Gustav V of Sweden

Gustav V of Sweden lived from 1858 to 1950, and reigned from 1907, which makes him the longest reigning king in Swedish history. He was a shy man, naturally reserved, disliking any kind of pomp and ceremony, ably demonstrating this trait by refusing a coronation ceremony. This questionable act gave him another ‘first’ – that of being an uncrowned monarch.

Notwithstanding, Gustav asserted the personal power of the monarchy; he challenged the Liberal Party’s government in 1914 with a demand for greater spending on defence. He did this in what became known as ‘The Courtyard Speech’, actually addressing a gathering of local farmers.

The government was angry and resigned in protest, not without demanding the king’s abdication as well, but the situation was ‘saved’ by the outbreak of the First World War, when Sweden mobilized . . . but remained neutral. The people remembered the king’s courtyard speech and he was popular. He reigned on and on and when World War Two burst in Europe Gustav symbolized the unity of his nation. Sweden again was neutral, and Hitler invaded Norway and Denmark apparently leaving the Swedes to their own devices. When the Germans became demanding, Gustav threatened to abdicate if his government did not agree to these demands, an act which earned him a bad press in Britain.

He married Princess Victoria (daughter of the Grand Duke of Baden and a great-granddaughter of Gustav IV Adolf), which cleverly united the actually reigning House of Bernadotte (q.v.) with the ancient royal house of Vasa. After his death he was succeeded by his son Gustav VI Adolf.

 

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