Friday, 7 August 2009

Late royals: Prince Oscar Bernadotte (1859-1953)

Born on 15 November 1859, Prince Oscar Carl August, Duke of Gotlandia was the second son of the future King Oscar II and Queen Sophia of Sweden and Norway and was named for his recently deceased grandfather Oscar I. The future Gustaf V was his elder brother, with Prince Carl and Prince Eugen making up a quartet of brothers.
Like his father, Prince Oscar joined the navy at an early age. He caused quite a scandal when he made it known to his parents that he wanted to marry Ebba Munck af Fulkila, a lady-in-waiting to his sister-in-law Crown Princess Victoria. It was constitutionally forbidden for princes of the royal house to marry non-royals and Ebba was discharged from royal service and Oscar sent on a long journey around the globe to think things through. When he returned, the couple were still intent on marrying and were able to do so after winning the support of the wise Queen Sophia.
The wedding took place in Bornemouth, England on 15 March 1888. The marriage to a commoner meant that Prince Oscar automatically lost his right of succession to the Swedish and Norwegian thrones and with them he lost those titles which were considered linked to his dynastic status. He did however keep his title of prince (but not of Sweden and Norway), which was seen as his by birth, to which was added the surname Bernadotte. He renounced his Norwegian citizenship and became Prince Oscar Bernadotte. His wife was styled Princess Ebba Bernadotte, but their children were plain Mr and Miss Bernadotte until Queen Sophia’s half-brother, Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg, granted Oscar’s descendants in the agnatic line the title Count(ess) of Wisborg in 1892.
Five children were born of the marriage: Maria, Carl, Sofia, Elsa and Folke. Prince Oscar’s naval duties meant that the family firstly lived in Karlskrona, but later they settled in a house at Karlavägen in Stockholm. As he was no longer a member of the royal house, Prince Oscar Bernadotte did not carry out public duties and his great-niece Princess Astrid of Norway once told me that eventually there was some sort of distance between Prince Oscar’s branch of the family and the royal branch.
When the union between Sweden and Norway was brought to an end in 1905, the Norwegian Parliament proposed to Oscar II that he should choose a prince of the royal house to be King of Norway. King Oscar offered the Norwegians Prince Oscar Bernadotte, but this was flatly refused by the Norwegian negotiator Fritz Wedel Jarlsberg as Prince Oscar did not belong to the royal house and was therefore not included in the so-called “Bernadotte Proposal”.
Oscar II eventually refused the offer on behalf of his family and informally recommended Prince Carl of Denmark. While the issue was still unresolved, the prospective King Oscar III wrote to his brother Eugen: “For my own part I do not want to put my children in such a situation, but possibly I could sacrifice myself, but probably they do not want me and Ebba, except of course those in Norway who believe in the Lord Jesus”.
Prince Oscar and Princess Ebba were both deeply religious and active in organisations such as YMCA and the Salvation Army. Prince Oscar Bernadotte was also a dedicated lay preacher.
All the four sons of Oscar II lived to a great age – Gustaf V to be 92, Prince Carl to 90 and Prince Eugen to 82. Prince Oscar Bernadotte outlived them all, dying on 4 October 1953, a few weeks before his 94th birthday. Princess Ebba had died in 1946 and he also had the misfortune of losing their daughter Sofia in 1936 and their son Folke, who was assassinated in Jerusalem while on a UN peace mission in 1948.


  1. Do you know what happen to Prince Oscar's descendants? Where they are now?

    1. Prince Oscar Bernadotte had five children, of whom Folke Bernadotte was the most famous (for rescuing thousands of prisoners from the concentration camps and for being assassinated while acting as UN peace negotiator in the Middle East). The last of his children to die was Elsa Cedergren, who died three weeks short of her 103rd birthday in 1996.

      Five of Prince Oscar's grandchildren are still alive, and two of them (Dagmar von Arbin and Count Bertil Bernadotte af Wisborg) are regular guests at royal events in Sweden. There are also many great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren, all of whom live regular lives (some in Sweden, some in other countries).

  2. Are there any artefacts about their Christian live? Never knew about this couple until 2018. Seems a hidden untold story here in England, especially as they were married in Bournemouth. Would be interested to learn more of their Christian lives etc. Any sermons, memoirs and letters? let me know ""

    1. There are several books about Prince Oscar, but I'm afraid they are all in Swedish or Norwegian. His and Princess Ebba's papers are in the Bernadotte Family Archive, but unfortunately they are embargoed until 2035 (by decision of their youngest daughter, Elsa Cedergren, who died in 1996, at the age of nearly 103).


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