Gustaf V of Sweden

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Gustaf V
Gustaf V färgfoto.jpg
King of Sweden
Reign 8 December 1907 – 29 October 1950
Predecessor Oscar II
Successor Gustaf VI Adolf
Spouse Victoria of Baden
Issue Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden
Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
Prince Erik, Duke of Västmanland
Full name
Oscar Gustaf Adolf
House House of Bernadotte
Father Oscar II of Sweden
Mother Sofia of Nassau
Born (1858-06-16)16 June 1858
Drottningholm Palace
Died 29 October 1950(1950-10-29) (aged 92)
Drottningholm Palace
Burial Riddarholmen Church
Religion Lutheranism

Gustaf V (Oscar Gustaf Adolf 16 June 1858 – 29 October 1950) was King of Sweden from 1907. He was the eldest son of King Oscar II of Sweden and Sophia of Nassau, a half-sister of Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Reigning from the death of his father Oscar II in 1907 until his own death 43 years later, he holds the record of being the oldest monarch of Sweden and the second-longest reigning after Magnus IV (the longest as an adult). He was also the last Swedish monarch to exercise his royal prerogatives, which largely died with him, although formally abolished only with the remaking of the Swedish constitution in 1974. He was the first Swedish king since the High Middle Ages not to have a coronation and hence never wore a crown, a tradition continuing to date.

Gustaf ascended the throne in 1907, and his early reign saw the rise of parliamentary rule in Sweden, although the leadup to World War I pre-empted his overthrow of Liberal Prime Minister Karl Staaff in 1914, replacing him with his own figurehead Hjalmar Hammarskjöld (father of Dag Hammarskjöld) for most of the war. However, after the Liberals and Social Democrats secured a parliamentary majority under Staaff's successor, Nils Edén, he allowed Edén to form a new government which de facto stripped the monarchy of all virtual powers and enacted universal and equal suffrage, including for women, by 1919. Bowing fully to the principles of parliamentary democracy, he remained a popular figurehead for the remaining 31 years of his rule, although not completely without influence – during World War II he allegedly urged Per Albin Hansson's coalition government to accept requests from Nazi Germany for logistics support, refusing which might have provoked an invasion. This remains controversial to date, although he is not known to have shown much support for fascism or radical nationalism; his pro-German and anti-Communist stance was well known also in World War I.

Following his death at age 92, he was implicated as a homosexual in the Haijby affair. His supposed lover – career criminal and accused pedophile Kurt Haijby – was imprisoned in 1952 for blackmail of the court in the 1930s. (Homosexuality was a criminal offense in Sweden until 1944, though Gustaf's position would have granted automatic immunity.) An avid hunter and sportsman, he presided over the 1912 Olympic Games and chaired the Swedish Association of Sports from 1897 to 1907. Most notably, he represented Sweden (under the alias of Mr G.) as a competitive tennis player, keeping up competitive tennis until his 80s, when his eyesight deteriorated rapidly.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Gustaf V was born in Drottningholm Palace in Ekerö, Stockholm County, the son of Prince Oscar and Princess Sofia. At birth Gustaf was created Duke of Värmland. Upon his father's accession to the throne in 1872, Gustaf became crown prince of both Sweden and Norway. On 8 December 1907, he succeeded his father on the Swedish throne, which had been separated from the Norwegian throne two years earlier.

On 20 September 1881 he married Princess Victoria of Baden in Karlsruhe, Germany. She was the granddaughter of Princess Sophie of Sweden, and her marriage to Gustaf V united, by a real blood link (and not only adoption), the reigning Bernadotte dynasty with the former royal house of Holstein-Gottorp.

Public life[edit]

Meeting of the three kings in Malmö, 18 December 1914: Haakon VII of Norway, Gustaf V, and Christian X of Denmark.

When he ascended the throne, Gustaf V at least on paper was a near-autocrat. The 1809 Instrument of Government made the king both head of state and head of government and ministers were solely responsible to him. However, his father had been forced to accept a government chosen by the majority in Parliament in 1905. Since then, prime ministers had been chosen according to parliamentary support, notwithstanding the Instrument's stipulation that "the King alone shall govern the realm."

At first, Gustaf V seemed to be willing to accept parliamentary rule. After the Liberals won a massive landslide in 1911, Gustaf appointed Liberal leader Karl Staaff as Prime Minister. However, during the runup to World War I, the elites objected to Staaff's defence policy. In February 1914, a large crowd of farmers gathered at the royal palace and demanded that the country's defences be strengthened. In his reply, the so-called Courtyard Speech, Gustaf promised to strengthen the country's defences. Staaff was outraged, telling the king parliamentary rule called for the Crown to stay out of partisan politics. He was also angered that he had not been consulted in advance of the speech. However, Gustaf retorted that he had the right "communicate freely with the Swedish people." The Staaff government resigned in protest, and Gustaf appointed a civil servant government headed by Hjalmar Hammarskjöld (father of Dag Hammarskjöld) in its place. To date, it is the last time that a Swedish king directly intervened in the governing of the country.

The 1917 elections showed a heavy gain for the Liberals and Social Democrats. It was now apparent that Gustaf could no longer appoint a government entirely of his own choosing, nor could he keep a government in office against the will of Parliament. With no choice but to appoint a Liberal as prime minister, he appointed a Liberal-Social Democratic coalition government headed by Staaff's successor as Liberal leader, Nils Edén. The Edén government promptly stripped the monarchy of most of its powers and enacted numerous reforms, most notably the institution of complete (male and female) universal suffrage in 1918–1919. While Gustaf still formally appointed the ministers, they now had to have the confidence of Parliament. He was now also bound to act on the ministers' advice, so for all intents and purposes the ministers did the actual governing. Gustaf accepted his reduced role, and reigned for the rest of his life as a model limited constitutional monarch. Parliamentarianism had become a de facto reality in Sweden even if it would not be formalized until 1974.

Gustaf V was considered to have German sympathies during World War I. His political stance during the war was highly influenced by his wife, who felt a strong connection to her German homeland. On 18 December 1914, he sponsored a meeting in Malmö with the other two kings of Scandinavia to demonstrate unity. Another of Gustaf V's objectives was to dispel suspicions that he wanted to bring Sweden into the war on Germany's side.

Nazi sympathies[edit]

Swedish Royalty
House of Bernadotte
Bernadotte coa.svg
Charles XIV John
Children
   Oscar I
Oscar I
Children
   Charles XV
   Prince Gustaf, Duke of Uppland
   Oscar II
   Princess Eugenie
   Prince August, Duke of Dalarna
Charles XV
Children
   Lovisa, Queen of Denmark
   Prince Carl Oscar, Duke of Södermanland
Oscar II
Children
   Gustaf V
   Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotland
   Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland
   Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke
Grandchildren
   Margaretha, Princess Axel of Denmark
   Märtha, Crown Princess of Norway
   Astrid, Queen of Belgium
   Prince Carl, Duke of Östergötland
Gustaf V
Children
   Gustaf VI Adolf
   Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
   Prince Erik, Duke of Västmanland
Grandchildren
   Prince Lennart, Duke of Småland
Gustaf VI Adolf
Children
   Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten
   Prince Sigvard, Duke of Uppland
   Ingrid, Queen of Denmark
   Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland
   Prince Carl Johan, Duke of Dalarna
Grandchildren
   Princess Margaretha, Mrs. Ambler
   Birgitta, Princess Johann Georg of Hohenzollern
   Princess Désirée, Baroness Silfverschiöld
   Princess Christina, Mrs. Magnuson
   Carl XVI Gustaf
Carl XVI Gustaf
Children
   Crown Princess Victoria, Duchess of Västergötland
   Prince Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland
   Princess Madeleine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland
Grandchildren
   Princess Estelle, Duchess of Östergötland
   Princess Leonore, Duchess of Gotland
Prince Gustav Adolf, Hermann Göring and King Gustaf V in Berlin, February 1939

Both the King and his grandson Prince Gustav Adolf socialized with certain Nazi leaders before World War II, though arguably for diplomatic purposes. Gustaf V attempted to convince Hitler during a visit to Berlin to soften his persecution of the Jews, according to historian Jörgen Weibull. He was also noted for appealing to the leader of Hungary to save its Jews "in the name of humanity." At the behest of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gustaf V appealed to Hitler for peace negotiations in 1938, "in the interest of peace".[citation needed]

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Gustaf V tried to write a private letter to Hitler thanking him for taking care of the "Bolshevik pest" and congratulating him on his "already achieved victories".[3] He was stopped from doing so by the Prime Minister Hansson. Nevertheless, the King sent the message to Hitler (through a telegram by the German embassy in Stockholm) behind the back of the Government.[citation needed]

Midsummer crisis 1941[edit]

According to Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson during the Midsummer crisis, the King in a private conversation had threatened to abdicate if the Government did not approve a German request to transfer a fighting infantry division – the so-called Engelbrecht Division – through Swedish territory from southern Norway to northern Finland in June 1941, around Midsummer. The accuracy of this claim is debated, and the King's intention (if he did in fact make this threat) is sometimes alleged to be his desire to avoid conflict with Germany. This event has later received considerable attention from Swedish historians and is known as midsommarkrisen, the Midsummer Crisis.[4]

Confirmation of the King's action is contained in German Foreign Policy documents captured at the end of the war. On 25 June 1941, the German Minister in Stockholm sent a "Most Urgent-Top Secret" message to Berlin in which he stated that the King had just informed him that the transit of German troops would be allowed. He added:

The King's words conveyed the joyful emotion he felt. He had lived through anxious days and had gone far in giving his personal support to the matter. He added confidentially that he had found it necessary to go so far as to mention his abdication.[5]

According to Ernst Wigforss, both Gustaf V and Prince Gustav Adolf attempted to persuade the Swedish Government to allow the Allies to transport troops through Sweden, though this was rejected by the Government because it was felt it would cause retributions from Germany.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Gustaf V was tall and thin. He wore pince-nez eyeglasses and sported a pointed mustache for most of his teen years.

Gustaf V was a devoted tennis player, appearing under the pseudonym Mr G. As a player and promoter of the sport, he was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1980. The King learned the sport during a visit in Britain in 1876 and founded Sweden's first tennis club on his return home. In 1936 he founded the King's Club. During his reign, Gustaf was often seen playing on the Riviera. On a visit to Berlin, Gustaf went straight from a meeting with Hitler to a tennis match with the Jewish player Daniel Prenn. During World War II, he interceded to obtain better treatment for Davis Cup stars Jean Borotra of France and Gottfried von Cramm of Germany, who had been imprisoned by the German Government.

Haijby affair[edit]

Main article: Haijby affair

Allegations of a love affair between Gustav and Kurt Haijby led to the court paying 170,000 kronor under threat of blackmail by Haijby. This led to the so-called Haijby affair and several criticized trials and convictions against Haijby which spawned considerable controversy about Gustav's alleged homosexuality.[6]

Death[edit]

After a reign of nearly 43 years, King Gustaf V died in Stockholm, due to flu complications on 29 October 1950.

Arms[edit]

Upon his creation as Duke of Varmland, Gustaf V was granted a coat of arms with the Arms of Varmland in base. Upon his accession to the throne, he assumed the Arms of Dominion of Sweden.

Coat of arms Prince héritier Gustave (V).svg
Arms as crown prince from 1872 to 1905
Coat of arms Kronprins Carl Gustav av Sverige 1.svg
Arms as crown prince from 1905 to 1907
Greater coat of arms of Sweden.svg
Greater Coat of Arms of Sweden
Royal Monogram of King Gustaf V of Sweden.svg
Royal Monogram of King Gustaf V of Sweden

Honours[edit]

Foreign Honours

King Gustaf V was the 1,062nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain, the 828th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1905 and the 216th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword.


Issue[edit]

Name Birth Death Notes
King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden 11 November 1882 15 September 1973 married 1) Princess Margaret of Connaught (1882–1920), had issue (four sons, one daughter), married 2) Lady Louise Mountbatten (1889–1965), had issue (a stillborn daughter)
Prince Vilhelm of Sweden, Duke of Södermanland 17 June 1884 5 June 1965 married Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1890–1958), had issue
Prince Erik of Sweden, Duke of Västmanland 20 April 1889 20 September 1918 died unmarried of the Spanish Flu, no issue

Ancestors[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.ne.se/lang/gustaf-v
  2. ^ http://www.ne.se/lang/haijbyaff%C3%A4ren
  3. ^ Dagens Nyheter 070729 [1]
  4. ^ Hansson (Wahlbäck, Regeringen och kriget. Ur statsrådens dagböcker 1939–41)
  5. ^ Documents of German Foreign Policy 1918–1945 Series D Volume XIII The War Years 23 June 1941 – 11 December 1941, Published in UK by HMSO and in US By Government Printing Office.
  6. ^ Heumann, Maths (1978). Rättsaffärerna Kejne och Haijby (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedt. ISBN 91-1-787202-2. 
  7. ^ "Garter Knights Meet in Splendid Ceremony ... King Kaakon is Invested," New York Times. 25 November 1906.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27286. p. 1226. 19 February 1901. Retrieved 14-10-2012.

External links[edit]

Gustaf V
Born: 16 June 1858 Died: 29 October 1950
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Oscar II
King of Sweden
1907–1950
Succeeded by
Gustaf VI Adolf
Royal titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Charles
Crown Prince of Sweden
1872–1907
Succeeded by
Gustaf Adolf
Crown Prince of Norway
1872–1905
Succeeded by
Olav
Vacant
Title last held by
Carl Adolf
Duke of Värmland
1858–1907
Vacant
Title next held by
Carl Philip
Political offices
Vacant
Title last held by
Carl
Viceroy of Norway
1884
Vacant
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Sir Cyril Newall
Cover of Time Magazine
30 October 1939
Succeeded by
Tom Harmon