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HistoryHistoryInterestsSweden

A childhood marked by tragedy: a look at King Carl XVI Gustaf’s early years

Many people are used to thinking about members of royal families as people with immense privilege and a life free from pain and suffering. 

However, this was far from the truth for King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Born Prince Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus on 30 April 1946, he was the last child and only son of Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sybilla. 

On 26 January 1947, Prince Gustaf Adolf was on board the KLM Douglas DC-3 flight, transporting 16 passengers and six crew members. The flight took off from Amsterdam towards Stockholm, with a planned layover in Copenhagen. 

Prince Gustaf Adolf had been in the Netherlands for a hunting trip, which also served as a visit to Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. He was travelling with two other people. 

When the time came for the flight to leave Copenhagen and depart for Stockholm, the aeroplane took off, reached 150 feet and plummeted nose-first back onto the ground, where it exploded upon impact, killing all 22 people aboard immediately. 

The accident was later investigated, revealing that an inexperienced employee had serviced the aeroplane. This, coupled with the pilot’s rush resulting in a summary execution of the pre-flight checklist, made it so that the aircraft took off with the gust pins securing the plane’s elevator still locked into place. 

Prince Carl Gustaf was only nine months old at the time, and his great-grandfather, King Gustaf V, was still on the throne. Immediately upon his father’s death, he jumped up a position in the succession line. 

His great-grandfather passed away on 29 October 1950, and his grandfather became King Gustaf VI Adolf, making Carl Gustaf Crown Prince at the tender age of four. 

In later interviews, King Carl XVI Gustaf revealed that he was told what had happened to his father only when he turned seven and talked about what it was like for him to grow up without a father. 

A life that began signed by an unimaginable tragedy, turned around and saw King Carl XVI Gustaf, not only parent three children and adore eight grandchildren, but also celebrate his golden jubilee. 

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