How is Norway governed?

Norway: Young monarchy with old roots

Status: 11/17/2020 11:17 a.m.

In 1905 the Norwegians elect a king - after 500 years of foreign rule they fight for their independence. The roots of the royal family, however, go back to the Viking Age.

by Helene Heise

However, Norway has only existed in its current form since 1905. With the establishment of the Norwegian nation-state at the beginning of the 20th century, a separate branch of the closely related Scandinavian royal families emerged. Nevertheless, the Norwegian royal family has a centuries-old Scandinavian line of ancestry.

National independence

Imposing building with a splendid interior: the Storting in Oslo.

In the 19th century, like almost everywhere in Europe, a strong national movement emerged in Norway. This is first expressed in the field of art and literature. The language and the return to the medieval Viking kings form the core of national feelings. At the beginning of the 20th century, the increasing resentment about Swedish foreign rule concentrated on the question of own consular representations for Norway: The Norwegian parliament, the Storting, called for its own consuls to represent Norwegian commercial interests abroad. The Swedish King Oskar II rejects the request, thereupon the Norwegian government resigns unanimously. The Storting declares independence from Sweden, reinstates the resigned government on a provisional basis and prepares a referendum on independence. On August 13, 1905, 99.5 percent of the Norwegians eligible to vote voted for their own state and independence from the Kingdom of Sweden, to which the country had belonged since 1814.

Royal family rebirth

As the new head of state, the Norwegians want a king, the only thing missing is a suitable candidate. The choice falls on Prince Carl of Denmark, the second son of the Danish Crown Prince and later King Frederik VIII and his wife Louise, the only daughter of the Swedish King Carl XV. His age speaks for him - at 33, in the eyes of contemporaries, he is neither too young nor too old - and his good education. Above all, his family ties are an argument for the Norwegians: He comes directly from the other two Scandinavian royal families. On his father's side, he can trace his ancestors back to the Norwegian Viking kings. On his mother's side, he comes from the Swedish royal house of the Bernadotte - appointed by Napoleon. The fact that his wife Maud is a daughter of the English King Edward VII and the couple already have a son as a possible heir to the throne also plays a role. On November 18, 1905, Prince Carl of Denmark became King Haakon VII of Norway - the first Norwegian king in over 500 years. A reign of over 50 years lies ahead of him, which is said to be overshadowed by two world wars.

World wars and exile of King Haakon VII.

Haakon VII returned from exile in 1945 to the cheering of the population.

Norway remains neutral during the First World War. With its merchant fleet, however, the country has closer ties to the powers of the Entente. The country maintained its neutrality even during World War II, but was attacked and occupied by Germany in April 1940. King Haakon heads the resistance and, after surrendering, fled into exile in England with his family and the Norwegian government. From London, the government in exile supports the Norwegian resistance against the German occupiers. Even today, what is probably the most famous Christmas tree in Great Britain is a reminder of the English support for the Norwegians in World War II: Norway has been giving London a fir tree from the forests around Oslo since 1947, which spreads the Christmas spirit every December in Trafalgar Square. After the end of the war, King Haakon returned to Norway on June 7, 1945. He ruled until his death on September 21, 1957, his son Olav succeeded him to the throne as Olav V.

King Olav V - the people's king

The sadness is great when Olav V. dies in 1991: he was close to the people and lived modestly.

King Olav V, born in 1903 as the Danish Prince Alexander in England, ascends the Norwegian throne in 1957. He is popular with the Norwegians: During the Second World War he played an important role in the Norwegian government in exile. In addition, he is considered to be popular and sociable, he is known for mingling with the people without a bodyguard. King Olav is an enthusiastic driver and does not like being chauffeured. Nevertheless, during the oil crisis in the 1970s, when a driving ban was also imposed on weekends in Norway, he got on the Oslo tram to go skiing near the capital. As a young man he even took part in ski jumping on the famous Holmenkollen ski jump. His second passion is sailing: in 1928 Crown Prince Olav wins a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. He regularly takes part in regattas well into old age. In 1954 his wife Märtha, a Swedish princess, dies of cancer. The couple have three children: Princess Ragnhild was born in 1930, Princess Astrid was born in 1932 and Prince Harald followed in 1937.

After the death of King Olav V on January 17, 1991, his son Harald becomes King of Norway. His son Haakon Magnus, born in 1973, took over the royal office for a few months in 2003 when Harald fell ill with cancer. Haakon has been married to Mette-Marit since 2001. The couple has three children: their son Marius, Mette-Marits from a previous illegitimate relationship, and Princess Ingrid Alexandra (born in 2004) and Prince Sverre Magnus, born in 2005.

Viking kings and foreign rule

In the time of the Vikings, Harald Hårfagre united Norway from several tribal areas.

The name Harald, like Haakon and Olav, has a long tradition in the Norwegian monarchy: The first Norwegian king is considered to be the legendary Viking Harald Hårfagre ("fair hair"), who lived around 865 to 933 AD. It unites some of the warlike Viking tribes that lived in what is now Norway. The Norwegian kings tried to expand and stabilize their empire well into the 13th century. However, wars and plague epidemics repeatedly cause serious setbacks.

In 1389 Norway was incorporated into the Kalmar Union: Norway, Denmark and Sweden formed a common kingdom. The period is marked by conflicts between the parts of the empire, in which Denmark and Sweden are the two strong parties, while Norway is becoming less important.

In 1521 the Kalmar Union split into a Danish-Norwegian and a Swedish-Finnish part, each with its own king. From this point on, Norway is theoretically on an equal footing with Denmark, but in reality it had already become a Danish province during the Kalmar Union. Norway remained under Danish rule until 1814, but European borders shifted with the Napoleonic Wars: In the Kiel Peace Treaty of 1814, the victorious powers assigned Norway to the Kingdom of Sweden.

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Royalty | 02/21/2007 | 9.45 p.m.