by Emily McMahon
Oscar Carl Wilhelm, called Prince Carl, was born at Arvfurstens Palace in Stockholm, Sweden on February 27, 1861. He was the third of four sons of King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway and Sophia of Nassau. Like his father, Carl exhibited excellent skills of diplomacy and was later sought to help mediate peace talks and arrange the release of political prisoners. Carl had three brothers:
- King Gustaf V of Sweden (1858–1950)
- Prince Oscar, Duke of Gotland, later Count Oscar Bernadotte af Wisborg (1859–1953)
- Prince Eugén, Duke of Närke (1865–1947)
In May 1897, an engagement was announced between Carl and another Scandinavian royal, Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Born at Charlottenlund Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 2, 1878, Ingeborg was the second daughter and fifth child of the future Frederik VIII of Denmark and his wife, Lovisa of Sweden. Despite the fact that neither was the heir to a throne, the prospect of another Danish-Swedish royal union was exciting one to the families of the couple and citizens of their respective countries. On their 50th wedding anniversary, Carl admitted that their marriage had been completely arranged by the couple’s fathers. Ingeborg added, “I married a complete stranger!”
The wedding was held in the chapel at Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Palace. Among the guests were Alexandra, Princess of Wales and Russian Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark), the bride’s aunts. Copenhagen was decorated with flowers and flags of both countries to celebrate the occasion. Following a brief stay in Denmark, the new couple set off for a honeymoon in Germany.
Carl and Ingeborg had a comfortable family life, dividing their time between Arvfurstens Palace in Stockholm and summers in Fridhem, Sweden. Despite the difference in their ages (Carl was 17 years older than Ingeborg), the two were happy and well-suited to one another. The couple had four children born between 1899 and 1911. They were:
- Margaretha (1899–1977), married her cousin Prince Axel of Denmark, had two sons
- Märtha (1901–1954), married her cousin King Olav V of Norway, had two daughters and one son
- Astrid (1905–1935), married King Leopold III of Belgium, had two sons and on daughter
- Carl (1911–2003), made three morganatic marriages
During their young adulthood, the four children of Ingeborg and Carl were repeatedly sought after as spouses for several European monarchs. Astrid and Märtha were both linked to the future King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom before their respective marriages. A union between Carl and Juliana of the Netherlands was strongly desired by Queen Wilhelmina, but the two vehemently disliked each other upon meeting in the late 1920s.
Carl and Ingeborg continued to play important roles in European history throughout their marriage. Ingeborg served as the de facto first lady of Sweden for several years during the absence of Sophia of Nassau and Viktoria of Baden. Due to her close familial connections, she also worked to bring peace to the three Scandinavian royal families following the Norwegian independence in 1905. Carl distinguished himself as the President of the Swedish Red Cross, earning several Nobel Peace Prize nominations for his work with prisoners of war.
The couple was especially close to their Belgian and Norwegian grandchildren following the early deaths of their daughters Astrid and Märtha. Belgian kings Baudouin and Albert II, Norwegian king Harald V, and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg Josephine-Charlotte are all grandchildren of Carl and Ingeborg.
Both Carl and Ingeborg lived long lives. Carl died in 1951 at the age of 90. Ingeborg survived him by seven years, dying in 1958 at age 79. The two are buried in the royal cemetery in Haga Park, Solna, Sweden.