In Memoriam: Prince Aage of Denmark

80 years ago, on 29 February 1940, Prince Aage, Count of Rosenborg died after a very short illness. A famous French Foreign Legion officer, he was born in Denmark to the Danish royal family. This post was written in remembrance of him.

Prince Aage, Count of Rosenborg, was a Danish prince and officer of the French Foreign Legion. He was born on 10 June 1887 as the eldest child of Prince Valdemar of Denmark, a naval officer. Prince Aage‘s paternal grandfather was King Christian IX, who had ruled Denmark at the time. By the way, Prince Aage‘s mother, Princess Marie d’Orléans, was a great-granddaughter of French King Louis Philippe I, who established the Foreign Legion in 1831.

In 1901, at the age of 14, a young Prince Aage of Denmark met certain Lieutenant Christian Selchauhansen, a Danish officer of the French Foreign Legion, who gave him a pewter figurine of Foreign Legionnaire as a present. Lieutenant Selchauhansen was killed two years later, during the 1903 Battle of El Moungar in Algeria.

In 1909, Prince Aage joined the Danish Army. He became an officer in 1913. In 1914, because of his marriage to Matilda Calvi dei conti di Bergolo (a noblewoman from an Italian aristocratic family of the House of Savoy), without the legally required permission of the Danish king, Prince Aage renounced his royal status and the title “of Denmark”. He became the Count of Rosenborg. The next year, in 1915, his son Valdemar Alexander was born.

In 1918, at the end of World War I, Prince Aage obtained a permission to leave the Danish Royal Guards and serve with the French Army. He joined the 16th Chasseurs Battalion (16e BC) in Metz, with the rank of Captain.

In 1922, always fascinated by the Foreign Legion and troubled Africa, he was assigned to the 2e REI in Morocco, the same unit that Lieutenant Selchauhansen had served with. Between March and October 1923, Prince Aage participated in anti-insurgent military operations in the Middle Atlas of northern Morocco. As a liaison officer within his assigned battalion and, later, within the Operations Group’s HQ, he was involved in several actions, including the Battle of Bou Arfa, Battle of Bou Khamoudj, Battle of the Ait Maklouf, Battle of Immouzer or the Battle of Djebel Idlan. As a result, Captain Aage was mentioned in the order of the French Forces in Morocco.

In 1924, following the example of Lieutenant Selchauhansen, he asked to serve in a Mounted Company, then elite units of the Foreign Legion (predecessors to today’s paratroopers). His request was granted; Prince Aage was assigned to the 1st Mounted Company.

In 1925, he was called up to the French Forces in Morocco’s HQ, to take part in the Rif War (1925-26) in Northern Morocco. He participated in the Battle of Bibane and was mentioned in dispatches for demonstrating “the best courage” and volunteering for “the most dangerous missions” under the fire of the first line.

In 1926, Captain Aage accompanied the then French foreign minister during a diplomatic trip to America. Thereafter, he went studying at the War School for two years. In late 1928, Prince Aage is back at the French HQ in Morocco. In 1929, as the liaison officer of the 2e REI’s colonel, he took part in the Battle of Azarar Fal, Battle of Bou Adiane and in the Battle of Bou Anghzir. He was mentioned in dispatches for the third time.

In 1930-33, Captain Aage served with the 3rd Cavalry Division in France. Back in Africa, he joined Colonel Trinquet‘s Motorized Group (consisting of the Foreign Legion motorized units in the majority) to participate in the lesser-known Anti-Atlas Campaign in southern Morocco, most likely the very first fully motorized campaign of the French Army. This successful campaign also ended the Pacification of Morocco (1907-34).

In 1935, Prince Aage was promoted to the Major rank and rejoined the Foreign Legion. First, the Legion’s HQ in Algeria, the 3e REI in Morocco afterwards. In November-December 1935, he temporarily commanded the 2nd Battalion, 3e REI.

In November 1937, Major Aage is appointed at the head of the 1st Battalion, 3e REI at Ksar Es Souk, in south-central Morocco. He stayed with this unit for the rest of his short life.

In February 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War, Prince Aage fell ill with pleurisy. He died on February 29, in his 52. Today, his remains are buried (since late 1962) at Puyloubier in southern France, at the Foreign Legion cemetery, along with famous General Paul-Frédéric Rollet, “Father of the Legion”.

Wounded in action, Prince Aage was awarded with many decorations, including the Legion of Honour, two War Crosses of the TOE (Foreign Theater Operations), Colonial Medal or the Order of Ouissam Alaouite.

In 1936, he published a book called Souvenirs of the Foreign Legion.


Legion Etrangere - France - Camp de la Valbonne
Prince Aage is awarded with the Legion of Honour in Metz, November 1920.

Legion Etrangere - France - Camp de la Valbonne
Major Aage (left) having fun with his legionnaires from 1st Battalion, 3e REI on Camerone Day in Ksar Es Souk, April 30, 1939. It is his last Camerone.
Legion Etrangere - France - Camp de la Valbonne
Prince Aage‘s funeral procession at Taza, 3 March 1940.
Legion Etrangere - France - Camp de la Valbonne
Prince Aage‘s remains during a ceremony at Casablanca, 4 March 1940.
Legion Etrangere - France - Camp de la Valbonne
Prince Aage, as the 1st Battalion, 3e REI commander.

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