Haakon VII (Prince Charles of Denmark; August 3, 1872 – September 21, 1957) was the King of Norway from November 1905 until his death in September 1957.
Birth and family
Prince Charles was born on August 3, 1872 at his parents’ country residence, Charlottenlund Palace north of Copenhagen, during the reign of his paternal grandfather, King Christian IX of Denmark. He was the second son of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark (the future King Frederik VIII), and his wife Louise of Sweden.
His mother, Louise of Sweden, was born into the House of Bernadotte, she was the only surviving child of King Charles XV of Sweden and Norway and his consort, Louise of the Netherlands. Although her father made several attempts to have her recognized as his heir, she was barred from the succession as at the time only males could ascend the throne of Sweden. In 1869, she married the future King Frederick VIII of Denmark with whom she had eight children.
Louise was the mother of both King Christian X of Denmark and King Haakon VII of Norway
His father, the future King Frederik VIII of Denmark, was the eldest son of King Christian IX and Louise of Hesse-Cassel, Louise was born as the daughter of Prince Wilhelm of Hesse-Cassel and Princess Charlotte of Denmark, a daughter to Frederik, Hereditary Prince of Denmark and Norway, and Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Her father was a younger son of King Frederik V of Denmark and Norway, while her mother was a daughter of Duke Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. At birth she had two older siblings, Prince Christian Frederik (who later became King of Norway in 1814 and was King of Denmark as Christian VIII from 1839) and Princess Juliane Sophie. She later had a younger brother, Prince Frederik Ferdinand.
Haakon VII, King of Norway
At birth, Prince Charles was third in the succession to the Danish throne after his father and older brother, Prince Christian, but without any real prospect of inheriting the throne. The young prince was baptised at Charlottenlund Palace on September 7, 1872 by the Bishop of Zealand, Hans Lassen Martensen. He was baptised with the names Christian Frederik Charles Georg Valdemar Axel, and was known as Prince Charles (namesake of his maternal grandfather the King of Sweden-Norway).
Prince Charles was educated at the Royal Danish Naval Academy and served in the Royal Danish Navy.
Prince Charles belonged to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (often shortened to Glücksburg) branch of the House of Oldenburg. The House of Oldenburg had been the Danish royal family since 1448; between 1536 and 1814 it also ruled Norway, which was then part of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway.
The house was originally from northern Germany, where the Glücksburg (Lyksborg) branch held their small fief. The family had links with Norway beginning from the 15th century. Several of his paternal ancestors had been kings of Norway in union with Denmark and at times Sweden.
Christian Frederik, who was King of Norway briefly in 1814, the first king of the Norwegian 1814 constitution and struggle for independence, was his great-granduncle.
On July 22, 1896, in the Private Chapel of Buckingham Palace, Prince Charles married his first cousin Princess Maud of Wales. Princess Maud was the youngest daughter of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, eldest daughter of King Christian IX and Queen Louise. The wedding was attended by the bride’s grandmother, the 77-year-old Queen Victoria.
Princess Maud of Wales
After the wedding, the couple settled in Copenhagen, where Prince Charles continued his career as a naval officer. The bride’s father gave them Appleton House on the Sandringham Estate as a country residence for his daughter’s frequent visits to England. It was there that the couple’s only child, Prince Alexander, the future Crown Prince Olav (and eventually King Olav V of Norway), was born on July 2, 1903.
After the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved in 1905, a committee of the Norwegian government identified several princes of European royal houses as candidates for the Norwegian crown. Although Norway had legally had the status of an independent state since 1814, it had not had its own king since 1387.
Gradually, Prince Charles became the leading candidate, largely because he was descended from independent Norwegian kings. He also had a son, providing an heir-apparent to the throne, and the fact that his wife, Princess Maud, was a member of the British Royal Family was viewed by many as an advantage to the newly independent Norwegian nation.
The democratically minded Charles, aware that Norway was still debating whether to remain a kingdom or to switch instead to a republican system of government, was flattered by the Norwegian government’s overtures, but he made his acceptance of the offer conditional on the holding of a referendum to show whether monarchy was the choice of the Norwegian people.
After the referendum overwhelmingly confirmed by a 79 percent majority (259,563 votes for and 69,264 against) that Norwegians desired to retain a monarchy, Prince Charles was formally offered the throne of Norway by the Storting (parliament) and was elected on November 18, 1905.
When Charles 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 which had not been used by kings of Norway for over 500 years.
In so doing, he succeeded his maternal great-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.
On the morning of November 20 a large crowd gathered outside King Haakon VII and Queen Maud’s residence in Bernstorff’s Palace in Copenhagen. The attendees greeted the royal couple as they appeared in the window and started singing Ja, vi elsker dette landet.
Later the same day, King Christian IX of Denmark received a delegation from the Storting in an audience in Christian VII’s Palace at Amalienborg. The delegation conveyed the message that the king’s grandson had been elected King of Norway, while Christian IX expressed his consent to the election of Prince Charles.
The head of the delegation, the President of the Storting Carl Berner, conveyed a greeting and congratulations from the Norwegian people, and expressed the people’s wishes for a happy cooperation. The king replied:
Mr. President of the Storthing, gentlemen. The first greeting from the Representatives of the Norwegian People, who in their unanimous Storthing decision on November 18 has elected me their King, has touched me deeply.
The people have thereby shown me a confidence which I know how to appreciate, and which I hope will still grow stronger as it gets to know my wife and me. As it will be known to you, gentlemen, it was at my request that the newly concluded referendum took place.
I wanted to be sure that it was a people and not a party that wanted me to be king, as my task above all should be to unite, not divide. My life I will devote to the good of Norway, and it is the fervent wish of my wife and I that the people who have chosen us will unite to cooperate and strive towards this great goal, and with full confidence I can then take as my motto: ALL FOR NORWAY.
Arrival in Norway
King Haakon VII arrives in Norway with Crown Prince Olav on his arm and is greeted on board the ship Heimdal by Prime Minister Christian Michelsen.
On November 23, the new royal family of Norway left Copenhagen on the Danish royal yacht, the paddle steamer Dannebrog and sailed into the Oslofjord.
At Oscarsborg Fortress, they boarded the Norwegian naval ship Heimdal. After a three-day journey, they arrived in Kristiania (now Oslo) early on the morning of November 25, 1905 where the king was received at the harbour by the Prime Minister of Norway Christian Michelsen. On the deck of the Heimdal, the Prime Minister gave the following speech to the king:
For almost 600 years, the Norwegian people have not had their own king. Never has he been completely our own. Always have we had to share him with others. Never has he had his home with us. But where the home is, there will also be the fatherland. Today it is different. Today, Norway’s young king comes to build his future home in Norway’s capital. Named by a free people as a free man to lead his country, he will be completely our own. Once again, the Norwegians’ king will be the strong, unifying mark for all national deeds in the new, independent Norway …
Two days later, on November 27 Haakon VII took his constitutional oath before parliament as Norway’s first independent king in 518 years. However, Norway counts November 18, the day of his election, as the formal beginning of his reign.
Coronation portrait of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud, June 22, 1906.
On June 22, 1906, King Haakon and Queen Maud were solemnly crowned and anointed in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim by the Bishop of Trondheim Vilhelm Andreas Wexelsen. The coronation was in keeping with the constitutional mandate, but many Norwegian statesmen had come to regard coronation rites as “undemocratic and archaic”.
Although coronations are not expressly banned under current Norwegian legislation, this became the last coronation of a Norwegian monarch. In the period before and after the coronation, the king and Queen made an extensive coronation journey through Norway.
Coronations in Norway were held from 1164 to 1906, mostly in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Although a crowning ceremony was formerly mandated by the nation’s constitution, this requirement was eliminated in 1908.
However, Norwegian kings have since chosen voluntarily to take part in a ritual of “benediction” to mark their accession to the throne, during which the crown is present, but not physically bestowed upon the sovereign. The new ceremony retains some of the religious elements of earlier rites, while eliminating other features now considered to be “undemocratic”.
The King and Queen moved into the Royal Palace in Oslo. Haakon became the first monarch to use the palace permanently and the palace was therefore refurbished for two years before he, Queen Maud and Crown Prince Olav could move in. After the coronation, King Haakon and Queen Maud also received the estate Kongesæteren at Voksenkollen in Oslo as a gift from the Norwegian people.
Haakon VII, King of Norway
As king, Haakon VII gained much sympathy from the Norwegian people. Although the Constitution of Norway vests the King with considerable executive powers, in practice Haakon confined himself to non-partisan roles without interfering in politics, a practice continued by his son and grandson.
Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1940. Haakon rejected German demands to legitimise the Quisling regime’s puppet government, and refused to abdicate after going into exile in Great Britain. As such, he played a pivotal role in uniting the Norwegian nation in its resistance to the invasion and the subsequent five-year-long occupation during the Second World War. He returned to Norway in June 1945 after the defeat of Germany.
During his reign he saw his father Frederik VIII, his elder brother Christian X, and his nephew Frederik IX ascend the throne of Denmark, in 1906, 1912 (also of Iceland from 1918 to 1944), and 1947 respectively. Haakon VII died at the age of 85 in September 1957, after having reigned for nearly 52 years. He was succeeded by his only son, who ascended to the throne as Olav V.