Norway: A year of centennial festivities
Photo from Aftenposten. Norway celebrates 100 years as an independent state this year. The final part of the centennial took place now in November, marking the referendum that elected Prince Carl of Denmark to become Norwegian king Haakon 7. The dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway was rather unique in Europe by 1905, as it was done peacefully. Two popular referendums were held in Norway, one establishing independence, the other the choice of the new state being a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic. Both king Haakon and his young son, the future king Olav, were born in Denmark. Our present king Harald, Haakon's grandson, is thus the first Norwegian-born king in more than 600 years:
The tradition of Norwegian kingship in various forms stretches back more than a thousand years. In more recent times the country was united with Denmark from 1381 to 1814 and with Sweden from 1814 until 1905 when it once more became independent under Haakon VII of Norway. The list of kings begins with Harald Fairhair (c.865-c.933) who was acclaimed king of all Norway, according to Snorre Sturlason, the Icelandic saga-writer and historian. In the 14th century the old royal lines in all three Scandinavian kingdoms ended with the death of Olav IV. His mother, Margrete Valdemarsdatter, the only queen-regnant Norway has ever had, succeeded in forging the Kalmar Union, with her nephew as king of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. It was a consolidation of assets which long helped to protect the northern countries from Hansa domination, but it ended with the north divided into two camps: Denmark-Norway and Sweden-Finland. In the Napoleonic wars Denmark sided with France, and lost Norway to England's ally Sweden (which had lost Finland to Russia a few years before).
1905 - Dissolution of the Union
The breaking point came with Norway´s demand for separate consuls, a necessary service for a country with the world's fourth largest merchant fleet. The king refused. The Storting then adopted the resolution of 7 June dissolving the union with Sweden. Before accepting dissolution as a fact, the Swedes demanded a public referendum to be certain the Norwegian people agreed with the Storting. As it proved, the national support was massive. In 1905 there was a sizable faction in favour of a republic, but it was more than balanced by the many who believed that monarchy was the form of government most suited to the Norwegian situation. Norway now needed the right man at the helm. Prince Carl of Denmark was 33, the right age to be considered for the role. It was no disadvantage that his wife´s parents were King Edward VII of England and the Danish-born Queen Alexandra. Best of all perhaps was that Prince Carl already had a small son, born in 1903, which meant that the succession was assured. Prince Carl requested the holding of a plebiscite in Norway to decide the future form of government (since a republic would rule out his own involvement) prior to the official offer of the crown. The result of the voting on 12-13 November gave a green light for the new monarchy. On 18 November the solemn election of Prince Carl as king of Norway took place in the Storting, and on the same afternoon the Prince´s telegram of acceptance was read out: "..... I am resolved to accept the election as king of Norway, taking the name of Haakon the seventh and according my son the name of Olav."
Centennial Celebrations in Norway
June 7th marks the centennial of the peaceful dissolving of the union with Sweden on June 7th 1905. The celebrations mark Norwegian politicians' decision on June 7, 1905 to break out of a union with Sweden that had existed for most of the 1800s. Before that, Norway had been under Danish rule for around 400 years, so the decision meant the formal beginning of an indendence process that lasted until late November, when Norway established its own monarchy and emerged as a sovereign nation. A key issue contributing to the dissolution was Norway's desire for its own consular service for representation overseas. Today, things have come full circle, with Norway and Sweden even sharing some embassies and consular services. The split has been viewed by history as being largely peaceful. In September 1905, in an atmosphere of suspicion, Sweden went so far as to send 5,000 fully-equipped soldiers to the Norwegian border. Norway responded with the partial mobilisation of its army. But with the posturing threatening to burst into conflict, Lundeberg met Norway's leader, Christian Michelsen and they reached a compromise.