Gustaf V

  (Redirected from Gustaf V of Sweden)

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.

Gustaf V
Gustaf V av Sverige.jpg
Photograph of Gustaf V of Sweden (1938)
King of Sweden
Reign8 December 1907 – 29 October 1950
PredecessorOscar II
SuccessorGustaf VI Adolf
Prime Ministers
Born(1858-06-16)16 June 1858
Drottningholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Died29 October 1950(1950-10-29) (aged 92)
Drottningholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Burial9 November 1950
(m. 1881; died 1930)
IssueGustaf VI Adolf of Sweden
Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
Prince Erik, Duke of Västmanland
Oscar Gustaf Adolf
FatherOscar II of Sweden
MotherSophia of Nassau
ReligionChurch of Sweden
Gustaf V on an award silver medal for horse breeding. Artist: Johan Adolf Lindberg.

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.[1]

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.[2][3] He was succeeded by his son, Gustaf VI Adolf.

Early lifeEdit

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.

On 20 September 1881 he married Princess Victoria of Baden in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Public lifeEdit

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 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.

Gustaf V and L. K. Relander, the 2nd President of the Republic of Finland, are passing the honorary company on 19 June 1925, when President Relander made his visit to Stockholm.

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.[4]

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.[5] Additionally, his long reign gave him great moral authority as a symbol of the nation's unity.

Alleged Nazi sympathiesEdit

Prince Gustav Adolf, Hermann Göring, and King Gustaf V in Berlin, February 1939

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".[6] He was stopped from doing so by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson.[7]

During the war, Gustav invited Swedish Nazi leader Sven Olov Lindholm to Stockholm Palace. The Swedish king had friends in Lindholm's movement.[8][9][10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Personal lifeEdit

Tennis shoes worn by Gustaf V.

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.

Gustaf V playing tennis at Real Club de la Puerta de Hierro, 1927

Haijby affairEdit

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.[13]


After a reign of nearly 43 years, King Gustaf V died in Stockholm of flu complications on 29 October 1950. His 67-year-old son Gustav succeeded him as Gustav VI Adolf.


National honours[14]
Foreign honours[16]


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.


Name Birth Death Notes
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

Swedish author Anders Lundebeck (1900–1976) allegedly was an extramarital son of King Gustaf V,[43] an allegation purported by Lundebeck himself and to some extent supported by existing facts.[44]



  1. ^ "PROTESTER OCH FÖRHINDRANDE INSATSER". Forum for levande historia (in Swedish). Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Gustaf V". NE Nationalencyklopedin AB (in Swedish). Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Haijbyaffären". NE Nationalencyklopedin AB (in Swedish). Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  4. ^ "Kin Gustav V's No Nazi Sympathizer". Real Clear History. 7 December 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  5. ^ William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Touchstone Edition) (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990)
  6. ^ Dagens Nyheter 070729 "Churchill fick vredesutbrott över svenske kungens svek". Debatt (in Swedish). 29 July 2007. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2007.
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  8. ^ "Karaktärsmord på döda svenskar". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). 18 September 2002. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  9. ^ Gustaf V och andra Världskriget. Carlsson, Erik. 2007. ISBN 9789185057887
  10. ^ Operation Norrsken: Om Stasi och Sverige under kalla kriget, av Christoph Andersson
  11. ^ Hansson (Wahlbäck, Regeringen och kriget. Ur statsrådens dagböcker 1939–41)
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Heumann, Maths (1978). Rättsaffärerna Kejne och Haijby (in Swedish). Stockholm: Norstedt. ISBN 91-1-787202-2.
  14. ^ Sveriges statskalender (in Swedish), 1905, p. 438, retrieved 6 January 2018 – via
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  17. ^ Sveriges och Norges statskalender (in Swedish), 1870, p. 690, retrieved 6 January 2018 – via
  18. ^ "The Order of the Norwegian Lion", The Royal House of Norway. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  19. ^ a b Bille-Hansen, A. C.; Holck, Harald, eds. (1944) [1st pub.:1801]. Statshaandbog for Kongeriget Danmark for Aaret 1944 [State Manual of the Kingdom of Denmark for the Year 1944] (PDF). Kongelig Dansk Hof- og Statskalender (in Danish). Copenhagen: J.H. Schultz A.-S. Universitetsbogtrykkeri. p. 16. Retrieved 1 May 2020 – via da:DIS Danmark.
  20. ^ Levin, Sergey (15 June 2018). "Order of the Dannebrog (Dannebrogordenen). Denmark". Tallinn Museum of Orders of Knighthood. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  21. ^ "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Italia : Ministero dell'interno (1898). Calendario generale del Regno d'Italia. Unione tipografico-editrice. p. 54.
  23. ^ "Caballeros de la insigne orden del toisón de oro", Guía Oficial de España (in Spanish), 1887, p. 147, retrieved 21 March 2019
  24. ^ Royal Thai Government Gazette (9 March 1898). "พระราชทานเครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์ ทีประเทศยุโรป" (PDF) (in Thai). Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  25. ^ "No. 27286". The London Gazette. 19 February 1901. p. 1226.
  26. ^ "Garter Knights Meet in Splendid Ceremony ... King Haakon is Invested," New York Times. 25 November 1906
  27. ^ "No. 28134". The London Gazette. 5 May 1908. p. 3311.
  28. ^ "Kolana Řádu Bílého lva aneb hlavy států v řetězech" (in Czech), Czech Medals and Orders Society. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  29. ^ "Cross of Liberty: Gustav V of Sweden". Estonian State Decorations (in Estonian). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  30. ^ "Order of the White Star: Gustav V of Sweden". Estonian State Decorations (in Estonian). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  31. ^ "The Imperial Orders and Decorations of Ethiopia", The Crown Council of Ethiopia. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  32. ^ "Suomen Valkoisen Ruusun Suurristi Ketjuineen". (in Finnish). Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  33. ^ a b Königlich Preussische Ordensliste (in German), 1, Berlin, 1886, pp. 7, 936
  34. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1896), "Großherzogliche Orden" pp. 62, 76
  35. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Bayern (1908), "Königliche Orden" p. 7
  36. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Hessen (1883), "Großherzogliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen", p. 14
  37. ^ Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1900), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 16
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  43. ^ Article 2009-10-02 Om två uteblivna Nobelpris by Ivo Holmqvist in Dixikon (sponsored by the Swedish Arts Council)
  44. ^ Sir Gustaf von Platen in Bakom den gyllene fasaden Bonniers ISBN 91-0-058048-1 p 35

External linksEdit

Gustaf V
Born: 16 June 1858 Died: 29 October 1950
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Sweden
Succeeded by
Royal titles
Title last held by
Crown Prince of Sweden
Succeeded by
Crown Prince of Norway
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Carl Adolf
Duke of Värmland
Title next held by
Carl Philip
Political offices
Title last held by
Viceroy of Norway
Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time magazine
30 October 1939
Succeeded by