Gustaf V (Oscar Gustaf Adolf) 1858 – 1950 was King of Sweden from 1907 until his death. He was the eldest son of Oscar II of Sweden and Sophia of Nassau, a half sister of Adolphe I Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Gustaf V was born in Drottningholm Palace in Ekerö, Stockholm County and at birth was created Duke of Värmland. On 8 December 1907 he succeeded his father on the Swedish throne, which had been separated from the Norwegian throne two years earlier.
He married in Karlsruhe to Princess Victoria of Baden on 20 September 1881. She was the granddaughter of Sofia of Sweden, and her marriage to Gustaf V united by a real blood link (and not only so called adoption) the reigning Bernadotte dynasty with the former royal house of Holstein Gottorp.
Gustaf V was the last Swedish king to intervene directly in the politics of the country, in 1914 on the disputes over defense budgets. He was a conservative man, who did not approve of the democratic movement and the demands for workers’ rights. Gustaf V was also the last Swedish king to be Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces (between 1907 and 1939).
Gustaf V was considered to have German sympathies during World War I. His political stance during the war was highly influenced by his domineering wife, who felt a strong connection to her German homeland.
On 18 December 1914 he sponsored a meeting with the other two kings of Scandinavia to demonstrate unity within and between the Scandinavian countries. Another of Gustaf V’s objectives with this three king conference was to dispel suspicions that he wanted to bring Sweden into the war on Germany’s side.
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 Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Gustaf V appealed to Hitler for peace negotiations in 1938, “in the interest of peace”.
When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in October 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 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.
According to Prime Minister Hansson the king had, during a private conversation, threatened to abdicate if the government did not approve of the German request for permission to transfer one armed division – the Engelbrecht Division – through Swedish territory from northern Norway to northern Finland in June 1941. The accuracy of this claim is debated, and the king’s stated intention (if he did in fact make this threat) was to avoid conflict with Germany.
However, 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.
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.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 in to 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.
Allegations of a homosexual affair made the court pay Kurt Haijby at least 170,000 crowns. This later led to the Haijby affair which first came to public notice through the investigative journalism of Wilhelm Moberg and of Herbert Tingsten, editor in chief at Dagens Nyheter.
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.
King Gustaf V died in Stockholm in 1950.