Swedish Royalty


Figure 1.--.

The hisorty of the modern Swedish monarchy begin with the era of the French Revolution. Gustavus III pursued liberal policies, but was assasinated when, after the French Revolution (1789) he became increasingly despotic. His son Gustavus IV Adolphus was only 13 years old when his father was assasinated. Gustavus was bitterly deposed to Napoleon, but an army revolt deposed Gustavus in 1809. Charles XIII formulated for the time a radical new constitution, but was, however, aging and childless. In an effort to appease Napoleon, the Riksdag chose one of Napoleon's trusted marshals as crown prince--Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, Prince of Pontecorvo. The marshal accepted and became a bitter enemy of Napoleon. The current royal familt descenced from Crown Prince Bernadotte.

Historical Background

Ancient era

The eastern half of the Scandinavian Peninsula during Roman times was inhabited by two great Germanic tribes, the Suiones or Swedes in the north (Svealand) and the Gothones or Goths in the south (Gothia). These tribes, although united in religious belief were generalyy at war with each other.

Medevil era

Previous to the 10th century, details od Swedeish history or obscure. Not until about 980, are historians sure about the names of Swdish kings. Frankish misionaries in the 9th century began teaching christianity which slowly became established. Olaf Skutkonug ruling from 993-1024 was the first Swedish to become a Christian. One of Sweden's most powerful monarchs was Eric IX ruling from 1150-60. He became the ptron saint of Sweden. Eric invaded Finland, forcing Christianity upon the conquered population. Eric was killed in an attack by Denmark, initiating an extended series of wars between the two countries. The power of the nobility grew in the 14th and 15th century as fedualism became the dominate force in the country as the power of the monarchy wained. A historic painting shows the wife of King Magnus Ericson, Queen Blanka, with her son Crown Prince Eric. The nobility deposed King Albert in 1388 and offered the crown to Margaret, Queen of Denmark and Norway. The Union of Kalmar united the crowns of the three Scandinavian kingdoms in 1397.

Union with Denmark and Norway

The union endured for more than a centurry, but was characterized by constantvtension between the Danes and Swedes. King Christian II invaded Sweden in 1520 to enforce his authority. His brutal methods, including the execultion of Stockhom nobels, caused a rebelion led by Gustavus Vasa in 1521 who became Gustavus I of an indeprndent Swedish Kingdom.

Baltic Power

Gustavus I became an hereditary monarch and severly limited the power of the nobility. Luthernism was established as thge state religion. Parts of Estonia requested protection frpm Sweden. After a war with Poland, Sweden acquired all of Estonia. Gustavus Adolphus, generally considered the greatest Swedish king, suceeded to the throne in 1611. He expanded Swedish territrt during wars with Russia and Poland. His intervention in Germany helped to ensure the victory of protestant forces during the 30 years war. Charles X-XII achieved spectacular military successes, but Swedish military power was finally broken by Peter the Great of Russia at the Battle of Poltava. Sweden was in fact a small country and did not have the capacity to compete with a huge state like Russia. Charles XI had also tried to strike at fundamental Swedish and impose an absolutist regime. As in most other European countries, the 16th and 17th centuries in Sweden were characterized by the emergence of an increasingly efficient and centralized administration.

Modern Monarchs

The hisorty of the modern Swedish monarchy begin with the era of the French Revolution.

Gustavus III (1771-92)

Gustavus III suceeded to the throne in 1771 and taking advantage of popular disatisfaction with the nobility, staged a coup d'etat and imposed a new constitution. He in fact restored absolute rule. At first his policies were liberal, but after the French Revolution (1789) he became increasingly despotic. He was assasinated in 1772.

Gustavus IV Adolphus (1792-1809)

Gustavus IV as only 13 years old when his father was assasinated. A regent ruled until he was proclaimed king in 1800. Gustavus was bitterly deposed to Napoleon, and joined an alliance with Russia, Austria, and Great Britain to opose him. The Russians, however, deserted the coaltion and instead invaded Finland, thratening Sweden itself. An army revolt deposed Gustavus in 1809.

Charles XIII (1809-18)

The Riksdag formulated a new constitution and elected Gustavus IV's uncle as King Charles XII. The Constitution of 1809, which was in force right up until 1975 and then was the second oldest Constitution in the world after the United States’, was formulated in accordance with Montesquieu’s theory of the separation of powers, taking into account constitutional developments in Sweden. The King was to be the sole ruler of the realm, but had at his side a Council of Ministers, who must countersign, i.e. approve, all decisions. Legislative power was divided equally between the King and the Riksdag, while the Riksdag alone could levy taxes.Territory was ceded to Russia and a pro-Napoleonic policy adopted. Charles was, however, aging and childless. A successor to the throne had to be found. First, the Danish prince, Karl August of Augustenborg, was chosen, but he died shortly after his arrival in Sweden. In an effort to appease Napoleon, the Riksdag chose one of Napoleon's trusted marshals as crown prince--Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, Prince of Pontecorvo. The marshal accepted.

One of the reasons for chosing Prince Bernadotte was a desire for an alliance with France and Napoleon in the hope of gaining the latter’s support for winning Finland back from Russia. After his arrival in Sweden, Prince Bernadotte soon became the dominate force in Sweden, in reality Regent of the Realm. In 1812, he initiated quite a different policy, joined the coalition against Napoleon and in the Kiel peace treaty won Norway from Denmark and after a short campaign forced Norway to enter into a union with Sweden in 1814. This union was not dissolved until 1905.

Charles XIV John (1818-44)

Prince Bernadotte became king in 1818 as Charles XIV John. His reign included continuing conflict with the Riksdag for control. Many Swedes resented him as a foreigner. While he was not popular, but was an able administer. During his reign theunited Kingdom of Norway and Sweden made consderable economic progress.

Oscar I (1844-59)

Oscar I married Josephine of Leuchtenberg, the daughter of Eugene, Emperess Joséphine's son. This tied the Swedish royal family and through subsequent marriages, many other European royals to Joséphine, but not to the Emperor Napoleon.

Charles XV (1859-72)

With the breakthrough of liberalism in the middle of the 19th century, the struggle started concerning the power exerted by King himself. From the day Crown Prince Karl took over government in 1857 until the final capitulation of Gustaf V in the face of demands for parliamentarism and democracy in 1918, the struggle for royal power was the main theme of the history of Swedish kings.

Oscar II (1872-1907)

King Oskar II sought during his reign, 1872-1907, to take a much more active role in leading developments than had his brother and predecessor. On his own initiative he made contact with leading politicians and tried to influence them in private talks. Also in his relations with the Council he tried to assert the right of the King to bring his opinions to bear on political decisions. King Oskar had finally given up the struggle for the personal power of the monarchy. The final battle, however, was not fought until later during the reign of his successor, Gustaf V. The union with Norway began to show strain in the late 19th century. The Norwegiona legislature dissolved the union in 1905 at act ratified without strong oposition by the Riksdag. Notable progress was made in social legislation. King Oscar II married to Sophia of Nassau. They had four children Gustaf (1858-1950) suceeded his father as King Gustaf V. Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotland (1859-1953), was later Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg. Prince Carl was Duke of Västergötland (1861-1951). One of his daughters was Princess Martha (1901-64) who married Crown Prince Olav of Norway. King Oscar's other child was Prince Eugén, was Duke of Närke (1865-1947).


Figure 2.--

Gustavus V (1907-50)

Gustavus was born in 1858 at Drottningholm, near Stockholm. His father was King Oscar II . His mother was Sophia Wilhelmina Mariana von Nassau. He married in 1881 to Zähringen, Victoria of Baden. They had three children. The oldest was the future Gustav VI Adolf who was born in 1882. There were two other boys: William born 1884 and Erik Gustaf Louis, Duke of Vestmanland, born 1889. Gustavus V suceeded to the throne in 1907. He served as king in monmentous times. Important constitutional refornms were passed in 1909 extending the franchise and inagurating propotional representation. Sweden declared its neutrality upon the outbreak of World War I and entered an allance with Denmark and Norway to defend their neutrality and common economic interests. Beginining in 1919, Swedish reformers began to build a welfare state in Sweden. The country was forced to divert resources to the military during the 1930s as war loomed in Europe. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Sweden again proclaimed its neutrality. Sweden provided aid to Finland when Russia invaded in 1939, but refused to allow Britiain and France to send troops across Swedish territory. When Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, Sweden mpbilized for a German attack, but it never came. Sweden proceeded to expand traded with the Germans and Swedish raw materials supported the Gernman war effort until late in the war. Despite his defeat in the struggle for the personal power of the King, Gustaf V won the affection of his people during his long reign, 1907-1950. During the Second World War he symbolized the unity of the nation. This means that the monarchy was rooted in the personal popularity of the King. King Gustavus V died in 1950 at Drottningholm near Stockholm.


Figure 3.--This photograph of Princess Margareta with Princes Gustav Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil, and Karl Johan and Princess IngridThe photograph was taken in 1920. Note that the older boys wear Eton collars.

Gustaf VI Adolf (1950-73)

Gustav VI was born in 1882 at Stockholm, Sweden. He mairred Margaret Victoria Wettin in 1905 at Windor Castle, England. The royal crown couple had five children: Gustav Adolf, Sigvard Oscar Fredrik (Count of Wisborg), Ingrid Victoria, Bertil Gustaf Oscar, and Carl Johan Arthur (Count of Wisborg). Gustaf VI at an advanced age inherited a very different crown than his father and served in less monentous times, rising to the throne after World war II (1939-45). Gustaf VI Adolf strictly observed the rules which had emerged for a constitutional monarchy during his reign, 1950-73. His personal qualities were in tune with developments and perhaps more than any other of the admittedly few contemporary monarchs he helped to create a new type of kingship--a democratic monarchy. Practically throughout the reign of Gustaf VI Adolf work was being done on a new Constitution, one which in 1975 replaced the 1809 Constitution. During the period the constitutional reform was being prepared, Gustaf VI Adolf probably meant more than anyone else for the perpetuation of the monarchy in Sweden.

Carl XVI Gustaf (1973- )

With Carl XVI Gustaf Folke Hubertus’s accession to the throne in 1973, Sweden had a King who was no less than two generations younger than his predecessor. When the 27-year-old Carl Gustaf--the youngest of the Bernadotte monarchs ascended the throne he took as his motto "For Sweden--in Keeping With the Times". Carl XVI Gustaf was born on 30 April 1946 at Haga Palace, the youngest child and only son of the Hereditary Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha. The Prince and Princess already had four daughters (the Princesses Margaretha, Birgitta, Désirée and Christina), three of whom were to marry commoners. As Prince Gustaf Adolf was killed in an air crash in 1947, his son was already Sweden’s Crown Prince when his grandfather Gustaf VI Adolf acceded to the throne in 1950. His mother, Princess Sibylla, died in 1972. Crown Prince Carl Gustaf, then 27 years old, became Sweden's Head of State. The new King took as his motto "For Sweden - With the times", thereby declaring his intention of meeting the demands of society on a modern monarch.







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Created: December 8, 1998
Last updated: 6:50 PM 7/27/2008