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King Harald V of Norway: Thirty Years on the Norwegian Throne


His Majesty, King Harald V of Norway, is the youngest child and only son of King Olav V of Norway and Princess Martha of Sweden. He has two older sisters, Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid.

His mother was the sister of Queen Astrid of Belgium, both daughters of Prince Carl of Sweden and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark, daughter of King Frederick VIII of Denmark.

Queen Astrid died in a car accident in Switzerland in 1934 while on a vacation with her husband, King Leopold III of Belgium.

King Harald V was born on February 21, 1937, during the reign of his grandfather, King Haakon VII of Norway whose wife was Princess Maud, youngest daughter of King Edward VII of Britain.

At the time of his birth, he was second in line of succession to the Norwegian throne and 16th in line of succession to the British throne as a direct descendant of Queen Victoria.

King Harald V and his second cousin, Queen Elizabeth II

He is second cousin to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. A first cousin to King Albert II of Belgium and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg (once removed). And a third cousin to Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (twice over).

Just like the Danish royals and the former Greek royal family, King Harald V reigned under the royal House of Glucksburg.

The Norwegian royal family

In 1905, the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Although Norway had a legal status as an independent state since 1814, it had no independent king since 1837, and the country was always ruled by a Swedish king.

In 1905, finally the country made a complete separation from Sweden. The committee of the Norwegian government started a selection of candidates among European princes who could take the throne.

The choices narrowed down on Prince Carl of Denmark, younger son of the future King Frederick VIII of Denmark and Princess Lovisa of Sweden.

He was considered the most ideal choice among the candidates. He descended from independent Norwegian kings. He has a son, Prince Alexander born in 1903, who could succeed to the throne. 

And his wife, Princess Maud, was the daughter of a British king, Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who was related to all European royals, a connection viewed as a great advantage to the independent Norwegian nation.

In 1905, Prince Carl took his oath as King Haakon VII of Norway, he reigned until his death in 1957. He was succeeded by his only child, Prince Alexander who took the regnal name of Olav V, and reigned until 1991.

Queen Maud and King Haakon VII of Norway

Prince Alexander married his cousin, Princess Martha of Sweden in 1929. His closest cousin, Prince Bertie, Duke of York, the future King George VI of Britain, stood as his best man.

King Olav V of Norway

They had three children, Princess Ragnhild, Princess Astrid (named after Queen Astrid of Belgium) and the future King Harald V.

King Olav's mother, Queen Maud, died from heart failure on November 20, 1938 in London following an abdominal operation. 

Princess Martha of Sweden, did not become a Queen Consort. She died in 1954 from cancer. 

However, Olav V did not re-marry. When he became king in 1957, his two daughters stood as first ladies of the royal court.

Crown Prince Harald controversy

It was touted that the future King Harald V and Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, youngest sister of Queen Sofia of Spain, were matched for marriage. 

However, Prince Harald already had a long-term relationship with his university sweetheart, Sonja Haraldsen, a non-aristocratic commoner.

When he asked his father, King Olav V, permission to marry, he was flatly refused. 

It was unprecedented for a Norwegian monarch to marry a non-aristocratic commoner. So King Olav V withheld his approval.

However, the crown prince was determined. He told his father he would never take the throne if he would not be allowed to marry his Sonja.

King Harald V, Queen Sonja, Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Mariet

Afraid to discontinue the line of succession to the Norwegian throne because Harald was the only son, King Olav V made a consultation with the government ministers if it could be possible.

Princess Martha Louise, daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja

After days of meetings, finally the parliament and the crown relented and the engagement was announced. They were married on April 29, 1968.

Royal wedding in 1968
King Harald V and Queen Sonja during younger days

The couple have two children together, Princess Martha Louise and Prince Haakon, who created a controversy himself in 2000 when his relationship to Mette-Mariet, a single mother whose former lover was a drug addict, became public.

Other Facts

King Harald V is a keen sportsman. While still the crown prince, he represented Norway in the sailing event during the 1964, 1968 and 1972 World Olympics. He later became patron of World Sailing.

In 2016, he competed with a team for the Sailing World Championships event in Lake Ontario, Canada where he came in second.

After attending the University of Oslo, Harald attended the Cavalry Officers' Candidate school at Trandum. He also attended the Norwegian Military academy which he graduated in 1959.

In 1960, he entered Balliol College in Oxford, England and studied history, economics and politics. Apart from Sailing, he was a keen rower.

In 2015, he became the first reigning monarch in the world to visit Antarctica. 


Thirty years on the throne

King Harald V celebrated his 30 years on the Norwegian throne on January 17, 2021. The milestone celebration was low key since the world is still gripped with the threat of coronavirus.

Four days later, it was announced that the king was admitted to the main hospital in Oslo to undergo surgery for an injured tendon over his right knee.

In September Last year, he underwent a successful operation to replace a heart valve, which had been attached as a replacememt of his aortic valve since 2005, to improve his breathing.

At 84, and three decades on the throne, His Majesty has been battered by illness. His son, Prince Haakon, often stood as regent. 

However, the king is back in good shape and since been declared well and in good shape.


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