Oscar II (Oscar Fredrik; January 21, 1829 – December 8, 1907) was King of Sweden from 1872 until his death in 1907, and King of Norway from 1872 to 1905.
Oscar Fredrik was born in Stockholm on January 21, 1829, the third of four sons of Crown Prince Oscar and Josephine of Leuchtenberg. Josephine of Leuchtenberg was the first of six children of Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg (1781 – 1824), and his wife, Princess Augusta of Bavaria (1788 – 1851). Her paternal grandmother and namesake was Joséphine Tascher de La Pagerie, the first wife of Napoleon: she was given the name ‘Joséphine’ by Napoleon’s request. Her maternal grandfather was King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria.
Upon his birth, Prince Oscar was created Duke of Östergötland. During his childhood he was placed in the care of the royal governess, Countess Christina Ulrika Taube.
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 December 13, 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.
In 1859, Prince Oscar became heir-presumptive to the thrones of Sweden and Norway, as his eldest brother King Carl XV-IV of Sweden and 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 September 18, 1872, upon the death of his brother, Carl 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.
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 II 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.
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 June 7, 1905 by the Storting and renounced the Norwegian throne on 26 October 26. Oscar II 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 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 died in Stockholm on December 8, 1907 at 9:10 am.
Marriage and children
On June 6, 1857 he married in Wiesbaden-Biebrich, Duchy of Nassau (located in present-day Hessen, Germany) Princess Sophia Wilhelmina, the youngest daughter of Duke Wilhelm of Nassau and Princess Pauline of Württemberg. They had four sons:
King Gustaf V (1858–1950)
Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotland, later known as Prince Oscar Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg (1859–1953)
Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland (1861–1951)
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.
Oscar II is also suspected to have had several extramarital children.
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.