Gustaf V (Oscar Gustaf Adolf; 16 June 1858 – 29 October 1950) was King of Sweden from 1907 until his death in 1950. 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 to his own death 42 years later, he holds the record of being the oldest monarch of Sweden and the third-longest rule, after Magnus IV and Carl XVI Gustaf. He was also the last Swedish monarch to exercise his royal prerogatives, which largely died with him, although they were 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 so never wore the king's crown, a practice that has continued ever since.
|King of Sweden|
|Reign||8 December 1907 – 29 October 1950|
|Successor||Gustaf VI Adolf|
|Born||16 June 1858|
Drottningholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
|Died||29 October 1950 (aged 92)|
Drottningholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
|Burial||9 November 1950|
(m. 1881; died 1930)
|Issue||Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden|
Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
Prince Erik, Duke of Västmanland
|Father||Oscar II of Sweden|
|Mother||Sophia of Nassau|
|Religion||Church of Sweden|
Gustaf's early reign saw the rise of parliamentary rule in Sweden although the leadup to World War I induced his dismissal of Liberal Prime Minister Karl Staaff in 1914, replacing him with his own figurehead, Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, the 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 virtually all 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. His intervention remains controversial to date, although not in support of fascism or the Nazi regime; his pro-German and anti-Communist stances were more outwardly expressed during World War I and the Russian Civil War, and he vocally criticised violence and persecution against Jews, including intervening vocally against the Holocaust in Hungary in 1944, demanding that Miklos Horthy cease deportations and supporting Raoul Wallenberg's effort.
An avid hunter and sportsman, Gustaf 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. He was succeeded by his son, Gustaf VI Adolf.
Gustaf V was born in Drottningholm Palace in Ekerö, Stockholm County, the son of Prince Oscar and Princess Sofia of Nassau. 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.
When he ascended the throne, Gustaf V was, at least on paper, 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 de facto required to have the confidence of the Riksdag to stay in office.
Early in his reign, in 1910, Gustaf V refused to grant clemency to the convicted murderer Johan Alfred Ander, who thus became the last person to be executed in Sweden.
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—which was actually written by explorer Sven Hedin, an ardent conservative—Gustaf promised to strengthen the country's defences. Staaff was outraged, telling the king that 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 still had the right to "communicate freely with the Swedish people." The Staaff government resigned in protest, and Gustaf appointed a government of civil servants headed by Hjalmar Hammarskjöld (father of future UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld) in its place.
The 1917 elections showed a heavy gain for the Liberals and Social Democrats, who between them held a decisive majority. Despite this, Gustaf initially tried to appoint a Conservative government headed by Johan Widén. However, Widén was unable to attract enough support for a coalition. 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 arrogated most of the king's political powers to itself 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. Although the provision in the Instrument of Government stating that "the King alone shall govern the realm" remained unchanged, the king was now bound by convention to exercise his powers through the ministers. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the ministers did the actual governing. While ministers were already legally responsible to the Riksdag under the Instrument of government, it was now understood that they were politically responsible to the Riksdag as well. 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, when a new Instrument of Government stripped the monarchy of even nominal political power.
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.
Although effectively stripped of political power, Gustaf was not completely without influence. In 1938, for instance, he personally summoned the German ambassador to Sweden and told him that if Hitler attacked Czechoslovakia over its refusal to give up the Sudetenland, it would trigger a world war that Germany would almost certainly lose. Additionally, his long reign gave him great moral authority as a symbol of the nation's unity.
Alleged Nazi sympathiesEdit
Both the King and his grandson Prince Gustav Adolf socialized with 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."
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". He was stopped from doing so by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson.
Midsummer crisis 1941Edit
According to Prime Minister 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 the claim is debated, and the King's intention, if he really made that threat, is sometimes alleged to be his desire to avoid conflict with Germany. The event has later received considerable attention from Swedish historians and is known as midsommarkrisen, the Midsummer Crisis.
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.
Gustaf V was thin, and famed for his great height. 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 his personal trainer and friend Baron Gottfried von Cramm of Germany, who had been imprisoned by the Nazi Government on the charge of a homosexual relationship with a Jew.
Allegations of a love affair between Gustav and Kurt Haijby led to the court paying 170,000 kronor under the threat of the blackmailing Haijby. That led to the so-called Haijby affair and several controversial trials and convictions against Haijby, which spawned considerable controversy about Gustav's alleged homosexuality.
- National honours
- Knight and Commander of the Seraphim, 16 June 1858
- Knight of the Order of Charles XIII, 16 June 1858
- Commander Grand Cross of the Sword, 16 June 1858
- Commander Grand Cross of the Polar Star, 16 June 1858
- Commander Grand Cross of the Order of Vasa, 12 July 1886
- Honorary Member of the Johanniter Order
- Foreign honours
- Spain: Knight of the Golden Fleece, 30 June 1881
- Siam: Knight of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri, 13 July 1897
- United Kingdom:
- Austria: Grand Cross of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
- Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
- Brazil: Grand Cross of the Southern Cross
- Chile: Collar of the Order of Merit
- China: Order of Propitious Clouds, 1st Class
- Czechoslovakia: Collar of the White Lion, 1937
- Egypt: Collar of the Order of Muhammad Ali
- Ethiopia: Collar of the Order of Solomon, 1945
- Finland: Grand Cross of the White Rose, with Collar, 1919
- German Empire:
- Knight of the Black Eagle, 6 February 1873; with Collar
- Grand Cross of the Red Eagle
- Grand Commander's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, 10 March 1881
- Bavaria: Knight of St. Hubert, 1879
- Ernestine duchies: Grand Cross of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order
- Hesse and by Rhine: Grand Cross of the Ludwig Order, 20 September 1881
- Mecklenburg: Grand Cross of the Wendish Crown, with Crown in Ore and Collar
- Nassau Ducal Family: Knight of the Gold Lion of Nassau
- Oldenburg: Grand Cross of the Order of Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig, with Golden Crown and Collar
- Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach: Grand Cross of the White Falcon, 1881
- Saxony: Knight of the Rue Crown, 1888
- Württemberg: Grand Cross of the Württemberg Crown, 1879
- Greece: Grand Cross of the Redeemer
- Iraq: Grand Collar of the Order of the Hashimites
- Japan: Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, 29 July 1881
- Latvia: Commander Grand Cross of the Three Stars, with Collar
- Monaco: Grand Cross of St. Charles
- Netherlands: Grand Cross of the Netherlands Lion
- Ottoman Empire:
- Peru: Grand Cross of the Sun of Peru, in Diamonds, 1923
- Poland: Knight of the White Eagle, 15 June 1928
- Venezuela: Collar of the Order of the Liberator
- Yugoslavia: Grand Cross of the Star of Karađorđe
Upon his creation as Duke of Värmland, Gustaf V was granted a coat of arms with the Arms of Värmland in base. Upon his accession to the throne, he assumed the Arms of Dominion of Sweden.
|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 Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland||17 June 1884||5 June 1965||Married Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1890–1958), had issue|
|Prince Erik, Duke of Västmanland||20 April 1889||20 September 1918||Died unmarried of the Spanish flu, no issue|
|Ancestors of Gustaf V|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gustav V of Sweden.|
- Gustaf V profile at the International Tennis Hall of Fame website
- . . 1914.
- Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. .
- Newspaper clippings about Gustaf V in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW