On this day December 8: Gustaf V ascends Swedish throne

gay blackmail Gustaf V december 8 sweden
Image: Western Mail, 8 July 1911.

On December 8, 1907, Gustaf V succeeded to the throne of Sweden. He proved a popular king, overseeing the country’s transition to a constitutional monarchy. However, following his death in 1950, revelations emerged of a long-drawn-out gay blackmail scandal.

As a young man, Gustaf’s family worried about his passion for embroidery, an activity generally associated with ladies of leisure. His suspicious mother did her best to prevent the Crown Prince spending time alone with males of his own age. Royal families are nothing if not dynastic, and require princes to marry princesses, then father sons, and all in a timely manner.

In 1881, Gustaf married Princess Victoria of Baden and they promptly produced an heir, a spare and a second runner-up. Marital relations apparently ended forthwith, and Victoria retreated from public life. From 1892, she wintered for several months each year at Capri in Italy with her personal physician/rumoured lover. Rarely seen, often ill, pro-German, haughty, and no fan of democracy, the unpopular Queen finally left Sweden for good, dying in Rome in 1930.

Gustaf’s ascension to the throne made him officially the head of state and government. However, the Swedish parliament had become increasingly assertive in the final years of his father’s rule. Gustaf subsequently allowed the expansion of parliamentary authority. Despite hiccups along the way, by 1919, he effectively reigned as a constitutional monarch.

Mr G

An avid tennis player, Gustaf competed under the pseudonym of Mr G. Among his tennis buddies, Baron Gottfried von Cramm. The German’s blond good looks embodied everything Hitler wanted in his Aryan master race. But von Cramm despised inequality, racism, notions of a master race and Hitler. He protested when the Nazis banned his Jewish doubles partner from the national team and publicly criticised the Fuhrer, including during exhibition matches in Australia.

Despite his status as a champion sportsman, by 1938, Hitler had had enough. The regime brought charges over an admitted gay relationship with a Jewish actor. Gottfried von Cramm was sentenced to 12-months in prison. Outraged international sports stars protested, and Gustaf V joined the battle. Hitler could not afford to get Sweden offside in the pre-war years, so he released von Cramm early. Gustaf immediately granted his friend refuge in Sweden.

Conscripted into the German army during WWII, von Cramm served on the Russian Front. Evacuated with frostbite after the deaths of most of his company, he was then dismissed from the army. After apparently participating in the 1944 plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, he fled again to Sweden.

Although some accused Gustaf of pro-Nazi sympathies, he remonstrated with Hitler to his face about the persecution of Jews. However, it does seem true that he perceived Nazism as a lesser threat than Communism. The Nordic countries long feared the Russian bear, and royals like Gustaf V remembered the Bolsheviks destroyed the Russian monarchy and murdered their Romanov relatives.

Gay blackmail

Gustaf V died in 1950. Two years later, word leaked of a gay blackmail case.

Kurt Haijby served six prison sentences between 1915 and 1925 and killed a police officer during an escape attempt. Haijby was a thief, con-artist, liar, blackmailer and sexual abuser of children  — a complete and utter arsehole.

In 1933, he attended a mass royal audience seeking approval to sell wine despite criminal convictions. He later told his wife the King seduced him. She subsequently filed for divorce on the grounds of her husband’s infidelity with the monarch. The Royal Court paid both to shut up and him to move overseas. However, he returned and moved back in with his wife.

Over the following years, the Royal Court paid Haijby the equivalent of over AU$600,000. He kept coming back. Committed to an asylum in 1938 for molesting 11 and 13-year-old boys, he talked his way out and returned with his hand out. Jailed in Germany in 1939 for abusing boys, he scooted home after his release and fronted up for more money.

He later added to his original story, claiming a renewed royal affair from 1936 until 1947. Obvious bullshit. Gustaf V was in his 80s then; tall, eccentric, and instantly recognisable. His Majesty couldn’t sneak anywhere. To go to Gustaf, Haijby had to bypass royal courtiers, no doubt alert for any sign of him.

Next, he alleged the King first seduced him as a 14-year-old when he and another schoolboy were granted an audience while selling charity pins. However, no one believed him this time. That story required the King to lure a schoolboy away from his mate to a secluded spot during a daytime public audience in a busy palace and abuse the child — all unnoticed.

Gustaf V’s sexuality

Additionally, although Gustaf famously went weak at the knees in the company of good looking young men, no other stories ever emerged of him being attracted to boys.

In 1952, Haijby redistributed a novel he first published in 1947, a thinly disguised account of his claimed relationship with the King. In 1947, the palace arranged to buy up every copy, but by 1952, it was time for a new strategy. Haijby was prosecuted for blackmail and spent the next six years in jail. After his release, he returned again to his either long-suffering or complicit wife. She died in 1964, and he by suicide the following year.

Many Swedish commentators believe the King probably did have a sexual relationship with Haijby in the 1930s. Several palace servants later revealed that they too received payments to stay quiet about sexual relationships with Gustaf V.

Information about the gay blackmail case did not appear to dent the dead King’s popularity. Gustaf V reigned for 43 years. Most remembered an eccentric old man who allowed democracy to flourish following his ascension to the throne on December 8, 1907, and served as a charming figurehead for decades after.

Read More: December 7  <— On this day —> December 9

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