Article from Expressen today:
Here is an article from today's Expressen that I've translated, plus some great old pictures that came with it.
The King’s dark childhood
King Carl Gustaf, 58, has always missed his father. The truth is that he also missed his mother. During his, sometimes sad, childhood, he lived isolated and was not even allowed to live in the same apartment as his mother, Princess Sibylla.
After the flood wave catastrophe, King Carl Gustaf for the first time bared to tell about his family secret: the regret for a father.
- Many children have lost one or both their parents. I think I know what that means. I have myself been a child like that, he said.
Didn’t speak about it
With that, he lifted the lid off a subject that had been taboo during his upbringing. Expressen have mapped out how it was to grow up as a Crown Prince without a father – and with a mother who was seldom at hand.
It was never spoken about that there was no father in the family; that Carl Gustaf, when he was only nine moths old, lost his father; Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, 41, in a plane accident. It was a Tuesday. Gustaf Adolf was returning from a hunting trip to Holland and the Princesses where leaving fro Bromma airport to welcome him.
Was seven when he got to know the truth
The next morning, the children were allowed to enter the bedroom where Princess Sibylla sat in the bed and cried. She said:
- Your father is dead.
Then it was not to be talked about any further. Carl Gustaf didn’t get to know the truth until he turned seven years old.
- It was out mother’s way of handling the situation, to cope with living her life. We were not to talk about it. That’s just how it was.
- It was of course not good for us children. It would’ve been much better to be allowed to talk about father’s death, Princess Birgitta has said in an interview.
Princess Christina has also witnessed of how it was:
- No one ever told me that father was dead. It took me about five six years to understand that I had no father.
- I feel no grudge or bitterness towards mother, because I think I understand her. She was devastated herself, and it was a terrible shock for her.
Was called "the Duke"
- She was so young when she came here, to a foreign country and she stuck in a very intense family life.
- She gave birth to children constantly, her deliveries were difficult and she was not feeling well during the pregnancies.
Princess Sibylla felt the pressure to give birth to a son – and secure the male succession. Carl Gustaf was therefore a longed-for boy. Gustaf Adolf and Sibylla had four girls – Princesses Margaretha, 11, Birgitta, 9, Désirée, 7, and Christina, 2 – and finally had a son that could secure the succession.
His father called him ”the Duke”. The fist thing Gustaf Adolf used to say when he returned home was:
- How is the little Duke?
The King’s mother, Princess Sibylla, was devastated after Gustaf Adolf’s sudden death. She realised that she on her own would not cope to raise five children. Instead it became the staff’s business to take care of the Princesses and Prince. Little Prince Carl Gustaf’s rescue was the nanny Ingrid “Nenne” Björnberg, who had to provide almost all of the love, closeness and affection. During the night after Gustaf Adolf’s death, she decided that the Princely children would become the task of her lifetime.
Nenne became his everything
Nenne Björnberg lived with the five children in a special apartment at Haga Palace. In another apartment lived mother, and every morning the children were allowed to come down and say “good morning” – and then they had to eat breakfast in another apartment.
It was Nenne that put the little Prince to bed. It was Nenne that sat beside his bed and comforted when he was sick. It was her arms that he sought for when he looked for closeness and when he was sad.
Once per year, Nenne Björnberg was granted a holiday and went away. Little Carl Gustaf dreaded her leaving him. Princess Birgitta describes it in her memoirs “My own way”:
“Nenne had barely left the house before Carl Gustaf started crying. He was impossible to comfort and he cling to me like an ape. My attempts to calm him made no difference, he just went on crying whatever I did. At last I started to get tired in my arms and tried to put him down on the ground again, but he didn’t want to hear about it. He cling my arm and bit me by reflex in the arm!”
Was jealous at Nenne
The little Prince and Birgitta – maybe also the other siblings – saw Nenne as a deputy mother; their real mother was seldom at hand when they needed her.
Princess Birgitta writes:
“Our mother was sometimes enormously jealous at her, because it was to Nenne that we turned with our small and big troubles. This had a natural explanation though. Our mother was forced to devote a lot of time to the Court’s duties and was often away from home on different assignments.”
When Carl Gustaf was sent to the boarding school in Sigtuna, that he was not allowed to leave at the holidays, he found his place very well there. But Birgitta writes:
“The one he missed the least was our mother – not by lack of love, but because the official duties took so much of her time.”
Nenne was the good mother in the little Prince’s life. Nenne also became like a grandmother to the royal children Victoria, Carl Philip and Madeleine. Nenne passed away in 1994.
But Carl Gustaf was also to be brought up by men, among others his favourite uncle, Prince Bertil. The air force Colonel Ulf Björkman, who was Gustaf VI Adolf’s Aide-de-Camp, and who sometimes stepped as it for “the little King”, tells:
- I stepped in for him when he lived at the bachelor apartment at the Palace. We used to sit in the kitchen where we cooked and talked. But we never talked about the fact that his father was dead.
Never wants to talk about father
Ulf Björkman also tells about a man who came to mean a lot for Carl Gustaf:
- He had a spare father in the General Malcolm Murray, who was a very good friend to Princess Sibylla.
- He was a part of the “council” that were to take care of the Crown Prince’s upbringing. Malcolm was a very nice person – happy and liked to joke.
Princess Birgitta says:
- My brother had no memories of his own from our father, but always when we meet – we talk about him.
- He loves to hear us sisters’ talk about father.
- It’s great that my brother is not talking about his loss. It has been great through out his life.
Only once before has King Carl Gustaf mentioned the regret for his father:
- Many of my friends’ fathers became like some sort of spare fathers for me. And then it happened that one felt one would have wanted a father.
The King’s missing of a father and a present mother has characterized his life, and above all how we values his own children.
- When one has three healthy, harmonious children – yes, one is happy. It’s great to be with the children.
- It’s the whole point.
1: Carl Gustaf's father, Gustaf Adolf, in 1938. In January 1947 he dies in a plane crash.
2: Carl Gustaf on his 3rd birthday in 1949
3: Princess Sibylla with Carl Gustaf in her arms, the children's grandfather King Gustaf VI Adolf, and two of the sisters
4: Director Oskar Olin and Major Tor Wibom congratulate Carl Gustaf on his birthday in 1950
5: Their nanny, Ingrid "Nenne" Björnberg in 1988, she died in 1994
6: The Royal Family in Storlien 1990