’s most beloved dogs, died in April at the age of 12.

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The Border Collie was owned by Crown Princess Mary and Crown Prince Frederik after he was gifted to them as a wedding present.

A post on The Royal Family’s Instagram page read: “On Sunday the Crown Prince’s family bid farewell to their beloved dog Ziggy.

“The dog has been part of the family for 12 years and was a wedding gift to the royal couple.

“Ziggy was a faithful and loving dog, who unfortunately suffered from chronic renal failure and osteoarthritis. Despite this was high quality of life to the last.”

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