Haakon VII of Norway

Haakon VII of Norway
Haakon VII
King of Norway
Reign 18 November 1905 − 21 September 1957 (&1000000000000005100000051 years, &10000000000000307000000307 days)
Coronation 22 June 1906(1906-06-22) (aged 33)
Predecessor Oscar II
Successor Olav V
Spouse Maud of Wales
Olav V of Norway
Full name
Haakon, né Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel
House House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Father Frederick VIII of Denmark
Mother Louise of Sweden
Born 3 August 1872(1872-08-03)
Charlottenlund Palace, near Copenhagen
Died 21 September 1957(1957-09-21) (aged 85)
Royal Palace, Oslo
Burial Akershus Fortress, Oslo
Religion Lutheran

Haakon VII (Prince Carl of Denmark and Iceland, born Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel) (3 August 1872 – 21 September 1957), known as Prince Carl of Denmark until 1905, was the first king of Norway after the 1905 dissolution of the personal union with Sweden. He was a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. As one of the few elected monarchs, Haakon quickly won the respect and affection of his people and played a pivotal role in uniting the Norwegian nation in its resistance to the attack and five-year-long Nazi occupation during World War II.

In Norway, Haakon is regarded as one of the greatest Norwegians of the twentieth century and is particularly revered for his courage during the German invasion—he threatened abdication if the government cooperated with the invading Germans—and for his leadership and preservation of Norwegian unity during the Nazi occupation. He died at the age of 85 on 21 September 1957, after having reigned for nearly 52 years.


Early years as a Danish prince

Prince Carl of Denmark, later King Haakon VII of Norway, in 1889.

Originally known as Prince Carl of Denmark (namesake of his maternal grandfather the King of Norway etc.), he was the second son of (the future) King Frederick VIII of Denmark and his wife Louise. Furthermore, he was a younger brother of Christian X, a paternal grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark (during whose reign he was prince of Denmark), and a maternal grandson of King Charles XV of Sweden (who was also king of Norway as Charles IV). He became king of Norway before his father and older brother became kings of Denmark. During his reign, he saw his father, his brother and his nephew, Frederick IX, ascend the throne of Denmark, respectively in 1906, 1912 and 1947.

Prince Carl was born at Charlottenlund Palace near Copenhagen. He belonged to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg branch of the House of Oldenburg. The House of Oldenburg had been the Danish royal family since 1448; between 1536–1814 it also ruled Norway when it was part of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway. The house was originally from northern Germany, where the Glucksburg (Lyksborg) branch held their small fief. The family had permanent links with Norway beginning from the late Middle Ages. Several of his paternal ancestors had been kings of independent Norway (Haakon V of Norway, Christian I of Norway, Frederick I, Christian III, Frederick II, Christian IV, as well as Frederick III of Norway who integrated Norway into the Oldenburg state with Denmark, Slesvig and Holstein, after which it was not independent until 1814). Christian Frederick, who was King of Norway briefly in 1814, the first king of the Norwegian 1814 constitution and struggle for independence, was his great-granduncle.

Prince Carl was raised in the royal household in Copenhagen and educated at the Royal Danish Naval Academy, from which he graduated near the bottom of his class. He was a key witness in the scandal following the suicide of Kai Simonsen.[citation needed]

At Buckingham Palace on 22 July 1896,[1] Prince Carl married his first cousin Princess Maud of Wales, youngest daughter of the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel). Their son, Prince Alexander, the future Crown Prince Olav (and eventually king Olav V of Norway), was born on 2 July 1903.[1]

Accession to the Norwegian throne

Royal Monogram
The coronation of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud on 22 June 1906
King Haakon VII, Crown Prince Olav and Queen Maud, on 1913 July 17 in Norway

After the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved in 1905, a committee of the Norwegian government identified several members of European royalty as candidates for Norway's first King of its own in several centuries. Gradually, Prince Carl became the leading candidate, largely because he was descended from independent Norwegian kings. He also had a son (and hence an heir to the throne), and Princess Maud's ties to the British Royal Family were viewed[by whom?] as advantageous to the newly independent Norwegian nation.[citation needed]

The democratically minded Carl, aware that Norway was still debating whether to retain its monarchy or to switch to a republican system of government, was flattered by the Norwegian government's overtures, but declined to accept the offer without a referendum to show whether monarchy was truly the choice of the Norwegian people.

Norwegian Royalty
House of Oldenburg (Glücksburg branch)
Royal Arms of Norway.svg

Haakon VII
   Crown Prince Olav
Olav V
   Crown Prince Harald
   Princess Ragnhild
   Princess Astrid
Harald V
   Princess Märtha Louise
   Crown Prince Haakon
   Princess Ingrid Alexandra
   Prince Sverre Magnus

After the referendum overwhelmingly confirmed by a 79 percent majority (259,563 votes for and 69,264 against[2]) that Norwegians desired to retain a monarchy, Prince Carl was formally offered the throne of Norway by the Storting (parliament) and elected on 18 November 1905. When Carl accepted the offer that same evening (after the approval of his grandfather Christian IX of Denmark), he immediately endeared himself to his adopted country by taking the Old Norse name of Haakon, a name used by previous Kings of Norway.[3] In so doing, he succeeded his grand-uncle, Oscar II of Sweden, who had abdicated the Norwegian throne in October following the agreement between Sweden and Norway on the terms of the separation of the union.

The new Royal Family of Norway left Denmark on the Danish Royal yacht "Dannebrog" and went sailing up Oslofjord. At Oscarsborg Fortress they boarded the Norwegian naval ship "Heimdal". After the three-day journey they arrived in Kristiania (Oslo) early on the morning of 25 November 1905. Two days later, Haakon took the oath as the Norwegian King.

The coronation of Haakon and Maud took place in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 22 June 1906.[1]

Reign as Norwegian king

King Haakon gained much sympathy from the Norwegian people. He traveled extensively through Norway. Fridtjof Nansen is known as a friend of the Royal Family.

Haakon, Maud and Crown Prince Olav became interested in skiing. This sport is often viewed as typically Norwegian. They were often seen while being on tour with their skis. Olav later became a champion in ski jumping.

In 1927 he stated: "I am also the King of the Communists" (Norwegian: "Jeg er også kommunistenes konge").[4] He participated in the political process after the first prime minister from the labour party was chosen in 1928, a process that caused a special parliamentary situation.

Crown Prince Olav married his cousin Princess Märtha of Sweden on 21 March 1929. She was the daughter of Haakon's sister Ingeborg and Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. Olav and Märtha had three children: Ragnhild (b. 1930), Astrid (b. 1932) and Harald (b. 1937), who was to become king in 1991.

Queen Maud died on 20 November 1938.

Resistance during World War II

Norway was invaded by the naval and air forces of Nazi Germany during the early hours of 9 April 1940. The German naval detachment sent to capture Oslo was challenged at Oscarsborg Fortress. The fortress fired at the invaders, causing damage to the pocket battleship Lützow and sinking the heavy cruiser Blücher, with heavy German losses that included many of the armed forces, Gestapo agents, and administrative personnel who were to have occupied the Norwegian capital. These events led to the withdrawal of the rest of the German flotilla, preventing the invaders from occupying Oslo at dawn as had been intended. The German occupation forces' delay in occupying Oslo, along with swift action from the President of the Storting, C. J Hambro, created the opportunity for the Norwegian Royal Family, the Cabinet, and most of the 150 members of the Storting (parliament) to make a hasty departure from the capital by special train.

King Haakon VII, early in his reign.

The Storting first convened at Hamar the same afternoon, but with the rapid advance of German troops, the group moved on to Elverum. The assembled Parliament unanimously enacted a resolution, the so-called Elverumsfullmakten (Elverum Authorization), granting the Cabinet full powers to protect the country until such time as the Storting could meet again.

The next day, German Minister Curt Bräuer demanded a meeting with Haakon. The German diplomat called on the Norwegians to cease their resistance and stated Hitler's demand that the King appoint Nazi sympathizer Vidkun Quisling, who had declared himself prime minister hours earlier in Oslo, as head of what would be a German puppet government. Bräuer suggested that Haakon follow the example of the Danish government and his brother, Christian X, which had surrendered almost immediately after the previous day's invasion, and threatened Norway with harsh conditions if it did not surrender. Haakon told Bräuer that he could not make such a decision himself, but only on the advice of the Government. Although the Constitution of Norway nominally gives the King the final responsibility for making such a decision, in practice nearly all major governmental decisions are made by the Government (the Council of State) in his name.

In an emotional meeting in Nybergsund, the King reported the German ultimatum to his cabinet. Although Haakon could not make the decision himself, he knew he could use his moral authority to influence it. Accordingly, Haakon told the Cabinet:

I am deeply affected by the responsibility laid on me if the German demand is rejected. The responsibility for the calamities that will befall people and country is indeed so grave that I dread to take it. It rests with the government to decide, but my position is clear.

For my part I cannot accept the German demands. It would conflict with all that I have considered to be my duty as King of Norway since I came to this country nearly thirty-five years ago.[5]

Haakon went on to say that he could not appoint any government headed by Quisling because he knew neither the people nor the Storting had confidence in him. However, if the Cabinet felt otherwise, the King said he would abdicate so as not to stand in the way of the Government's decision.

Nils Hjelmtveit, Minister of Church and Education, later wrote: "This made a great impression on us all. More clearly than ever before we could see the man behind the words; the king who had drawn a line for himself and his task, a line from which he could not deviate. We had through the five years [in government] learned to respect and appreciate our king and now, through his words, he came to us as a great man, just and forceful; a leader in these fatal times to our country".[6]

Inspired by Haakon's stand, the Government unanimously advised Haakon not to appoint any government headed by Quisling. Within hours, it telephoned its refusal to Bräuer. That night, NRK broadcast the government's refusal to the Norwegian people. In that same broadcast, the government announced that they would resist the German attack as long as possible, and expressed their confidence that Norwegians would lend their support to the cause.

King Haakon and crown prince Olav seeking refuge under a birch tree during a German bombing attack against Molde in April 1940

The following morning, 11 April 1940, bomber aircraft of the Luftwaffe attacked Nybergsund, destroying the small town where the Norwegian government was staying in an attempt to wipe out Norway's unyielding King and Government. The King and his ministers took refuge in the snow-covered woods and escaped harm, continuing farther north through the mountains toward Molde on Norway's west coast. As the British forces in the area lost ground under Luftwaffe bombardment, the King and his party were taken aboard the British cruiser HMS Glasgow at Molde and conveyed a further 1000 km north to Tromsø where a provisional capital was established on 1 May. Haakon and Crown Prince Olav took up residence in a forest cabin in Målselvdalen valley in inner Troms county where they would stay until the evacuation to the United Kingdom. While residing in Tromsø the two were protected by local rifle association members armed with the ubiquitous Krag-Jørgensen rifle.[citation needed]

The Allies had a fairly secure hold over northern Norway until late May, but as the Allies' position in the Battle of France rapidly deteriorated, the Allied forces in northern Norway were badly needed elsewhere and were withdrawn. The Royal Family and the beleaguered and demoralized Norwegian Government was evacuated from Tromsø on 7 June aboard HMS Devonshire; and after a 34-knot (63 km/h) dash, under cover of HMS Glorious, HMS Acasta, and HMS Ardent, safely arrived in London. King Haakon and his cabinet set up a Norwegian government in exile in the British capital. Taking up residence at Rotherhithe in London, Haakon was an important national symbol in the Norwegian resistance. Between March 1942 and the end of the war in June 1945 the King and his son, Crown Prince Olav, lived at Foliejon Park in Winkfield, near Windsor.

The Royal Family of Norway waving to the welcoming crowds from HMS Norfolk at Oslo.

Meanwhile, Hitler had appointed Josef Terboven as Reichskommissar for Norway. On Hitler's orders, Terboven attempted to coerce the Storting to depose the King; Parliament declined, citing constitutional principles. A subsequent ultimatum was made by the Germans under threat of interning all Norwegians of military age in German concentration camps.[7] With this threat looming, the Norwegian Parliament's representatives in Oslo wrote to their monarch on 27 June, asking him to abdicate. The King, politely replying that the Storting had acted under duress, declined the request. The King gave his answer on 3 July, and proclaimed it on BBC radio on 8 July.[8] After one further German attempt in September to force the Storting to depose Haakon failed, Terboven finally decreed that the Royal Family had "forfeited their right to return" and dissolved the democratic political parties.[citation needed]

During Norway's five years under German control, many Norwegians surreptitiously wore clothing or jewelry made from coins bearing Haakon's "H7" monogram as symbols of resistance to the German occupation and of solidarity with their exiled king and government, just as many people in Denmark wore his brother's monogram on a pin. The King's monogram was also painted and otherwise reproduced on various surfaces as a show of resistance to the occupation.[9]

After the end of the war, Haakon and the Norwegian Royal Family returned to Norway aboard the cruiser HMS Norfolk, arriving with the First Cruiser Squadron to cheering crowds in Oslo on 7 June 1945 [10] exactly five years after they had been evacuated from Tromsø.

Post-war years

In 1947 the Norwegian people, by public subscription, purchased the Royal Yacht Norge for the King. In 2009 it remained one of only two such vessels belonging to a European monarch[further explanation needed], the other yacht belonging to the Queen of Denmark.

Princess Ragnhild married her husband Erling S. Lorentzen on 15 May 1953, being the first Norwegian Royal to marry a commoner. Haakon saw two of his great-grandchildren being born, Haakon Lorentzen (b. 23 August 1954) and Ingeborg Lorentzen (b. 3 February 1957).

Crown Princess Märtha died on 5 April 1954, after suffering from cancer.

King Haakon VII fell in his bathroom at the estate at Bygdøy in July 1955. This fall, which occurred just a month before his eighty-third birthday, broke the King's thighbone and, although there were few other complications resulting from the fall, the King was left using a wheelchair. The once-active king was said to have been depressed by his resulting helplessness and began to lose his customary involvement and interest in current events. With Haakon's loss of mobility, and as the King's health deteriorated further in the summer of 1957, Crown Prince Olav appeared on behalf of his father on ceremonial occasions and took a more active role in state affairs.

At Haakon's death in September 1957, the Crown Prince succeeded as Olav V. Haakon was buried on 1 October 1957. He and Maud rest in the white sarcophagus in the Royal Mausoleum at Akershus Fortress.

Today, King Haakon VII is regarded by many as one of the greatest Norwegian leaders of the pre-war period, managing to hold his young and fragile country together in unstable political conditions. His loyalty to democracy proved to be crucial for the political situation of Norway during and after World War II[citation needed].



The King Haakon VII Sea in East Antarctica is named in the king's honour as well as the entire plateau surrounding the South Pole was named King Haakon VII Vidde by Roald Amundsen when he in 1911 became the first human to reach the South Pole. See Polheim. In 1914 Haakon County in South Dakota was named in his honor.

Two Royal Norwegian Navy ships -- King Haakon VII, an escort ship in commission from 1942 to 1951, and Haakon VII, a training ship in commission from 1958 to 1974—have been named for King Haakon VII.

For his struggles against the Nazi regime and his effort to revive the Holmenkollen ski festival following World War II, King Haakon VII earned the Holmenkollen medal in 1955 (Shared with Hallgeir Brenden, Veikko Hakulinen, and Sverre Stenersen), one of only eleven non-Nordic skiers to earn this honour. The others are Norway's Stein Eriksen, Borghild Niskin, Inger Bjørnbakken, Astrid Sandvik, King Olav V (his son), Erik Håker, Jacob Vaage, King Harald V (his paternal grandson), and Queen Sonja (his paternal granddaughter-in-law), and Sweden's Ingemar Stenmark.

Other honours:

Titles and styles

Titles and styles which Haakon VII bore from birth to death, in chronological order:

  • 1872–1905: His Royal Highness Prince Carl of Denmark
  • 1905–1957: His Majesty Haakon VII, of God's Grace Norway's King

Haakon VII was the last of Norway's Kings to have the style of God's Grace (Norwegian: av Guds nåde).


  1. ^ a b c "The Queen Receives". Time Magazine. 18 June 1923. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,715773,00.html. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  2. ^ "Jubilee". Time Magazine: p. 1. 8 December 1930. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,752591,00.html. Retrieved 17 December 2008. 
  3. ^ English Heritage (2005). "Blue Plaque for King Haakon VII of Norway". English Heritage. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.5780. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  4. ^ This was said when Christian Hornsrud of the Labour Party was appointed to Prime Minister in 1928, http://www.kongehuset.no/c27060/artikkel/vis.html?tid=27613 (Official site of the Norwegian Royal House, in Norwegian)
  5. ^ The account and quotation were recorded by one of the cabinet members and were recounted in William L. Shirer's The Challenge of Scandinavia.
  6. ^ Geirr H. Haarr, "The German Invasion of Norway", Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, UK, 2009.
  7. ^ William Lawrence Shirer: The challenge of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland in our time, Robert Hale, 1956
  8. ^ Dahl, Hjeltnes, Nøkleby, Ringdal, Sørensen, ed (1995). "Norge i krigen 1939-45. Kronologisk oversikt" (in Norwegian). Norsk krigsleksikon 1940-45. Oslo: Cappelen. p. 11. ISBN 8202141389. http://www.nb.no/utlevering/nb/d2e8afecb1aba47bf48bb3cd246dd070#&struct=DIV12. 
  9. ^ H7, Time Magazine, Monday, Sep. 30, 1957
  10. ^ "First Out, First In". Time Magazine. 11 June 1945. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,775835,00.html. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  11. ^ Royal House of Norway web page on King Haakon VII's decorations (Norwegian) Retrieved 5 October 2007
  12. ^ "Garter Knights Meet in Splendid Ceremony ... King Kaakon is Invested," New York Times. 25 November 1906.
  13. ^ "Miscellany". Time Magazine. 25 December 1944. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,791786,00.html. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 

See also


  • Shirer, William L. (1956). The Challenge of Scandinavia. London: Robert Hale. 
  • Bomann-Larsen, Tor (2004). Haakon og Maud I/Kongstanken. Oslo: Cappelen. ISBN 82-02-22527-2. 
  • Bomann-Larsen, Tor (2004). Haakon og Maud II/Folket. Oslo: Cappelen. ISBN 978-82-02-22529-2. 
  • Bomann-Larsen, Tor (2006). Haakon og Maud III/Vintertronen. Oslo: Cappelen. ISBN 978-82-02-24665-5. 

External links

Haakon VII
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 3 August 1872 Died: 21 September 1957
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Oscar II
King of Norway
Succeeded by
Olav V

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