Gustaf VI Adolf

Gustaf VI Adolf (Oscar Fredrik Wilhelm Olaf Gustaf Adolf; 11 November 1882 – 15 September 1973) was King of Sweden from 29 October 1950 until his death. The eldest son of Gustaf V and his wife, Victoria of Baden, he had been Crown Prince for the preceding 42 years in the reign of his father. Shortly before his death, he approved the constitutional changes which removed the Swedish monarchy's last nominal political powers. He was a lifelong amateur archeologist particularly interested in Ancient Italian cultures.

Gustaf VI Adolf
Gustaf VI Adolf in November 1962
King of Sweden
Reign29 October 1950 – 15 September 1973
PredecessorGustaf V
SuccessorCarl XVI Gustaf
Prime ministers
See list
Born(1882-11-11)11 November 1882
Stockholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Died15 September 1973(1973-09-15) (aged 90)
Helsingborg Hospital, Helsingborg, Sweden
Burial25 September 1973
Royal Cemetery, Solna
    Princess Margaret of Connaught
    (m. 1905; died 1920)
      Lady Louise Mountbatten
      (m. 1923; died 1965)
      • Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten
      • Sigvard Bernadotte
      • Ingrid, Queen of Denmark
      • Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland
      • Carl Johan Bernadotte
      Oscar Fredrik Wilhelm Olaf Gustaf Adolf
      FatherGustaf V of Sweden
      MotherVictoria of Baden
      ReligionChurch of Sweden


      He was born at Stockholm Palace and at birth created Duke of Scania. A patrilineal member of the Bernadotte family, he was also a descendant of the House of Vasa through maternal lines. Through his mother, Victoria, he was a descendant of Gustav IV Adolf of the House of Holstein-Gottorp (Swedish line).

      Crown Prince (1907–1950)

      Gustaf Adolf became Crown Prince of Sweden on 8 December 1907, on the death of his grandfather, King Oscar II.

      1934/35 trip to the Near East

      From September to December 1934, the Crown Prince, Crown Princess Louise, Princess Ingrid and Prince Bertil visited a number of countries in the Near East. The journey began on 13 September from Stockholm. The journey went by rail via Malmö, Berlin and Rome to Messina, where the royals boarded the Swedish Oriental Line motor ship Vasaland, destined for Greece. They stopped at Patras and then the journey continued to Aegion.[1] On 20 September, they arrived in Piraeus, from where the royals took a train to Athens, where they were received by the President of Greece and representatives of government agenecies. Furthermore, an excursion was made to Delphi, Nafplio and Delos with the cruiser Hellas. After returning to Athens, Vasaland departed for Thessaloniki on 28 September, where the international fair was visited. On 2 October, they arrived in Istanbul. After the ship dropped anchor, the royals were landed on the Asian side of the strait. The sloop docked at the quay in front of Haydarpaşa railway station. At the platform, President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's caravan waited, in which the journey continued to Ankara. At the station, the guests were received by Atatürk, members of the government and the administration. After his arrival, the Crown Prince visited Atatürk as well as Foreign Minister Tevfik Rüştü Aras. The visit to Ankara lasted from 3 to 5 October. On 5 October, a two-day visit to Bursa was made. The stay in Turkey ended with a four-day incognito break in Istanbul, during which several receptions were held at the Swedish legation.[1]

      On 10 October, the royal travelers continued with Vasaland, which arrived on 12 October in Smyrna. From here, the departure took place on 15 October with the president's own train and on the 17 October it arrived in Aleppo, after Prince Bertil and a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined the party on the way. In Aleppo, the stay was extended to about 14 days, when the Crown Prince contracted a mild intestinal catarrh due to the stressful climate. On 1 November, the journey continued. The Crown Prince Couple, Princess Ingrid and Prince Bertil then boarded a British military plane and arrived in Baghdad on the same day. The King Ghazi of Iraq met at his country retreat Kasr-el-Zuhoor, from where he accompanied his guests to Bilatt Castle. At all the official events that followed, except for King Ghazi of Iraq, his uncle and father-in-law, King Ali of Hejaz, the President of the Council and members of the Cabinet, the President of the Senate and others.[1] On 6 November, the royals left by train for Khanaqin, where cars were ready to take them to Tehran. At the border, they were received by a representative of the Persian government and in Tehran by the Foreign Minister and the Grand Master of the Ceremonies, as well as representatives of government agencies. The Crown Prince's family went in a procession to the castle, where the Shah for the Crown Prince represented the council president and others were present. The Shah then accompanied the Crown Prince to the Golestan Palace. After several days in the Persian capital, he left for Mazandaran Province to study for three days the ongoing construction work for the Trans-Iranian Railway. He then returned to Tehran to say goodbye to the Shah. The Crown Prince's family then left on 17 November in Volvo cars for Isfahan and Persepolis. In the latter place, the royals lived in the so-called Xerxes' harem and visited the city under the leadership of Professor Ernst Herzfeld. On 25 November, the return journey to Baghdad began over the snowy passes along the Kum-Sultanabad-Kermanshah road, a three-day uninterrupted journey by car.[1]

      After a week-long unofficial stay in Baghdad with visits to modern factories and excursions to Ur and Babylon, the Crown Prince Couple and Princess Ingrid left for Damascus on 5 December by plane. Prince Bertil accompanied the car caravan through the desert, where camel troops paraded at Rutbah station. On 6 December, the President of the Syrian Republic hosted a banquet for the Crown Prince's family, who stayed in Syria for four days. During the return journey to Beirut, Baalbek and the ruins of the old sun city were visited. In Beirut, the royals were received with military honors and were guests of the French government. The High Commissioner of the Levant, with whom the Crown Prince and Crown Princess stayed, hosted a dinner, as did the President of the Lebanese Republic.[1] The Crown Prince also visited the new port facilities in Beirut and visited the offices of the Swedish Oriental Line, Volvo and SKF. Furthermore, the journey went to Jerusalem. The royals arrived on 11 December by car in Palestine and met at the border by the English Commissioner for the Northern District. A two-day break was made in Haifa, where the royals lived in the government building on Mount Carmel. Visits were made on board the Swedish Orient Line's motor ship Hemland. During his stay in Haifa, the Crown Prince laid a wreath at the monument to King Faisal I of Iraq. Excursions were made to Capernaum, Acre, Nazareth and Nablus as well as the modern Jewish cooperative colony of Nahallah. The Crown Prince's family arrived in Jerusalem on 13 December and immediately went to their residence during their stay there, the residence of the English High Commissioner. The program for the following days included a two-day break in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. Visits were made to the offices of Volvo, SKF, ASEA and other Swedish companies.[1] A two-day excursion was made around 20 December to Jericho, the Dead Sea, Transjordan's capital Amman and Petra. The travelers were received by the Emir of Transjordan. After their return to Jerusalem, the royals continued immediately with train to Cairo, where they were guests of the Egyptian government. Due to King Fuad's illness, the Prime Minister hosted the reception banquet at Zafaran Palace on 22 December. The royal guests spent Christmas in stillness, partly in a villa at the foot of the pyramids, partly on the Swedish legation. The Crown Prince and Prince Bertil then visited for a couple of days Alexandria. The Swedish consul Carl Wilhelm von Gerber arranged a reception for the governor, the chief officials, the consuls and the judiciary and the Swedish deputy consul and such for the leading trade representatives.[1]

      Reign (1950–1973)

      On 29 October 1950, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf became king a few days before his 68th birthday, upon the death of his father, King Gustaf V. He was at the time the world's oldest heir apparent to a monarchy (this in turn was broken by his grand-nephew Charles, Prince of Wales on 2 November 2016). His personal motto was Plikten framför allt, "Duty before all".

      During Gustaf VI Adolf's reign, work was underway on a new Instrument of Government to replace the 1809 constitution and produce reforms consistent with the times. Among the reforms sought by some Swedes was the replacement of the monarchy or at least some moderation of the old constitution's provision that "The King alone shall govern the realm."

      Gustaf VI Adolf's personal qualities made him popular among the Swedish people and, in turn, this popularity led to strong public opinion in favour of the retention of the monarchy. Gustaf VI Adolf's expertise and interest in a wide range of fields (architecture and botany being but two) made him respected, as did his informal and modest nature and his purposeful avoidance of pomp. While the monarchy had been de facto subordinate to the Riksdag and ministers since the definitive establishment of parliamentary rule in 1917, the king still nominally retained considerable reserve powers. With few exceptions, though, Gustaf was bound to act on the advice of the ministers.

      The King died in 1973, ten weeks shy of his 91st birthday, at the old hospital in Helsingborg, Scania, close to his summer residence, Sofiero Castle, after a deterioration in his health that culminated in pneumonia. He was succeeded on the throne by his 27-year-old grandson Carl XVI Gustaf, son of the late Prince Gustaf Adolf. He died the day before the election of 1973, which is suggested to have swayed it in support of the incumbent Social Democratic government.[2] In a break with tradition, he was not buried in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm, but in the Royal Cemetery in Haga alongside his wives. He was the last surviving son of Gustaf V.

      Not long before his death, Gustaf Adolf approved a new constitution that stripped the monarchy of its remaining political functions. That effectively codified actual practices dating from 1917. The new document took effect in 1975, two years after Gustaf Adolf's death and left his grandson as a ceremonial figurehead, without any essential role in governing.

      Personal interests

      Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf meets some English footballers (c. 1910–1915).

      The King's reputation as a "professional amateur professor" was widely known; nationally and internationally, and among his relatives. Gustaf VI Adolf was a devoted archaeologist, and was admitted to the British Academy for his work in botany in 1958. Gustaf VI Adolf participated in archaeological expeditions in China, Greece, Korea and Italy, and founded the Swedish Institute in Rome.

      Gustaf VI Adolf had an enormous private library consisting of 80 000 volumes and – nearly more impressively – he actually had read the main part of the books. He had an interest in specialist literature on Chinese art and East Asian history. Throughout his life, King Gustaf VI Adolf was particularly interested in the history of civilization, and he participated in several archaeological expeditions. His other great area of interest was botany, concentrating in flowers and gardening. He was considered an expert on the Rhododendron flower. At Sofiero Castle (the king's summer residence) he created an admired Rhododendron collection.

      Like his sons, Prince Gustaf Adolf and Prince Bertil, Gustaf VI Adolf maintained wide, lifelong interests in sports. He enjoyed tennis and golf, and fly fishing for charity. He was president of the Swedish Olympic Committee and the Swedish Sports Confederation from their foundations and until 1933, and these positions were then taken over by his sons in succession, Gustaf Adolf until 1947 and then Bertil until 1997.

      According to all six books of memoires by his sons Sigvard[3] and Carl Johan,[4] nephew Lennart[5] and of wives of the two sons,[6] Gustaf Adolf from the 1930s on took a great and abiding interest in removing their royal titles and privileges (because of marriages that were unconstitutional at the time), persuaded his father Gustaf V to do so and to have the Royal Court call the three family members only Mr. Bernadotte.

      Family and issue

      Gustaf Adolf with his first wife, Margaret, and their children in 1912

      Gustaf Adolf married Princess Margaret of Connaught on 15 June 1905 in St. George's Chapel, at Windsor Castle. Princess Margaret was the daughter of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret had five children:

      Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Västerbotten22 April 190626 January 1947(1947-01-26) (aged 40)Married Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, his second cousin; died in a plane crash at Copenhagen Airport, father of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
      Prince Sigvard, Duke of Uppland7 June 19074 February 2002(2002-02-04) (aged 94)later Sigvard Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg
      Princess Ingrid28 March 19107 November 2000(2000-11-07) (aged 90)later Queen of Denmark; wife of Frederick IX of Denmark and mother of the present Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece
      Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland28 February 19125 January 1997(1997-01-05) (aged 84)married Lillian Davies, no issue
      Prince Carl Johan, Duke of Dalarna31 October 19165 May 2012(2012-05-05) (aged 95)later Carl Johan Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg.

      Crown Princess Margaret died suddenly on 1 May 1920 with her cause of death given as an infection following surgery. At the time, she was eight months pregnant and expecting their sixth child.

      Gustaf Adolf married Lady Louise Mountbatten, formerly Princess Louise of Battenberg, on 3 November 1923 at St. James's Palace. She was the sister of Lord Mountbatten and aunt of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It was Lady Louise who became Queen of Sweden. Both Queen Louise and her stepchildren were great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Crown Princess Margaret having been a first cousin of Queen Louise's mother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine.

      His second marriage produced only one stillborn daughter on 30 May 1925.

      While his first wife visited her native Britain in the early years of their marriage, it was widely rumored in Sweden that Gustaf Adolf had an affair there with operetta star Rosa Grünberg.[7] Swedish vocalist Carl E. Olivebring (1919–2002) in a press interview claimed to be an extramarital son of Gustaf VI Adolf, a claim taken seriously by the king's biographer Kjell Fridh (1944–1998).[8]

      King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden was the grandfather of his direct successor King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and also of former Queen Anne-Marie of Greece.

      King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden was the uncle by his second marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh.



      Country Date Appointment
       Sweden[9] 11 November 1882  19 October 1950 Knight with Collar Royal Order of the Seraphim
      11 November 1882  19 October 1950 Commander Grand Cross Order of the Sword
      11 November 1882  19 October 1950 Commander Grand Cross Order of the Polar Star
      1 June 1912  19 October 1950 Commander Grand Cross Order of Vasa
      11 November 1882  19 October 1950 Knight with Collar Order of Charles XIII
      18 September 1897 King Oscar II's Jubilee Commemorative Medal
      20 September 1906 Crown Prince Gustaf's and Crown Princess Victoria's Silver Wedding Medal
      6 June 1907 King Oscar II and Queen Sofia's Golden Wedding Medal
      16 June 1928 King Gustaf V's Jubilee Commemorative Medal
      16 June 1948 King Gustaf V's Jubilee Commemorative Medal
      Quasi-Official Orders
      • High Protector (and Honorary Knight) of the Order of St John in Sweden
      • The Medal Illis Quorum Meruere Labores of the 18th size


      •  Norway:
        • Grand Cross of St. Olav, with Collar, 11 November 1882[10]
        • Knight of the Norwegian Lion, 21 January 1904[11]
      • Austria:
      •  Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Royal Order of Leopold
      •  Brazil: Grand Cross of the Southern Cross[9]
      •  Denmark:[14]
        • Knight of the Elephant, 28 October 1903
        • Cross of Honour of the Order of the Dannebrog, 31 May 1935
        • King Christian X's Liberty Medal
        • Grand Commander of the Dannebrog, 24 March 1952
      •  Iceland: Grand Cross of the Falcon, with Collar
      •  Egypt: Collar of the Order of Muhammad Ali
      •  Ethiopia: Collar of the Order of Solomon, 1945[15]
      •  Finland: Grand Cross of the White Rose, with Collar, 1925[16]
      •  France: Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
      • Germany:
      • Greece: Grand Cross of the Redeemer
      • Iran: Grand Collar of the Order of Pahlavi
      • Iraq: Grand Cross of the Two Rivers
      • Italy:
      •  Japan: Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum
      •  Netherlands: Grand Cross of the Netherlands Lion
      •  Ottoman Empire: Order of Osmanieh, 1st Class
      •  Peru: Grand Cross of the Sun of Peru, in Diamonds
      •  Portugal: Grand Cross of the Tower and Sword[10]
      •  Romania: Collar of the Order of Carol I[9]
      •  Russia
        • Knight of St. Andrew
        • Knight of St. Alexander Nevsky
        • Knight of St. Stanislaus, 1st Class
        • Knight of St. Anna, 1st Class
        • Knight of the White Eagle
      •  Spain: Knight of the Golden Fleece, 31 January 1910[18]
      • Siam: Knight of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri, 25 October 1911[19]
      •  United Kingdom:
      Honorary degrees
      Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf receives his diploma as an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago from the its president, Professor Max Mason in 1926.

      In 1918, Gustaf VI Adolf received an honorary doctorate at Lund University, in 1926 an Honorary Doctorate at Yale, Princeton and Clark Universities, at Cambridge in 1929 and in 1932 at the University of Dorpat.

      Honorary military ranks

      Other Honors

      • Caxton Club, Chicago. Honorary Member 1952-1973[27]
      • In 1938 he was elected an honorary member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati

      Arms and monogram

      Upon his creation as Duke of Skåne, Gustaf Adolf was granted a coat of arms with the arms of Skåne in base. These arms can be seen on his stall-plates both as Knight of the Swedish order of the Seraphim in the Riddarholm Church in Sweden, but also the Frederiksborg Chapel in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a Knight of the Danish Order of the Elephant. Upon his accession to the throne in 1950, he assumed the Royal Arms of Sweden.

      As prince of Sweden and Norway
      and Duke of Scania 1882 to 1905

      As crown prince of Sweden and
      Duke of Scania 1907 to 1950

      Greater Coat of Arms of Sweden, also the King's coat of arms

      Royal Monogram of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden



      1. Kjellberg, H.E., ed. (1934). Svenska Dagbladets årsbok (Händelserna 1934) [Svenska Dagbladet's yearbook (Events of 1934)] (in Swedish). 12. Stockholm: Svenska Dagbladet. pp. 73–77. SELIBR 283647.
      2. Magnusson, Jane (25 November 2011). "När Martin Luther King träffade kungen". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 22 March 2016.
      3. Sigvard Bernadotte's memoires
      4. Carl Johan Bernadotte's memoires
      5. Lennart Bernadotte's first book & second book
      6. Marianne Bernadotte's memoires & Kerstin Bernadotte's
      7. Elgklou, Lars (1978). Bernadotte: historien - och historier - om en familj (in Swedish). Stockholm: Askild & Kärnekull. p. 170. ISBN 91-7008-882-9. SELIBR 7589807.
      8. Fridh, Kjell (1995). Gamle kungen: Gustaf VI Adolf : en biografi (in Swedish). Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand. ISBN 91-46-16462-6. SELIBR 7281986.
      9. Sveriges statskalender (in Swedish), 2, 1947, p. 5, retrieved 6 January 2018 via
      10. Norges Statskalender (in Norwegian), 1890, pp. 589–590, retrieved 6 January 2018 via
      11. "The Order of the Norwegian Lion", The Royal House of Norway. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
      12. "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
      13. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). National Council. p. 95. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
      14. Bille-Hansen, A. C.; Holck, Harald, eds. (1969) [1st pub.:1801]. Statshaandbog for Kongeriget Danmark for Aaret 1969 [State Manual of the Kingdom of Denmark for the Year 1969] (PDF). Kongelig Dansk Hof- og Statskalender (in Danish). Copenhagen: J.H. Schultz A.-S. Universitetsbogtrykkeri. pp. 18, 20. Retrieved 29 May 2020 via da:DIS Danmark.
      15. "The Imperial Orders and Decorations of Ethiopia", The Crown Council of Ethiopia. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
      16. "Suomen Valkoisen Ruusun Suurristi Ketjuineen". (in Finnish). Retrieved 7 May 2020.
      17. Italy. Ministero dell'interno (1920). Calendario generale del regno d'Italia. p. 57.
      18. Boletín Oficial del Estado. 1 February 1910. Vol. L, #32, p. 253
      19. Royal Thai Government Gazette (5 November 1911). "ส่งเครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์ไปพระราชทาน" (PDF) (in Thai). Retrieved 8 May 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
      20. Supplement to the London Gazette, issue 27793, p. 3513
      21. The London Gazette, issue 27807, p. 4251
      22. List of Knights of the Garter – 1348 to present – via
      23. "No. 39237". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 May 1951. p. 2927.
      24. "No. 40851". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 August 1956. p. 4579.
      25. "No. 43174". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 November 1963. p. 9907.
      26. Hånbog for flyvevåbnet 1963-64 (in Danish). Copenhagen: Ministry of Defence. 1963. p. 1.
      27. The Caxton Club Yearbook 1965 104 and The Caxton Club Yearbook 1971 supplement of 1973
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