Possibly the most controversial Swedish monarch to reign in the 20th Century was King Gustaf V. Today Sweden is known for having an entirely symbolic monarchy but that was not the case in the reign of Gustaf V who had no hesitation about being a king and acting like one. He was born on June 16, 1858; the eldest son of King Oscar II. In 1881 he married Princess Victoria of Baden who herself had Swedish royal blood in her veins. On December 8, 1907 he succeeded his father as King of Sweden. His conservative attitudes quickly came to the surface as he opposed the liberal trend that had been sweeping the country for some time. He opposed the spread of democracy, the increasing demands of labor union groups and political interference with the military budget. King Gustaf V was the last Swedish monarch to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the military, which he did until 1939, and was a duty he took very seriously.
Sweden remained neutral during World War I but there were real concerns on the Allied side that the Swedes might intervene on the side of the Central Powers. Queen Victoria was naturally sympathetic to the German side and Kaiser Wilhelm II thought highly of her. To what extent Gustaf V favored the German cause is debatable but much is attributed to the sympathy of his German wife and his very conservative character. Concerns that Sweden would join the Central Powers became a big enough issue that Gustaf V organized a meeting with the other Scandinavian powers to demonstrate their unity and their resolve to remain neutral. However, Sweden did benefit greatly from increased trade because of the war. More controversial would be his actions before and during World War II.