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Christian VIII and his consort Caroline Amalie of Augustenborg during his anointing on June 28, 1840 in Frederiksborg Palace Chapel.

On this date in History: May 17, 1814. The signing of the Norwegian Constitution and the brief reign of King Christian-Frederik of Norway who would later ascend the throne of Denmark as King Christian VIII on December 8, 1839.

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King Christian-Frederik of Norway

Christian VIII (September 18, 1786 – January 20, 1848) was born at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. He was the eldest son of Hereditary Prince Frederik of Denmark and Norway and Duchess Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (only daughter of Duke Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Charlotte Sophie of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld). His paternal grandparents were King Frederik V of Denmark-Norway and his second wife, Duchess Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (daughter of Ferdinand-Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel).

Since 1397, with the The Kalmar Union which United the three Scandinavian Kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (Sweden left the union in 1523, when Gustav Vasa was elected as king of Sweden), Norway remained united to the Kingdom of Denmark. Then in 1814 a crack in the union occurred.

In May 1813, as the heir presumptive of the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, Christian-Frederik was sent as stattholder (the king’s highest representative in Norway) to Norway to promote the loyalty of the Norwegians to the House of Oldenburg, which had been very badly shaken by the disastrous results of Frederik VI’s adhesion to the falling fortunes of Napoleon I of France.

Christian-Frederik did all he could personally to strengthen the bonds between the Norwegian people and the royal house of Denmark. Though his endeavours were opposed by the so-called Swedish party, which desired a dynastic union with Sweden, he placed himself at the head of the Norwegian party of independence folowing the defeat of Napoleon’s troops at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, the Treaty of Kiel had forced King Frederik VI to cede Norway to King Carl XIII of Sweden. The most likely goal of the young Crown Prince was reunification with Denmark. His initiative was successful, and a national assembly at Eidsvoll was called. The assembled representatives were elected by the congregations of the state churches throughout Norway, and by military units.

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The Norwegian Constituent Assembly

The election of Christian-Frederik as King of Norway (Kristian Frederik in Norwegian) was confirmed by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly convoked at Eidsvoll on April 10. During five weeks in the the spring of 1814, the constitution was written. The constitution was ratified by the assembly on May 16, and on May 17 the constitution was signed by Christian-Frederik. The date of the signing is now celebrated as the Norwegian Constitution Day.

The Norwegian constitution was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the French revolutionin 1789 and the subsequent U.S. and French constitutions. The authors Christian Magnus Falsen and Johan Gunder Adler were also influenced by the Spanish Constitution of 1812. A deviation from the republican constitutions of France and the USA was the retention of the Monarchy. Importing republicanism was seen as an attempt to emulate the French and Americans directly in a country that had over a thousand years of the tradition of a monarchy. Emulating the United States or France was something the lawmakers at Eidsvoll sought to avoid. The choice of monarchy as state form would also facilitate reunification of Denmark-Norway, something the Crown Prince Christian-Frederik was not alone in seeking.

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King Christian-Frederik of Norway (King Christian VIII of Denmark)

The new Norwegian King Christian-Frederik next attempted to interest the great powers in Norway’s cause, but without success. On being pressed by the commissioners of the allied powers to bring about a union between Norway and Sweden in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Kiel, and then return to Denmark, he replied that, as a constitutional king, he could do nothing without the consent of the parliament (Storting), which would not be convoked until there was a suspension of hostilities on the part of Sweden. In the Constitution the king’s power was however severely curtailed. His absolute veto over laws was removed. In a Europe where almost all countries were ruled by absolute monarchy, a Constitutional Monarchy was still seen as extremely radical.

Sweden refused Christian-Frederik’s conditions and a short military campaign ensued in which the Norwegian army was defeated by the forces of the Swedish crown prince Carl-Johann. The brief war concluded with the Convention of Moss on August 14, 1814. By the terms of this treaty, King Christian-Frederik transferred executive power to the Storting, then abdicated and returned to Denmark. The Storting in its turn adopted the constitutional amendments necessary to allow for a personal union with Sweden and on November 4 elected Carl XIII of Sweden as the new King Carl II of Norway.

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King Carl XIII-I of Sweden and Norway

It wouldn’t be until 1905 when Norway gained independence and Prince Carl of Denmark was elected King of Norway taking the name Haakon VII. Former King Christian-Frederik was a great-grand-uncle to Haakon VII. He was the second son of (the future) King Frederik VIII of Denmark and his wife Louise of Sweden. He was also a younger brother of Christian X, a paternal grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark, and a maternal grandson of King Carl XV of Sweden (who was also King Carl IV of Norway). Haakon VII 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, eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Louise of Hesse-Cassel.

The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 is still in effect today.

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King Haakon VII of Norway.

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