Prins Gustaf (1827−1852)


Prince Gustav, the second son of Oscar I of Sweden and Josephine of Leuchtenberg, was born 18 June 1827 in Stockholm and died 24 September 1852 in Kristiana (Oslo). During his study years in Uppsala in the 1840’s Prince Gustav came in contact with the student song tradition as both singer and composer. He wrote a large number of songs, including ‘Glad såsom fågeln’ (Happy as a Bird) and ‘Sjung om studentens lyckliga dag’ (The Student Song), which are sung even today for various student activities. Prince Gustav wrote mostly songs, choral works and music for piano. Primary member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music 1844−52.


As is often common for members of a royal family, Prince Gustav and his four siblings received their education in subjects such as drawing and music. Both Gustav and his sister Eugénie were very interested in music. Together they kept a close relationship throughout their entire lives. They had access to the best Swedish music teachers, including Isak Berg in song and Adolf Fredrik Lindblad in piano. In addition, Gustav studied composition with both Lindblad and Ivar Hallström, which led to later contact with many other contemporary composers, and to associations with authors such as Herman Sätherberg.

Throughout Gustav’s short life, the musical environs of Stockholm and Uppsala were very important to him. Singers and musicians from Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera) often participated in musical soirées at the Royal Palace where works by members of the royal family were performed. Besides participating in these activities, Gustav had a vocal quartet together with his three brothers, and also performed current opera pieces for piano four hands.

Together with one of his brothers, Gustav periodically spent time in Uppsala for several years during the mid-1840’s. Here he came in contact with the student song tradition, as a singer, as a member of several vocal quartets and as composer of numerous pieces. The songs were sung ardently for several student activities in Uppsala, and the Prince, nicknamed ‘The Singer Prince’, grew to be an esteemed member of Uppsala music society.

The summer of 1852 Prince Gustav and Princess Eugénie joined King Oscar I on a trip to Germany and Switzerland. On the way home Gustav became sick and after a short illness he died. Gustav’s death came as a surprise for both the Royal Family and the entire nation. Mourning gatherings were held by students in Uppsala and Lund and Gustav’s compositions were published in honour of his memory.


Gustav composed songs and instrumental music throughout his entire childhood, often in affiliation with his sister Eugénie. He performed in public for the first time as a 16-year-old with several military marches for the music regiment. One of the marches was performed at a military camp in Stockholm with over 12,000 men present. Music was a given element for the Royal Family. For example, in 1849 at a birthday tribute for their mother Josephine, four of the siblings performed a newly written piece for four voices with text by Crown Prince Karl and music by Prince Gustav. To write a four-part vocal piece with the proper voice leading and then to perform it was something one could expect from such a group of siblings.

His time spent in Uppsala was of particular influence for Gustav’s composing. Here there was a demand for compositions written for male vocal quartet and male choir. Many of the songs are well-known even today, such as ‘Sjung om studentens lyckliga dag’ (also called The Student Song) and ‘Glad såsom fågeln’ (Happy as a Bird), with text by Herman Sätherberg. Additional songs for similar settings include ‘Natten som sänkt sig ned’ (Nightfall) and ‘Nattlig sång’ (Night Song), in addition to ‘Vänskap du som aldrig skiftar’ (Never Shifting Friendship) and ‘Låt alla sorger fara’ (Let All Sorrows Depart). The songs blend stylistic features from Swedish folk songs with more romantic traits from the German Lied tradition.

Prince Gustav also wrote instrumental music such as marches for military settings and a funeral march performed in correlation with the entombment of his grandfather, King Charles XIV John in 1844.

A work in a larger format is the comic opera Vita frun på Drottningholm (The White Lady of Drottningholm), with libretto by Sätherberg, which was performed at the Kungliga Teatern in the spring of 1847. It was a very popular tale at the time, also used in a novel by Walter Scott, about a female ancestor who forebodes of future significant events. Many dramatic works from this period were based on the story. In Gustav’s version it is a comic opera where the ‘student song style’ presents itself in several of the songs.


Prince Gustav’s significance for posterity is most evident within the vocal quartet and choral repertoire. However, his marches and other instrumental music written for specific occasions are rarely performed any more. Hvita frun på Drottningholm shares the same fate that has fallen to many stage music works from this time period: they are performed a few times one season and are then never heard of again. But several of Gustav’s choral songs are performed even today and have a given place at graduation ceremonies and at the spring celebrations of Walpurgis Night.

Karin Hallgren © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Frimureriska tonsättare och frimurerisk musik, Uppsala: Forskningslogen Carl Friedrich Eckleff, 2008, p. 306.
Forslin, Alfhild
: Runeberg i musiken, Helsinki 1958: Svenska litteratursällskapet, p. 326.
Hallgren, Karin
: 'Kungafamiljen i Stockholms musikliv', in: Nils Ekedahl (ed.), En dynasti blir till: Medier, myter och makt kring Karl XIV Johan och familjen Bernadotte, Stockholm: Norstedts 2010, pp. 159−187.
Jonsson, Leif
: 'Prins Gustaf och musiken i den Bernadotteska familjekretsen', in: Gösta Vogel-Rödin (ed.), Bernadotter i politik och kulturliv, Lidköping: Läckö institutet 1991, pp. 161−173.
Kallstenius, Gottfrid
: Blad ur Uppsalasångens historia, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1913.
Tegen, Martin
: 'Gustav, Kompositör, Arvfurste (1827−1852)', in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 17, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1967−69.

Summary list of works

Comic opera (Hvita frun på Drottningholm), piano works (marches and waltzes), solo songs (I rosens doft, Mina levnadstimmar stupa), choral works (over 30 songs for male vocal quartet or male choir, including Glad såsom fågeln, Sjung om studentens lyckliga dag).

Collected works

Stage music
Vita frun på Drottningholm, comic opera composed together with Ivar Hallström (H. Sätherberg), 1846−47.

Music for piano and other instrumental music
Marsch, Till Lif-regementets Dragoner, 1843.
Sorgmarche Spelt af Kong Andra LifGardets musik år 1844.
Till Andra Lif-Grenadier-Regementet, 1846.
Lieder ohne Worte, stycken för piano, 1846.
Militair-Rast till Andra Lif-Gardet, 1848.
Stridssignaler till Skånska Hussar-Regementet på Lägret vid Herrevads Kloster, 1848.
Parad-Marsch, 1850.

Voice and piano
Mina levnadstimmar stupa, 1850.
O! Säg mig, strålar lika kvar (Prins Gustaf).
Svanens sång (J.L. Runeberg), 1849.
Vigselkransen (Prins Gustaf).

Choral songs for male quarte or male choir
Around thirty choral songs, amongst them:
Du undersköna dal (H. Sätherberg).
En månskensstund (H. Sätherberg).
Farväl (Du undersköna dal), 1845.
Frisk luft (H. Sätherberg).
Glad såsom fågeln (H. Sätherberg), 1846.
I rosens doft (H. Sätherberg), 1846.
Julvisa (prins Gustaf).
Jägarsång (H. Sätherberg), 1845.
Morgonhymn (H. Sätherberg), 1845.
Serenad (H. Sätherberg), 1845.
Sjung om studentens lyckliga dag (H. Sätherberg), 1851.
Snödroppen (H. Sätherberg).
Tidens flykt, 1849.
Till aftonstjärnan (J.L. Runeberg).

Works by Prins Gustaf

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 46