The Norwegian Monarchy has roots going back more than a thousand years in history. Here we shall only briefly touch upon the many centuries from the state’s unification, through the Middle Ages, and up to the present.
The royal family of today doesn’t really have any connection to the royals of the Viking age. At that time Norway consisted of many petty kingships and wasn’t united under one crown until Harald Fairhair (865-933 c.e.) Harald was an ambitious king and swore that he wouldn’t cut his hair until he achieved his goal of uniting the kingships into a single realm – hence the name!
The next big event in the history of the Norwegian’s kings was Olav II Haraldsson (995-1030c.e.) bringing Christianity to Norway. Although Olav died in the battle of Stiklestad, the church that emerged helped to unify the country even further. Olav was actually canonized after his death and became Sankt Olav.
In 1163 the Law of Royal Succession simplified the process and gave only the eldest legitimate son the right to become the king. King Haakon V Magnusson died in 1319 without a male heir. His daughter, Ingeborg, was married to the Swedish Crown Prince Erik and their son, Magnus, was the first to become the heir to both Norway and Sweden.
In 1536 Norway was proclaimed a Danish dependency, and ceased to be an independent kingdom altogether and accepted the Danish king. When the Peace Treaty of Kiel gave Sweden the power over Norway, the Swedish royal family became the royal family to Norway as well. Carl XIV Johan of Sweden was crowned in Norway on September 7, 1818 (after his father passed away). This was the first coronation in Norway in over 300 years.
In the Middle Ages the Kingdom of Norway was a hereditary electoral monarchy – in other words, the monarchy was based on a combination of inheritance and electoral consent.
More important milestones are the secession from Denmark in 1814, and the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905.
The major consequence of the assembly of representatives at Eidsvoll in 1814 was the brief national autonomy which laid the foundation for a lasting constitution with national political institutions.
The decades between 1814 and 1905 were characterized by a major, complex and lengthy struggle between the king in the union, who was supported by Sweden, and the Norwegian national assembly, the Storting.
With its famous resolution of 7 June 1905 the Storting unilaterally deposed the union king. But it did more than that, by firmly placing the monarchy within a wider framework. The deed that gave the deathblow to kingly power, also gave the monarchy greater legitimacy. Therefore, the year 1905 marked in Norwegian history the dissolution of a union and the deposal of a king, but the preservation of a system of government.
The Norwegian government reached out to Denmark to find their next king. Prince Carl of Denmark (born 1872) was an ideal candidate to become Norway’s new king. He was already married to Princess Maud, the daughter of the British Royal couple, and they had a son (Alexander) to ensure the succession. Also, Prince Carl could trace his genealogy back to the Fairhair dynasty. He took the name Haakon VII. On 25thNovember 1905 he came to Norway together with his wife, Maud (born 1869) and their young son Alexander (born 1903) who was given the name Olav. The king and queen were crowned at Nidaros Cathedral on June 22, 1906.
Crown Prince Olav was the first Norwegian heir to the throne since the Middle Ages who grew up in Norway.
There have, however, been times also in everyday life when a king has tried to exceed the bounds of what is personal, acceptable influence. This occurred just after 1905, and rather more dramatically in 1913, when the threat of abdication was imminent.
The period from 1905 and to the present day can be regarded as a continuous consolidation of the status that was originally established. Norwegian democracy still gives no leeway for the exercising of personal, royal power. In a democratic monarchy the emphasis is on the Constitution, not on the monarch. Democracy can do without him, but not without the Constitution.
During the WWII and the occupation King Håkon’s role was diverse; as a participant in continuing processes, and as a symbol of national unity. His resounding “No” to the German/Quisling demands on 10 April 1940 stands sharply illuminated in the history of the monarchy and the country.
In 1929, Crown Prince Olav married his Swedish cousin, Princess Märtha. The Crown Prince and the Crown Princess had three children: Princess Ragnhild (born 1930), Princess Astrid (born 1932) and Prince Harald (born 1937).
King Haakon died in 1957 and his son became King Olav V. King Olav died in 1991. The two monarchs of modern Norway, King Håkon VII who ruled from 1905 to 1957 and King Olav V, 1957-1991 have strengthened the acceptance of monarchy in every way. The words chosen by the two monarchs as their motto: “Alt for Norge” (All for Norway) has been put into practice as consistent, democratic loyalty towards the system.
King Olav passed away on January 17, 2001 making his son Harald the new king of Norway. King Harald V, with Queen Sonja, are the King and Queen of Norway today. H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon VIII is next in line in the succession and his daughter, H.R.H. Ingrid Alexandra will follow him.
The order of succession was actually changed in the last few years to make it that a daughter can inherit the throne. H.R.H. Ingrid Alexandra is the first female to be the direct heir to the throne.
Pomp and Circumstance in Norway, compiled by Tor Kjolberg
Ferature image (on top): From the King and Queen’s 80 years’ celebration 10 May, 2017. Cortesy the Norwegian Royal Court