Like I mentioned in the post on Philippa of England, we’re continuing our coincidental trend of covering Britain’s ties to Sweden. Today we’re taking a look at a much more recent individual: Margaret of Connaught, Crown Princess of Sweden. A granddaughter of Queen Victoria and first cousin of the more famous Queen Maud of Norway, Margaret’s tenure in the Swedish Royal Family was tragically cut short by her early death before World War II, though her husband remarkably married yet another British woman, Lady Louise Mountbatten.
Margaret was born at Bagshot Park, Surrey to Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and his wife, Louise of Prussia, on March 11, 1882. Among her godparents were Queen Victoria, Emperor Wilhelm I, the Crown Princess of Germany (Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter) and Prince and Princess Friedrich Karl of Prussia. In short, it was quite the showing of her mother’s German heritage.
Margaret, or “Daisy” as she was known to her family, was the eldest of her parents’ three children. She was joined the following January by a younger brother, named Arthur for their father, and by a younger sister, Patricia, in March 1886.
Margaret’s parents undertook engagements and foreign tours on behalf of Queen Victoria, while the children remained behind in the schoolroom. Their holidays were spent with the Queen at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle in Surrey. The family lived at Clarence House when in London (now the home of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) and Bagshot Park otherwise, however the house didn’t become their own until 1900.
One of Margaret’s first high-profile public occasions came at age 11 when she and Patricia served as bridesmaids at the wedding of their cousin, the Duke of York, and Mary of Teck in 1893. This, of course, was the future George V and Queen Mary, however George had only just stepped in directly line for the throne after the premature death of his brother, Albert Victor.
Margaret was confirmed five years later in 1898 at Windsor Castle, and shortly before her 19th birthday in 1901, her grandmother, Queen Victoria, passed away. Margaret was a favorite niece of the new king, Edward VII. He had it in his head that she and her sister were eligible for European thrones as queen consorts and, as such, she and Patricia were sent to Portugal in January 1905 to meet King Carlos and Queen Amélie, as well as their two sons, Luis Filipe and Manuel.
From Portugal, the family moved on to Egypt and Sudan. While in Cairo, Margaret met Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, grandson of King Oscar II. The original idea was that Margaret would go to Lisbon and Patricia to Stockholm, but Gustaf Adolf and Margaret swiftly fell in love. While still in Egypt, the Prince proposed and Margaret accepted.
The engagement wasn’t long – the couple married on June 15, 1905 at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and honeymooned in Ireland. Margaret arrived in Sweden for the first time on July 8 and soon adopted the Swedish styling of her name, “Margareta.” She quickly set about learning the language, which she mastered in two years. She took a series of low-profile trips about the country to learn more about her future subjects. In the early years, she was regarded as overly serious and stiff by the Swedish people, but she loosened up as time went on and she became genuinely popular.
Within the Swedish court, she was a welcome addition, providing a welcome link to the British Empire and introducing a number of English customs. She invested in an English-style garden at her country home at Sofiero Palace and highlighted the role of the arts, particular modern painters and photographers.
The marriage itself was a success, the initial love match paying off. Margaret insisted on a close-knit and supportive family life, at odds with what Gustaf Adolf grew up with, but he came to relish in the domesticity. The couple had five children in 10 years, including Gustaf Adolf (b. 1906), Sigvard (b. 1907), Ingrid (b. 1910), Bertil (b. 1912) and Carol Johan (b. 1916). She was a hands-on mother, attempting to manage as much of the day-to-day care herself.
In 1907, Gustaf Adolf’s grandfather died, his father became king, and he and Margaret became the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. Margaret took an active role within the Royal Family during World War I, founding a sewing society to support the Red Cross and a training process to equip girls to farm and work the land. Similar to any number of European royal families during the war, there was a divide in sentiments in Sweden – while Margaret favored the British, her mother-in-law was avidly pro-German. Indeed, her direct outreach to poor communities in Sweden and her natural instinct for reform was believed to have helped to preserve Sweden’s monarchy, her influence having been absorbed by her husband once he came to the throne.
Unfortunately, Margaret wouldn’t live to see that. On May 1, 1920, Margaret passed away due to an infection from a mastoid operation. She was eight months pregnant with her sixth child at the time and her death came as a shock to Europe and her family back home in Britain. She is buried in the royal cemetery in Solna, Sweden.
Gustaf Adolf was heartbroken by Margaret’s death, but he remarried three years later to her cousin, Lady Louise Mountbatten. Louise was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Alice, via Victoria of Hesse, Marchioness of Milford Haven. Louise’s trajectory is interesting, particularly in light of her late succession of Margaret’s role in Sweden. In 1909 Prince Manuel of Portugal proposed marriage, but she refused him. Around the same time she accepted a proposal from Prince Christopher of Greece, but she wasn’t enough of an heiress to bankroll him to the extent he needed and the engagement was broken. She became engaged once more around the outbreak of World War I, but her fiancé was killed in action.
She met Gustaf Adolf in 1923 when he visited London and the two quickly began a relationship, became engaged and married. Louise was 34 at the time of the wedding, unusually old for a bride at the time, but considered fitting for an older widower with children. Her only child was a stillborn daughter, Louise, born in 1925.
Louise and Gustaf Adolf had a happy marriage and Louise fit in well with the Swedish Royal Family. Though not yet queen when she arrived in Stockholm, her mother-in-law spent most of her time abroad and then died in 1930; as a result, Louise carried out all the functions of queen two decades before her husband ascended the throne. Gustaf Adolph succeeded his father in 1950 and the two were duly crowned king and queen.
Louise served as consort until her death on March 7, 1965 in Stockholm. She is also buried in the royal cemetery in Solna. Gustaf Adolf continued to serve as king until his death in 1973. He is buried next to his two wives.
He was succeeded on the throne not by his son, but by his grandson. His eldest son, Gustaf Adolf, married Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1931 and had five children – four daughters and one son, Carl Gustaf, born in 1946. Less than a year after his son’s birth, Gustaf Adolf died in an airplane crash at the age of 40 in Copenhagen, returning from a hunting trip in the Nethlands.
Thus, in 1973, it was the young Carl Gustaf who ascended the throne, a reign still ongoing today. We’ll save a closer look at the current royal family for another time, ideally before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge make their expected visit early next year. But it bears repeating that the current Swedish king had a very notable British grandmother.