Oscar II

Oscar II (Oscar Fredrik;[1] 21 January 1829 – 8 December 1907) was King of Sweden from 1872 until his death in 1907, and King of Norway from 1872 to 1905.

Oscar II
King of Sweden
Reign18 September 1872 – 8 December 1907
Coronation12 May 1873
PredecessorCharles XV
SuccessorGustaf V
King of Norway
Reign18 September 1872 – 26 October 1905
Coronation18 July 1873
PredecessorCharles IV
SuccessorHaakon VII
Born(1829-01-21)21 January 1829
Stockholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Died8 December 1907(1907-12-08) (aged 78)
Stockholm Palace, Stockholm, Sweden
Burial19 December 1907
Riddarholm Church
Sophia of Nassau
(m. 1857)
IssueGustaf V of Sweden
Prince Oscar Bernadotte
Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland
Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke
Oscar Fredrik
FatherOscar I of Sweden
MotherJosephine of Leuchtenberg
ReligionChurch of Sweden
Church of Norway

Oscar II was King during a time when both Sweden and Norway were undergoing a period of industrialization and rapid technological progress. His reign also saw the gradual decline of the Union of Sweden and Norway, which culminated in its dissolution in 1905. He was subsequently succeeded as King of Norway by his grandnephew Prince Carl of Denmark under the regnal name Haakon VII, and as King of Sweden by his eldest son, Gustaf V.

Oscar II is the paternal great-great-grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden since 1973. Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark is his descendant through his son Gustaf V. Harald V, King of Norway since 1991, Philippe, King of the Belgians since 2013, and Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg since 2000, are also descendants of Oscar II, all through his third son Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland.

Early life

Aides Daniel Nordlander (upper left) and Fritz von Dardel, Ordnance Officer Ferdinand-Alphonse Hamelin, General Henri-Pierre Castelnau, King Charles XV of Sweden and Prince Oscar, future King Oscar II of Sweden, at the 1867 International Exposition in Paris, France.

Oscar Fredrik was born in Stockholm on 21 January 1829, the third of four sons of Crown Prince Oscar and Josephine of Leuchtenberg. Upon his birth, he was created Duke of Östergötland. During his childhood he was placed in the care of the royal governess, Countess Christina Ulrika Taube.[2]

Prince Oscar entered the Royal Swedish Navy as a midshipman at the age of eleven, and was appointed junior lieutenant in July 1845. Later he studied at Uppsala University, where he distinguished himself in mathematics. On 13 December 1848, was made an honorary member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

A distinguished writer and musical amateur himself, King Oscar proved a generous friend of learning, and did much to encourage the development of education throughout his dominions. In 1858 a collection of his lyrical and narrative poems, Memorials of the Swedish Fleet, published anonymously, obtained the second prize of the Swedish Academy. His "Contributions to the Military History of Sweden in the Years 1711, 1712, 1713", originally appeared in the Annals of the Academy, and were printed separately in 1865. His works, which included his speeches, translations of Herder's Cid and Goethe's Torquato Tasso, and a play, Castle Cronberg, were collected in two volumes in 1875–76, and a larger edition, in three volumes, appeared in 1885–88.

In 1859, Prince Oscar became heir-presumptive to the thrones of Sweden and Norway, as his eldest brother King Charles XV of Sweden/Charles IV of Norway was without a legitimate heir, having lost his only son, Prince Carl Oscar, Duke of Södermanland, to pneumonia in 1854. His second elder brother, Prince Gustaf, Duke of Uppland, had before died of typhoid fever in 1852.

King of Sweden and Norway

Oscar II became King on 18 September 1872, upon the death of his brother, Charles XV. At his accession, he adopted as his motto Brödrafolkens väl / Broderfolkenes Vel ("The Welfare of the Brother Peoples"). While the King, his family and the Royal Court resided mostly in Sweden, Oscar II made the effort of learning to be fluent in Norwegian and from the very beginning realized the essential difficulties in the maintenance of the union between the two countries.

Foreign and domestic statecraft

His acute intelligence and his aloofness from the dynastic considerations affecting most European sovereigns (both his paternal and maternal grandfathers were French military commanders who served under Napoleon I) gave the king considerable weight as an arbitrator in international questions. At the request of Great Britain, Germany and the United States in 1889 he appointed the Chief Justice of Samoa under the Treaty of Berlin, and he was again called on to arbitrate in Samoan affairs in 1899.

In 1897 he was empowered to appoint a fifth arbitrator if necessary in the Venezuelan dispute, and he was called on to act as umpire in the Anglo-American arbitration treaty that was quashed by the United States Senate. He won many friends in the United Kingdom by his outspoken and generous support of Britain at the time of the Second Boer War (1899–1902), expressed in a declaration printed in The Times of 2 May 1900, when continental opinion was almost universally hostile.[3]

He remained a strong supporter of the Navy throughout his life, and frequently visited ships of the fleet. When the coastal defence ship Oscar II was launched, he even signed his name on the vessel's aft main gun tower.[4]

The office of Prime Minister of Sweden was instituted in 1876. Louis De Geer became the first head of government in Sweden to use this title. The most known and powerful first minister of the Crown during the reign of Oscar was the conservative estate owner Erik Gustaf Boström. Boström served as Prime Minister in 1891–1900 and 1902–1905. He was trusted and respected by Oscar II, who had much difficulty approving someone else as prime minister. Over a period of time, the King gave Boström a free hand to select his own ministers without much royal involvement. It was an arrangement (unintentional by both the King and Boström) that furthered the road to parliamentarism.

Science and the arts

Portrait of Oscar II by Anders Zorn 1898

His Easter hymn and some other of his poems are familiar throughout the Scandinavian countries. His work on Charles XII of Sweden were translated into English in 1879. In 1881 he founded the world's first open-air museum, at Bygdøy, located next to his summer residence near Oslo (back then known as Christiania). In 1885 he published his Address to the Academy of Music, and a translation of one of his essays on music appeared in Literature in May 1900. He had a valuable collection of printed and manuscript music, which was readily accessible to the historical student of music.

Being a theater lover, he commissioned a new opera house to be built by Axel Anderberg for the Royal Swedish Opera which was inaugurated on 19 September 1898. It remains as the home of that institution. Oscar II once told playwright Henrik Ibsen that his Ghosts was "not a good play". As he was dying, he requested that the theatres not be closed on account of his death. His wishes were respected.

King Oscar II was an enthusiast of Arctic exploration. Along with Swedish millionaire Oscar Dickson and Russian magnate Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Sibiryakov, he was the patron of a number of pioneering Arctic expeditions in the 1800s. Among the ventures the king sponsored, the most important are Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's explorations to the Russian Arctic and Greenland, and Fridtjof Nansen's Polar journey on the Fram.[5]

Oscar was also a generous sponsor of the sciences and personally funded the Vega Expedition, which was the first Arctic expedition to navigate through the Northeast Passage, the sea route between Europe and Asia through the Arctic Ocean, and the first voyage to circumnavigate Eurasia. Oscar was also particularly interested in mathematics. He set up a contest, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, for "an important discovery in the realm of higher mathematical analysis".[6][7][8]


The political events which led up to the peaceful dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905 could hardly have been attained but for the tact and patience of the king himself. He was dethroned on 7 June 1905 by the Storting and renounced the Norwegian throne on 26 October. He declined, indeed, to permit any prince of his house to become king of Norway, but better relations between the two countries were restored before his death. Oscar II died in Stockholm on 8 December 1907 at 9:10 am.[9]

Marriage and children

Oscar II boating.
Engraving by Anders Zorn.

On 6 June 1857 he married in Wiesbaden-Biebrich, Duchy of Nassau (located in present-day Hessen, Germany) Princess Sophia Wilhelmina, the youngest daughter of Duke William of Nassau and Princess Pauline of Württemberg. They had four sons:

  1. King Gustaf V (1858–1950)
  2. Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotland, later known as Prince Oscar Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg (1859–1953)
  3. Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland (1861–1951)
  4. Prince Eugén, Duke of Närke (1865–1947)

His eldest son Gustaf was Duke of Värmland and succeeded him as King Gustaf V of Sweden from 1907 until 1950, married Princess Victoria of Baden and they had three sons. His second son, Prince Oscar, lost his rights of succession to the throne upon his unequal marriage in 1888 to a former lady-in-waiting, Ebba Munck af Fulkila, and was granted the title of Prince Bernadotte first in Sweden, and from 1892 in Luxembourg, where he also was created Count of Wisborg as an hereditary title for his marital progeny (Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg was the half-brother of his mother, Queen Sophia). The other sons of Oscar II were Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland who married Princess Ingeborg of Denmark; and Prince Eugén, Duke of Närke, who was well known as an artist and remained a bachelor all his life.

Alleged extramarital children

Oscar II is also suspected to have had several extramarital children,[10] of which at least five are named:

  • Anna Hofman-Uddgren (1868–1947) by Emma Hammarström (1849–1910)[11]
  • Elin Esping Smitz (1878–1960) by Paulina Mathilda Esping (1858–1878)[12][13]
  • Knut August Ekstam (born 1878, in U.S.A. 1903, death unknown) by Marie Friberg (1852–1934)
  • Florence Stephens (1881–1979) by Elisabeth Kreüger Stephens (1858–1911)[14]
  • Nils Teodor Ekstam (1889–1954) also by Friberg above[15][16]

However, unlike his father, Oscar II never officially recognized any illegitimate children of his.


Portrait of Oscar II wearing the Crown of Eric XIV and mantle, by Oscar Björck. King Oscar II was the last crowned Swedish king and was known to enjoy the pomp and ceremony.
  • Knight and Commander of the Seraphim, 21 January 1829
  • Knight of the Order of Charles XIII, 21 January 1829
  • Commander Grand Cross of the Sword, 21 January 1829
  • Commander Grand Cross of the Polar Star, 21 January 1829
  • Commander Grand Cross of the Order of Vasa, 15 June 1866[18]
  • Grand Cross of St. Olav, with Collar, 21 August 1847[19]
  • Founder and Master of the Order of the Norwegian Lion, 21 January 1904 – 26 October 1905[20]
  • Anhalt: Grand Cross of Albert the Bear
  •  Austria: Grand Cross of St. Stephen, 1866[21]
  •  Baden:[22]
    • Knight of the House Order of Fidelity, 1877
    • Knight of the Order of Berthold the First, 1877
  •  Bavaria: Knight of St. Hubert, 1862[23]
  •  Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, 17 May 1856[24]
  •  Brazil: Grand Cross of the Southern Cross
  •  Denmark:[25]
    • Knight of the Elephant, 3 June 1848
    • Cross of Honour of the Order of the Dannebrog, 5 October 1863
  •  France:
    • Honour medal for Courage and Devotion, 23 March 1862[26]
    • Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
    • Gold Médaille militaire
  • Greece: Grand Cross of the Redeemer
  •  Hanover: Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order, 1852[27]
  •  Hawaii: Grand Cross of the Order of Kamehameha I
  • Hesse-Darmstadt: Grand Cross of the Ludwig Order, 20 September 1881[28]
  •  Italy: Knight of the Annunciation, 10 January 1862[29]
  •  Japan: Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, 27 July 1881[30]
  • Mecklenburg: Grand Cross of the Wendish Crown, with Crown in Ore
  •  Monaco: Grand Cross of St. Charles
  •  Nassau: Knight of the Gold Lion of Nassau, July 1858[31]
  •  Netherlands: Grand Cross of the Netherlands Lion
  •  Luxembourg: Grand Cross of the Oak Crown
  •  Ottoman Empire:
    • Order of Osmanieh, 1st Class
    • Order of Distinction
  • Beylik of Tunis: Husainid Family Order
  •  Portugal:
    • Grand Cross of the Tower and Sword
    • Grand Cross of the Sash of the Three Orders
  • Persia: House Order of the Imperial Effigy, 1st Class
  • Prussia:
    • Knight of the Black Eagle, with Collar
    • Grand Cross of the Red Eagle
    • Grand Commander of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern
  •  Romania:
    • Grand Cross of the Star of Romania
    • Grand Cross of the Crown of Romania
  •  Russia:
    • Knight of St. Andrew, 9 July 1846
    • Knight of St. Alexander Nevsky
    • Knight of the White Eagle
    • Knight of St. Anna, 1st Class
    • Knight of St. Stanislaus, 1st Class
  •  Saxony: Knight of the Rue Crown, 1875[32]
  •  Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach: Grand Cross of the White Falcon, 26 May 1862[33]
  •  Serbia: Grand Cross of the Cross of Takovo
  • Siam:
    • Knight of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri, 29 October 1888
    • Grand Cross of the White Elephant
  •  Spain: Knight of the Golden Fleece, 14 July 1872[34]
  •  United Kingdom: Stranger Knight of the Garter, 17 May 1881[35]
  • Venezuela: Collar of the Order of the Liberator
  •  Württemberg: Grand Cross of the Württemberg Crown, 1879[36]


The name and portrait of Oscar II have been used as a trademark for King Oscar sardines in Norway since 1902[37] (which remains the only brand to have once obtained his "royal permission" [38]) as well as gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor) and other bakery products made by Göteborgs Kex in Sweden.[39]




  1. Stockholm City Archives, archive of the Court parish, birth and baptism records, volume C I:5
  2. Gustaf Elgenstierna, Den introducerade svenska adelns ättartavlor. 1925-36.
  3. Chisholm 1911.
  4. Borgenstam, Curt (2017). "Swedish Coastal Defence Ship Oscar II" (PDF). International Navy Journal. 5 (1): 65. ISSN 2411-3204.
  5. Aho, Maire (January 1999), "AE Nordenskiöld Collection included in the Unesco Memory of the World Program", Tietolinja News, FI: Helsinki, archived from the original on 7 July 2007.
  6. The scientific legacy of Poincaré. Charpentier, Éric., Ghys, E. (Etienne), Lesne, Annick. Providence, R.I.: American Mathematical Society. 2010. p. 165. ISBN 9780821847183. OCLC 426389803.CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. King Oscar’s Prize. Springer.
  8. The solution of the n-body problem, Florin Diacu. Mar 2016.
  9. "Death Of Oscar King Of Sweden. His Son Ascends The Throne And Takes The Title Gustave The Fifth". The New York Times. 9 December 1907. He Eulogizes His Father Tells Why The Country Should Cherish His Memory. In His Sentiments All Sweden Shares.
  10. Gustaf von Platen in Bakom den gyllene fasaden Bonniers ISBN 91-0-058048-1 p 146
  11. Anna Hofmann – varietéstjärna och filmregissör, catalogue of exhibition by that name at Stockholms Stadsmuséum 1998 with essays by Åke Abrahamsson and Marika Lagercrantz/Lotte Wellton.
  12. Throne of a Thousand Years p. 277
  13. FamSAC
  14. Norlin, Arne (2015). Familjen Bernadotte: makten, myterna, människorna (in Swedish). Stockholm: Fischer & Co. pp. 218–220. ISBN 9789186597962. SELIBR 17803399.
  15. Sherlock Holmes and the King of Scandinavia Archived 16 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine The Swedish Pathological Society
  16. Sandberg, Mattias (24 May 2010). "Jakten på den försvunne sonen". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  17. Sveriges statskalender (in Swedish), 1905, p. 438, retrieved 6 January 2018 via runeberg.org
  18. Sveriges och Norges statskalender (in Swedish), 1870, p. 568, retrieved 6 January 2018 via runeberg.org
  19. Sveriges och Norges statskalender (in Swedish), 1870, p. 690, retrieved 6 January 2018 via runeberg.org
  20. "The Order of the Norwegian Lion", The Royal House of Norway. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  21. "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  22. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1880), "Großherzogliche Orden" pp. 60, 72
  23. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreichs Bayern (1906), "Königliche Orden" p. 7
  24. Ferdinand Veldekens (1858). Le livre d'or de l'ordre de Léopold et de la croix de fer. lelong. p. 224.
  25. Bille-Hansen, A. C.; Holck, Harald, eds. (1907) [1st pub.:1801]. Statshaandbog for Kongeriget Danmark for Aaret 1907 [State Manual of the Kingdom of Denmark for the Year 1907] (PDF). Kongelig Dansk Hof- og Statskalender (in Danish). Copenhagen: J.H. Schultz A.-S. Universitetsbogtrykkeri. p. 3. Retrieved 7 September 2020 via da:DIS Danmark.
  26. "oscar-iis-franska-raddningsmedalj" [Oscar II's Rescue Medal] (in Swedish).
  27. Staat Hannover (1865). Hof- und Staatshandbuch für das Königreich Hannover: 1865. Berenberg. p. 81.
  28. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Hessen (1883), "Großherzogliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen", p. 14
  29. Cibrario, Luigi (1869). Notizia storica del nobilissimo ordine supremo della santissima Annunziata. Sunto degli statuti, catalogo dei cavalieri (in Italian). Eredi Botta. p. 118. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  30. 刑部芳則 (2017). 明治時代の勲章外交儀礼 (PDF) (in Japanese). 明治聖徳記念学会紀要. p. 143.
  31. Staats- und Adreß-Handbuch des Herzogthums Nassau (1866), "Herzogliche Orden" p. 8
  32. Sachsen (1876). Staatshandbuch für den Freistaat Sachsen: 1876. Heinrich. p. 3.
  33. Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1864), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 13
  34. "Caballeros de la insigne orden del toisón de oro", Guía Oficial de España (in Spanish), 1887, p. 146, retrieved 21 March 2019
  35. Shaw, Wm. A. (1906) The Knights of England, I, London, p. 66
  36. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Württemberg (1907), "Königliche Orden" p. 28
  37. "About King Oscar". kingoscar.com. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  38. "King of the sea". The Norwegian American. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  39. "Kung Oscar" (in Swedish). Göteborgs Kex AB. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Oscar II.". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 346.

Further reading

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