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King of Norway

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King of Norway

This article is about the history and function of the Norwegian monarchy as an institution. For the kingdom of Norway itself, see Norway. For a list of kings of Norway, see List of Norwegian monarchs.

King of Norway
Coat of arms of Norway
Harald V
since 17 January 1991

Style: His Majesty
Heir apparent: Crown Prince Haakon
First monarch: Harald I
Formation: c. 872
Residence: Royal Palace in Oslo

Website: The Norwegian Monarchy

The Norwegian monarch or Sovereign is the head of state of Norway, which is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The Norwegian monarchy can trace its line back to the reign of Harald Fairhair and the previous petty kingdoms which were united to form Norway; it has been in unions with both Sweden and Denmark for long periods.

The present Sovereign is King Harald V, who has reigned since 17 January 1991. The heir apparent is his only son, Crown Prince Haakon. The Crown Prince undertakes various public ceremonial functions, as does the King's wife, Queen Sonja. The Crown Prince also acts as regent in the King's absence. There are several other members of the Royal Family, including the King's daughter, grandchildren and siblings. The Royal House is a branch of the Schlewig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg branch of the House of Oldenburg; originally from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany,[1] the same royal house as the Danish and former Greek royal families.

Whilst the Constitution of Norway grants important executive powers to the King, these are almost always exercised by the Council of State in the name of the King (King's Council, or cabinet). Formally the King appoints the government according to his own judgement, but parliamentary practice has been in place since 1884. Constitutional practice has replaced the meaning of the word King in most articles of the constitution from the king personally to the elected government. The powers vested in the Monarch are significant, but are treated only as reserve powers and as an important security part of the role of the Monarchy.

The King's functions are mainly ceremonial. He ratifies laws and royal resolutions, receives and sends envoys to foreign countries and hosts state visits. He has a more tangible influence as the symbol of national unity. The annual New Year's Eve speech is one venue where the king traditionally raises issues dealing with negative aspects in society. The King is also High Protector of the Church of Norway (the state church), Supreme Commander of the Norwegian armed forces and Grand Master of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav and the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit.[2][3]


Main article: Hereditary Kingdom of Norway

The position of King of Norway has been in continuous existence since the unification of Norway in 872. Although Norway has officially been a hereditary kingdom throughout that entire time there have been several instances of elective succession, latest in 1905 Haakon VII was elected by the people of Norway to the position of king through a plebiscite. In recent years members of the Socialist Left party have proposed the abolition of the monarchy during each new session of parliament, though without any likelihood of success.[4] This gives the Norwegian monarchy the unique status of being a popularly elected royal family and receiving regular formal confirmations of support from the Storting.

Germanic kingdom

Prior to and in the early phase of the Viking Age Norway was divided into several smaller kingdoms. These are thought to follow the same tradition as other Germanic monarchies of the time; the king was usually elected by the high-ranking farmers of the area and served mainly as judge during the popular assemblies, as a priest during the sacrifices and as a military leader during wars.

Harald Fairhair was the first king of Norway. The date of the first formation of a unified Norwegian kingdom is set to 872 when he defeated the last petty kings who resisted him at the Battle of Hafrsfjord, however the consolidation of his power took many years. The boundaries of Fairhair's kingdom were not identical to those of present day Norway, and upon his death the kingship was shared among his sons. Some historians put emphasis on the actual monarchial control over the country and assert that Olaf II alias Saint Olaf, who reigned from 1015 and to 1028, was the first king to control the entire country. Olaf is generally held to be the driving force behind Norway's final conversion to Christianity. Furthermore he was in 1031 revered as Rex Perpetuum Norvegiæ (Latin for Eternal King of Norway), and subsequently, the 1163 Succession Law stated that all kings after Olaf II's son, Magnus I, were not independent monarchs, but vassals holding Norway as a fief from Saint Olaf.[5]

Middle ages

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Norwegian kingdom was at its geographical and cultural peak. The kingdom included Norway (including the now Swedish provinces of Jemtland, Herjedalen, Særna, Idre and Båhuslen), Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Shetland, Orkney and other smaller areas in the present day United Kingdom. The king had diplomatic relations with most of the European kingdoms and formed alliances with Scotland and Castile, among others. Large castles such as Haakon's Hall and cathedrals, the foremost being Nidaros Cathedral, were built.

In the tradition of the Germanic monarchy the king had to be elected by a representative assembly of noblemen. Men eligible for election had to be of royal blood; the eldest son of the previous king was not automatically chosen. During the civil war era the unclear succession laws and the practice of power-sharing between several kings simultaneously gave personal conflicts the potential to become full-blown wars. Over the centuries kings consolidated their power and eventually a strict succession law made Norway a principally hereditary kingdom. In practice the king was elected by the Riksråd in a similar way to Denmark. He adhered to a håndfæstning and governed in the council of Norwegian noblemen according to existing laws.

After the death of Haakon VI of Norway in 1380, his son Olav IV of Norway succeeded to both the thrones of Norway and Denmark and was also elected King of Sweden. After his death at the age of 17 his mother Margrethe united the three Scandinavian kingdoms in personal union under one crown, in the Kalmar Union. Olav's death extinguished the Norwegian male royal line; he was also the last Norwegian king to be born on Norwegian soil for the next 567 years.[5]

The Black Death of 1349–51 was a contributing factor to the decline of the Norwegian monarchy as the noble families and population in general were gravely affected. But the most devastating factor for the nobility and the monarchy in Norway was the steep decline in income from their holdings. Many farms were deserted and rents and taxes suffered. This left the Norwegian monarchy weakened in terms of manpower, noble support, defence ability and economic power.[5]

Surviving the unions

The Kalmar Union was made possible not only by the complex events in the royal dynasties of Scandinavia but was also, among other things, a direct reaction to the expansive and aggressive policies of the Hanseatic League.[5]

On 6 June 1523 Sweden left the union permanently, leaving Norway in an unequal union with a Danish king already embarked on centralising the government of the Union.

In the following centuries the Norwegian monarchy was characterised by a king mostly residing abroad. This weakened the monarchial governing structures of Norway; the Riksråd, for example, was gradually undermined as the Norwegian nobles were not able to enjoy the King's confidence to the same extent as their Danish counterparts. The King was also less able to govern according to Norwegian needs as the distance meant he and his advisors had less knowledge of the conditions in Norway.[6]

Norway was one of few countries where the archdiocese was coterminous with the national territory. The church was therefore an important factor in trying to maintain the separate Norwegian monarchy. In the 16th century the power struggle between the Norwegian nobles and the king culminated at the same time as the reformation. This prompted a set of events in which the struggle against the Danish dominance in Norway was coupled with the struggle against the reformation. When both failed the effects were harsh. The Norwegian Catholic bishops were replaced with Danes and the Norwegian church was subdued and made wholly Danish. The Norwegian Riksråd was abolished in 1536 and more and more foreign men were appointed to important positions in Norway.[6]

The Danish nobles pushed the king to reduce Norway to a Danish province in order for them to gain more control in the election of future kings. However, the hereditary nature of the Norwegian monarchy meant that the King had to maintain the basic principle of Norway being a separate and extant kingdom. If the Danish nobles were to elect as king someone other than the next in line to the throne the Union would be dissolved. This gave the king the upper hand in the negotiations for the håndfesting. Potential heirs to Norway were present both in the royal dynasties of Sweden and Schleswig-Holstein, so if the King of Denmark did not assert his position as King of Norway they would.[6]

During this time the Danish kings were more preoccupied with securing the traditionally Danish fringe territories and therefore paid little attention to and made few attempts at maintaining the Norwegian interests. As a result Jemtland, Herjedalen, Båhuslen, Shetland and Orkney were lost to Sweden and Scotland. In addition all contact with Greenland ceased.

In 1661 Frederick III introduced absolute monarchy in Denmark and Norway and introduced new laws in both countries to that effect. Up until that time the law of Magnus the law-mender given in 1274 and 1276 had been the law of Norway. Christian IV's Norwegian law was in effect a translation into Danish of that older law. 1661 also marks the point where the last remnants of representational local government were removed and had to be rebuilt. However, that process started almost immediately when local men of means started putting pressure on local governors in order to gain or regain influence on local matters.[6]

Emerging independence

During the Napoleonic Wars the King aligned Denmark–Norway with France. When Napoleon lost the war, the king was forced to cede Norway to the king of Sweden under the Treaty of Kiel in 1814. It was initially proposed that the Norwegian dependencies of Greenland, Iceland and the Faroes would remain with Norway, but that point was dropped during the negotiations so they became Danish.[7]

On hearing news of the treaty, the Prince of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway, Christian Frederick, the resident viceroy in Norway, participated in founding a Norwegian independence movement. The independence movement was successful, partly due to clandestine support from the Danish Crown, but also because of the strong desire for independence in Norway. On 10 April, a national assembly met at Eidsvoll to decide on a constitution. Norway eventually declared independence on 17 May 1814, electing Christian Frederick as King. A short war with Sweden later that year ended with the Convention of Moss. This led to the ousting of Christian Frederick, and the Norwegian Storting electing Charles XIII of Sweden as King of Norway, creating the union between Sweden and Norway.[7] In turn the king recognised the Norwegian constitution which was only changed to facilitate the union.

The end result was that the Norwegian monarchy became a constitutional monarchy. In this new union the King was much more a King of Norway than under the previous Danish system. The only area of policy not in the hands of the Norwegians was foreign policy.

Norway had been brought along into the new developments of the world as they arrived in Denmark. However, with the break the Norwegians were able to forge a more progressive political development than was the case in Denmark. Denmark introduced a constitutional monarchy 35 years after Norway. Parliamentarism was introduced in Norway 17 years before Denmark and 33 years before Sweden.[8] The union with Denmark also had its adverse effects on the monarchy, among other things it resulted in the crown of Norway experiencing a loss of territory which today amounts to 2 322 755 km².[9] Very few royal undertakings had been located to Norway and the country is thus lacking the monumental palaces of the period as can be seen in Copenhagen and other parts of Denmark.

Union with Sweden

The Treaty of Kiel stipulated that Norway was to be ceded by the king of Denmark–Norway to the king of Sweden. This was however rejected in Norway, where calls for self-determination were already mounting. A Norwegian constituent assembly was called, and a liberal constitution was adopted on 17 May 1814. A short war ensued, ending in a new agreement between the Norwegian parliament and the Swedish king.

The Convention of Moss was from a Norwegian point of view a significant improvement over the terms dictated to Denmark-Norway at the treaty of Kiel. Notably, Norway was no longer to be treated as a Swedish conquest but rather as an equal party in a personal union of two independent states. Both the principle and substance of the Norwegian Constitution were preserved, with only such amendments as were required to allow for the union with Sweden. Norway retained its own parliament and separate institutions, except for the common king and foreign service.

The Norwegian Storting would propose Norwegian laws without interference from Sweden, to be approved by the common King in his capacity as King of Norway. The King would occasionally enact laws unfavourable to Sweden. As the Norwegian movement towards full independence gained momentum, the King approved the building of forts and naval vessels intended to defend Norway against a Swedish invasion.

The union was nevertheless marked by the Norwegians' constant and growing discontent with being in a union of any kind. The Storting would propose laws to reduce the king's power or to assert Norwegian independence. This would most often be vetoed by the king, but as he only had the right to veto the same law twice, it would eventually be passed. Already the constitution of 1814 specified that Norway would have a separate flag, and the present design was introduced in 1821. The flags of both kingdoms were defaced with the union mark in 1844 to denote their equal status within the union. It was discarded despite royal objections from the Norwegian flag in 1898. In 1837 local self-government in certain areas of policy was introduced in rural areas as well as towns. Parliamentarism was introduced in 1884.

It also has to be said that the Royal House of Bernadotte tried hard to be a Norwegian Royal House as well. The Royal Palace in Oslo was built during this period. There were separate coronations in Trondheim as stipulated in the Constitution. The royal princes even had a hunting lodge built in Norway in order to spend more private time there.[10] King Oscar II himself spoke and wrote Norwegian fluently.

Full independence

In 1905 a series of disputes between parliament and the King culminated with the matter of separate Norwegian consuls to foreign countries. Norway had grown into one of the world's leading shipping nations while Sweden retained control of both the diplomatic and consulate corps. The Swedes had little insight in the matters Norwegian ships and businessmen needed assistance with abroad and consulates were not even established in several important shipping cities. The demand for separate Norwegian consuls was seen as very important by the Norwegian parliament and society. The Storting proposed a law establishing a separate Norwegian consulate corps. King Oscar II refused to ratify the law and subsequently the Norwegian cabinet resigned. The king was not able to form any other government that had the support of parliament and as such it was deemed on 7 June that he had failed to function as King of Norway.[7][11]

The Norwegian people gave their consent in a plebiscite held on 13 August which resulted in an overwhelming 368,208 votes (99.95%) in favor of dissolution of the Union, against 184 (0.05%) opposed, with 85 percent of Norwegian men voting. No women voted, as universal suffrage was not granted until 1913, however Norwegian feminists collected more than 200,000 signatures in favor of dissolution.[7][11]

On 12 and 13 November, in the second constitutional plebiscite in three months, Norwegian voters decided by a nearly 79 percent majority (259,563 to 69,264) to keep the monarchy instead of establishing a republic.[11]

During the summer a Norwegian delegation had already approached the 33-year-old Prince Carl of Denmark, the second son of the Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark. The Norwegian parliament had considered other candidates but ultimately chose Prince Carl, partly because he already had a son to continue the line of succession, but more significantly because Carl was married to Maud of Wales, the daughter of King Edward VII. By bringing in a king with British royal ties, it was hoped that Norway could court Britain's support.[11]

Prince Carl impressed the delegation in many ways, not the least because of his sensitivity to the liberal and democratic movements that had led to Norway's independence. Though the Norwegian constitution stipulated that the Storting could choose a new king if the throne were vacant, Carl was aware that many Norwegians — including leading politicians and high-ranking military officers — favored a republican form of government. Attempts to persuade the prince to accept the throne on the basis of Parliament's choice failed; Carl insisted that he would accept the crown only if the Norwegian people expressed their will for monarchy by referendum and if the parliament then elected him king.

Following the November plebiscite affirming Norwegians' desire for a monarchy, the parliament by an overwhelming majority offered Carl a clear mandate to the Norwegian throne on 18 November. The prince accepted the same evening, choosing the name Haakon, a traditional name used by Norwegian kings. The last king with that name was Haakon VI, who died in the year 1380.

The new king therefore became Haakon VII, King of Norway. His two-year-old son Alexander, the heir apparent, was renamed Olav and became Crown Prince Olav. The new royal family arrived in the capital Kristiania (later Oslo) on 25 November. Haakon VII was sworn in as king of Norway on 27 November.[11]

A new monarchy

The early years of the new Norwegian monarchy were marked by a shortage of funds. The Norwegian state was poor and funds were needed elsewhere than in the upkeep of a large court. In that sense it was a stroke of good fortune that Prince Carl had set as a condition for accepting the throne that he would not be forced to keep a large court. However, the royal travels and the upkeep of the royal residences, after the initial refurbishment in 1905, were to some extent neglected. One example of the negative financial situation is that Prince Carl had been promised a Royal Yacht when he accepted the throne, but this was not fulfilled until 1947.[12]

One important incident in the early years of the new monarchy was in 1928 when the King appointed the first Labour government. The Norwegian Labour Party was at that time quite radical and even had the abolition of monarchy as part of their programme. It was the custom for the King to rely on the advice of previous Prime Minister in deciding who to give the assignment as new Prime Minister. In this case the previous conservative Prime Minister was opposed to giving power to the radicals and advised the appointment of someone else. But the King adhered to the established practice of parliamentarism and decided to appoint Christopher Hornsrud the first Labour Prime Minister. The Labour party later dropped the abolition of monarchy from their programme.

During the German occupation of World War II the King was an important symbol of national unity and resistance. His steadfast opposition to the German demands of surrender was important for the fighting spirit of the Norwegian population. The constitutional powers granted to the King in the Norwegian monarchial system made his position very important and enabled the government in exile to continue its work with the utmost legitimacy.

After the war the Norwegian royal house succeeded in maintaining a balance between regality and approachability. King Olav V was deemed the people's king and the spontaneous show of mourning from the population upon his death in 1991 demonstrated the high standing he had among the Norwegian people. Even republicans were among the masses lighting candles in front of the Palace.[13]

In later years the marriages of the then Crown Prince Harald in 1968 and of Crown Prince Haakon in 2001 sparked considerable controversy, but the lasting effect on the popularity of the monarchy has been minimal. Although decreased from its level of above 90 percent after the war, support for the monarchy seems to remain stable around and mostly above the 70 percent mark.[14] In an opinion poll in 2012 93% of the people agreed the current Monarch does a good job for the country.[15]

Constitutional rights and privileges

Although the 1814 constitution grants important executive powers to the king, these are almost always exercised by the Council of State in the name of the King (King's Council, or cabinet). Constitutional practice has replaced the meaning of the word King in most articles from the king personally to the elected government. The reserve powers vested in the Monarch by the constitution are significant and an important security part of the role of the Monarchy, and were last used during World War II.


Article 5 states: The King's person is sacred; he cannot be censured or accused. The responsibility rests with his Council.[16]

This article applies to the king personally. The king has legal sovereign immunity.

Article 37 states: The Royal Princes and Princesses shall not personally be answerable to anyone other than the King, or whomever he decrees to sit in judgment on them.[16]

This means that the Princes and Princesses also have immunity on the discretion of the king. He could decide to let them be judged by the regular courts or he could decide to judge them himself. This has never been tested in practice.

Council of State

The Council of State consists of a Prime Minister and his council, all formally appointed by the King. The Council of State is the Government of Norway. Parliamentarism has been in place since 1884 and entails that the cabinet must not have the parliament against it, and that the appointment by the King is a formality. In practice, the monarch will ask the leader of a parliamentary block that has a majority in the Storting to form a government. The King relies on the advice of the previous prime minister and the President of the Storting in this question. The last time the King appointed a new prime minister contrary to the advice of the previous was in 1928 when he appointed the first Labour government.

Article 12 states: The King himself chooses a Council from among Norwegian citizens who are entitled to vote. [...] The King apportions the business among the Members of the Council of State, as he deems appropriate.

Article 30 states: [...] Everyone who has a seat in the Council of State has the duty frankly to express his opinion, to which the King is bound to listen. But it rests with the King to make a decision according to his own judgment. [...][16]

Veto of laws

The King has to sign all laws in order for them to become valid. He can veto any law. However, if three separate Stortings approve the law, it becomes valid even without the King's consent. The King has not vetoed any law since the dissolution of the union with Sweden. The last law enacted without the King's consent was the law regarding a pure national flag in 1898.

Article 78 states: If the King assents to the Bill, he appends his signature, whereby it becomes law.[16]

If he does not assent to it, he returns it to the Odelsting with a statement that he does not for the time being find it expedient to sanction it. In that case the Bill must not again be submitted to the King by the Storting then assembled. [...][16]

Church of Norway

The Church of Norway, also known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, is the state church of Norway, to which 86% of Norwegians are members. The Church of Norway professes the Lutheran branch of Christianity, and is a member of the Porvoo Communion.

The King is the supreme governor and protector of the Church of Norway. He formally decides who is to become bishops and oversees that the church conducts its business according to "the norms prescribed" for them. In practice this authority has been delegated to the Ministry of Church Affairs.[16]

Pardoning criminals

Article 20 states: The King shall have the right in the Council of State to pardon criminals after sentence has been passed.[16]

A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the penalty associated with it. It may be given if new information on the crime or criminal has come to light after sentencing has begun. A pardon may entail a complete or partial withdrawal of punishment. The practical execution of this right has been delegated to the Ministry of Justice which may dismiss an application for a pardon.[17] The formal approval of a pardon has to be done by the King in Council. In 2004 a total of 51 applications for pardon were approved and 274 were denied.[18]

Appointing senior officials

Article 21 states: The King shall choose and appoint, after consultation with his Council of State, all senior civil, ecclesiastical and military officials.[16] The appointment is formally made by the king, but is in practice up to the elected government.

Dismissing the government

Article 22 states: The Prime Minister and the other Members of the Council of State, together with the State Secretaries, may be dismissed by the King without any prior court judgment, after he has heard the opinion of the Council of State on the subject.[16]

Chivalric orders

Article 23 states: The King may bestow orders upon whomever he pleases, as a reward for distinguished services[...][16]

Norway has two chivalric orders: the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav and the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. In addition the King awards several other distinguished medals for a wide range of accomplishments.


Article 25 states: The King is Commander-in-Chief of the land and naval forces of the Realm.[16] The King is also Commander-in-Chief of the Norwegian Air Force: but it is not explicitly mentioned because there was no Air Force in 1814.

Article 26 states: The King has the right to call up troops, to engage in hostilities in defence of the Realm and to make peace, to conclude and denounce conventions, to send and to receive diplomatic envoys.[16]

The King is treated by the armed forces as their highest commander, but there is, beyond legal fiction, no doubt that the complete control of the armed forces is actually held by the elected government of the day. The Kings of Norway have traditionally received an extensive military training and to some extent pursued a career within the armed forces before ascending to the throne. During World War II the King took a more active role in the decision-making and while the government still had the last word the King's advice was given much weight. On one occasion during the invasion the King was given an ultimatum from the Germans demanding Norway's surrender. King Haakon VII told the government he would abdicate if they decided to accept. In 1944 Crown Prince Olav was appointed Chief of Defence based on his military leadership abilities.


From before recorded Norwegian history the monarch would be installed by acclamation, a ceremony held on the ting where the king swore to uphold the laws of the land and the assembled chieftains swore allegiance to him. The first coronation in Norway and in all Scandinavia took place in Bergen in 1163 or 1164. For a long time both ceremonies were used in Norway. That way the king was invested with powers both from the noblemen and from the church. The coronations also symbolised that the king would hold the kingdom in fief to St. Olav the eternal king of Norway. The last acclamation took place on Akershus Castle in 1648. The last medieval coronation in Norway took place 29 July 1514. During the age of absolute monarchy (1660–1814), Norway's kings were coronated in Copenhagen, using the Throne Chair. Today the king still goes through a ceremony similar to the acclamation when he takes the oath of allegiance to the Constitution in the Storting. The Norwegian Constitution of 1814 determined that any Norwegian coronations from that time onward were to take place in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. This re-established the relationship to the sacred king's burial church. The constitutional article about the coronation was annulled in 1908. When king Olav V ascended the throne in 1957 he still wanted to receive the blessing of the church for his reign and the Benediction of the king was introduced. The benediction is a much simpler ceremony, but it still takes place in Nidaros Cathedral and with the Royal Regalia at the high altar. King Harald V and Queen Sonja also received the benediction in 1991.[19]


The order of succession to the Norwegian throne has followed absolute primogeniture since 1990, as is described in article 6 in the Constitution of Norway. Only people descended from the reigning monarch and the reigning monarch's siblings and their descendants are entitled to succeed to the throne.


The King, Queen, Crown Prince and Crown Princess are exempt from paying any taxes and their personal finances are not revealed to the public. Other members of the royal family have lost that privilege upon marriage. It is believed that only the King has a personal fortune of a notable size.

The royal farms generate some revenue, but this is always re-invested in the farms themselves.

In the Norwegian state budget of 2010 the sum of 142.5 million Norwegian kroner was allocated to the Royal Household.[20] 16.5 million was also given to the monarchs as appanage.[21] 20.9 million was in addition allocated to rehabilitazion of royal property.[20] In 2010, the Royal Household of Norway claimed that King Harald V's fortune was close to a 100 million Norwegian kroner.[22] 500 million Norwegian kroner was in the late 1990s allocated to the extensive refurbishments of the royal residences that have been taking place and are still under way. The restoration of the Royal Palace in Oslo went far beyond budget because the structural state of the palace was much worse than expected. However, the large expense was criticised in the media.[13]


The Royal Palace in Oslo is the main official residence of the monarch. It was built in the first half of the 19th century as the Norwegian residence of Norwegian and Swedish king Charles III (Carl Johan, Charles XIV of Sweden) and is used as the official residence of the present Norwegian Monarch.[23] Bygdøy Royal Estate is the official summer residence and is also situated in Oslo. Bygdøy has been under extensive restoration and has therefore not been used regularly since the accention of King Harald V.[24] The Royal Lodge or Kongsseteren is located in Holmenkollen, and used by the Royal Family as a residence for Christmas and Holmenkollen Ski Festival each year. Oscarshall castle is a "recreational castle" also situated in Oslo, but rarely used. There are also official residences in three other Norwegian cities:

All of the official residences are partially open to the public.[25]

The King owns a royal yacht bearing the name HNoMY Norge which is manned and maintained by the Royal Norwegian Navy and used both for official and private travels in Norway and abroad.[26] The Norwegian State Railways maintains a set of royal train carriages.[27]

The crown princely couple resides at Skaugum Manor in Asker municipality outside of Oslo, while the three princesses of Norway live on estates in Oslo, Fredrikstad and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Both Skaugum and Bygdøy are working farms producing grain, milk and meat where the profits are re-invested in the farms themselves.[28] In 2004 the King transferred management of the farming activities on Bygdøy to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History.[29]

The royal family also possess several other holiday homes of a private nature.[30]

Royal coat of arms

The Coat of arms of Norway is one of the oldest in Europe and serves both as the coat of arms of the nation and of the Royal House. This is in keeping with its origin as the coat of arms of the kings of Norway during the Middle Ages.[31]

Håkon the Old (1217–1263) used a shield with a lion. The earliest preserved reference to the colour of the arms is the King's Saga written down in 1220.[31]

In 1280 King Eirik Magnusson added the crown and silver axe to the lion.[31] The axe is the martyr axe of St. Olav, the weapon used to kill him in the battle of Stiklestad in 1030.

The specific rendering of the Norwegian arms has changed through the years, following changing heraldic fashions. In the late Middle Ages, the axe handle gradually grew longer and came to resemble a halberd. The handle was usually curved in order to fit the shape of shield preferred at the time, and also to match the shape of coins. The halberd was officially discarded and the shorter axe reintroduced by royal decree in 1844, when an authorized rendering was instituted for the first time. In 1905 the official design for royal and government arms was again changed, this time reverting to the medieval pattern, with a triangular shield and a more upright lion.[31]

The coat of arms of the royal house as well as the Royal Standard uses the lion design from 1905. The earliest preserved depiction of the Royal Standard is on the seal of Duchess Ingebjørg from 1318.[32] The rendering used as the official coat of arms of Norway is slightly different and was last approved by the king 20 May 1992.[33]

When used as the Royal coat of arms the shield features the insignias of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav around it and is framed by a royal ermine robe, surmounted by the crown of Norway.

The Royal coat of arms is not used frequently. Instead, the king's monogram is extensively used, for instance in military insignia and on coins.

The monarchy today

The Royal Family of Norway is a branch of the princely family of House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, originally from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Since 1991 the king has been Harald V, the 66th since Unification, but the first king in many hundred years to actually have been born in Norway. Following the introduction of a parliamentary system of government in 1884, the duties of the Monarch have become largely representative and ceremonial. He or she:

  • Is Head of State
  • Opens the Storting
  • Formally dissolves and installs governments
  • Presides over meetings in the Council of State
  • Functions as the nominal head or High Protector of the Church of Norway
  • Is Commander-in-Chief of the Norwegian Defence Force
  • Receives credentials from Ambassadors-in-waiting
  • Represents Norway during state visits both abroad and in Norway
  • Serves as fount of honour
  • Holds audiences with prominent Norwegian figures within politics, industry, commerce and culture.

However, the Monarch does retain some royal prerogatives. He may issue pardons for prisoners (Article 20) and engage in war (Article 26), although it is unlikely that any of these two prerogatives would be put into use today. However, during the German occupation, Haakon VII said he would abdicate rather than appoint a collaborationist government led by Vidkun Quisling.

The Monarch acts a symbol of unity, and a majority of Norwegians are still in favour of retaining the monarchy. There is also broad political consensus on this issue.

External links

  • Video from NRK of the history of the present monarchy

See also


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