Rulers Of Norway
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The home politics of Norway previous to the middle of the ninth century are so interwoven with fanciful and semi-mythical legends, that they can hardly be stated now with accuracy. We do know that different districts of the country were controlled by different chiefs or petty kings. One of these local rulers, whose realm included the present site of Christiania, was Halfdan Svarte (Halfdan the Swarthy or "Black"), and his son Harold Haarfager (Harold Fairhair) succeeded him in the year 860 A. D. By Harald's energetic efforts, all the previously independent districts were united in one kingdom of Norway, under his own rule. He reigned until 930; then the fierce quarrels of his own sons tore the kingdom again asunder. Inherited feuds in the royal family kept the country in a turmoil for several generations. The following are the names and dates of the Norwegian sovereigns after Harold Fairhair :
Erik Bloody-axe, 930-934,
He is the "Jarl Haakon" who figures in Long-fellow's Saga of King Olaf, the poetic rendering of part of an ancient Norse tale. The coming of Olaf Tryggvason with rival claims to the throne forced him to flight, and he, with one of his bondmen, was concealed from his enemies by Thora, a former sweet-heart. The bondman betrayed him.
Olaf Tryggvason, 995-1000.
He had a marvellously romantic history, which is also 'retold by Longfellow. In childhood he had been captured by enemies and sold as a slave in a foreign land; there, as a youth, he was recognized and rescued by a Norse kinsman; educated in Britain, he returned to Norway and seized the throne from Jarl Haakon. His wooing of Queen Sigrid of Sweden makes a spirited chapter of the poet's story. Olaf made some advances in the introduction of Christianity. He took part in one of the most celebrated of the early Norse assaults on England, ravaging large sections of Northumbria and Kent, and even laying siege to old London. (See histories of England.)
Eirik Jarl (Earl Erik), 1000-1015.
After Olaf Tryggvason's fall at the battle of Svolder, the kingdom was divided between these brothers, sons of Earl Haakon, whom Olaf had displaced.
Olaf the Saint, 1016-1030.
This king practically secured the establishment of Christianity in the realm. The splendid cathedral at Trondhjem (Position 92) was built as a shrine for his relies when they were found to work miracles.
Svein Knutsson (son of the Danish king, Knut), 1030-1035.
King Knut is the same man who figures in English history as King Canute ; he was ruler of Denmark and England. Everybody knows the old story of how British flatterers annoyed him with over-extravagant estimates of his power, and how he rebuked them by commanding the tide to keep back from his seat on a sea-beach—the result demonstrating that there were Powers higher than he. Whether true or not, the story is a good one. It was King Knut that contributed greatly to the revolt against Olaf the Saint, and after the latter's death, secured the kingdom for his son.
Magnus the Good, 1035-1047,
He founded the town of Bergen, now second in importance in the whole kingdom. (See Positions 48-52.)
Magnus Barefoot, 1093-1103.
He was so called because he affected the kilts and bare legs of the Scottish Highlanders.
Eystein, Olaf, Sigurd sons of Magnus, 103-1130.
Sigurd took part in one of the Crusades (1107-1111), and was later called the Jorsalf-arer (Jerusalem-farer).
Magnus the Blind, Harold Gille, et al., 1130-1162.
This was a time of civil wars, in which many fierce battles were fought, several of them in or near the harbor of Bergen. (See Position 48.)
Magnus Erlingsson, 1162-1184,
Haakon extended the kingdom of Norway to include Iceland and Greenland, the Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroes and Hebrides, and even the Isle of Man. "Valkendorf's Tower" and the "King's Hall," still standing in old Bergen, were built during his reign, (See Position 52.) He went over to Scotland to settle a national dispute about the ownership of the Hebrides, and died in Kirkwall on one of the Orkney islands.
Magnus Lagaboter (Law-mender), 1263-1280.
In 1319 Magnus was elected to be also King of Sweden, but he was unequal to his opportunities, and his power was soon curtailed by the people in both kingdoms. It was during his reign, near the middle of the fourteenth century, that Norway suffered a series of fearful calamities—the burning of Trondhjem, inundations in some of the more populous valleys, and especially a devastating spread of the "plague."
Haakon Magnusson (Haakon VI), 1355-1380.
The temporary union of Sweden and Norway was dissolved about 1371. Haakon married Princess Margaret, daughter of King Valdemar of Denmark, and their son inherited both kingdoms.
Olaf Haakonsson, 1380-1387, Margaret of Denmark (regent for her nephew, Erik of Pomerania), 1387-1412.
Margaret was the "Northern Semiramis" of Europe. The use of the Danish language in Norway practically dates from her time. Under her regency the three kingdoms, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, were united, and in 1397 Erik was crowned at Kalmar (Sweden) by a diet of the three nations. The difficulty of maintaining the union proved great in Erik's time and almost continually thereafter. His own reign was made tumultuous by struggles with Germanic members of the great Hanseatic League in addition to conflicts with rebellious Swedes and dissatisfied Danes. The Hanseatic League proved strong enough to establish its claims to important German monopolies of trade, especially that in fish at Bergen. (See Position 51.) Norwegian politics for nearly four centuries from the time of Margaret of Denmark form a singularly troubled story. Sweden stayed in the tripartite union (Union of Kalmar) only until 1523, but Norway and Denmark remained united under Danish monarchs until 1814. The royal succession was as follows
Erik of Pomerania, 1389-1442,
This was the King Christian against whose authority in Sweden young Gustavus Vasa raised the famous revolt, resulting in the withdrawal of Sweden from the union.
Frederick I, 1524-1533,
It was during his reign that the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation were introduced into Nor-way, the old monasteries broken up and Church property appropriated by the Crown.
Frederick II, 1559-1588,
This sovereign practically founded Christiania, rebuilding it after Oslo had been destroyed by fire. His statue stands today in the chief market-place. (See Position 3.)
Frederick III, 1648-1670,
Frederick was a contemporary of the celebrated Charles XII of Sweden. In 1718 Charles undertook a military expedition against Norway and laid siege to the Norse fortress, at Frederickshald. (See Position 13.) There his troops were repulsed by the Norwegians, and he himself was killed.
Christian VI, 1730-1746,
This was a period of substantial growth and national development. Norwegian commerce and shipping were largely increased, important scientific and trade schools were established, native Norwegians were appointed to more of the administrative offices, and agriculture, mining and other home industries were notably improved in method and effectiveness.
Christian VII, 1766-1808.
During a long period of royal incompetency, the government was actually in the hands of a succession of ministers. Napoleon planned to use Denmark's sea-force against Great Britain, and the result was that the British twice (1801 and 1807) bombarded Copenhagen and captured the whole fleet.
Frederick VI, 1808-1814,
The Danish government came to grief financially through the British blockade of the ports of Den-mark and certain unwise measures in the issue of paper money. Norway, on the other hand, was in much better condition as to internal resources, and the old Norwegian desire for national independence grew greater and greater as Denmark's fortunes waned. At the close of the Napoleonic wars, additional pressure was brought to bear on Denmark by the Swedish government, and at the Peace of Kiel in 1814 Norway was released from her four-centurieslong union with Denmark. A Norwegian Constitution was framed and adopted, strikingly democratic in tone, the document incidentally abolishing all titles of nobility in the realm of Norway. The anniversary of the adoption of this new Constitution, May 17th, has ever since been observed as a public holiday.
Much to the disappointment of the many Norwegians who had hoped for complete independence, it appeared that the actual terms of the Peace of Kiel did not after-all secure that independence ; on the contrary, those terms were such as to place Norway again under a foreign sovereign—this time under the King of Sweden. Russia, Prussia, Austria and England united in insistence on the terms of the Peace of Kiel, and the monarch was reluctantly acknowledged ; it was agreed, however, that Norway was to retain her free constitution, and in all respects be on an equal footing with Sweden in the dual monarchy. According to the terms of the new Union, Norway had her own Parliament, and the King's Council (Cabinet) included Norwegian as well as Swedish members. His Majesty was expected to spend a certain length of time each year on Norwegian soil, and he was there given the title of "King of Norway and Sweden," instead of "King of Sweden and Norway," as phrased over across the border.
Karl (XIII of Sweden), 1814-1818,
This monarch was the first of the Bernadotte family. He had been a marshal in Napoleon's army, and was in 1810 elected Crown Prince of Sweden, the monarch being old and childless. Karl Johan Street, the main business thoroughfare of Christiania (see Position 5), was named for him, and his statue stands now in front of the royal palace (Position 8).
Oscar I, 1844-1859,
The recent dissolution by the Norwegian Storthing (Parliament) of the national union with Sweden under H. M. Oscar II, was in reality a foregone conclusion. Such a separation must have come about sooner or later, so strong is the sentiment of the Norwegian people for national sovereignty. The immediate occasion for the dissolution of the union was the impossibility of adjusting certain differences between the two countries with regard to diplomatic and consular representation in foreign lands. The diplomatic service had been entirely in the hands of Sweden. The consuls were appointed by a Cabinet consisting of both Swedish and Norwegian members. An effort was made to come to an agreement for separate consular representation, the diplomatic service remaining entirely under Swedish control, but Sweden demanded also strict guarantees that all consuls, even Norwegians, appointed by Norwegian authority, should be subject to the direction and control of the Swedish Foreign Office in all matters having any bearing whatever on the relations of Norway and Sweden to foreign Powers. The alleged reason for Sweden's maintaining this position was her exceeding anxiety to present a united front for defense in case of war with other European Powers. The reason for Norway's refusal was her own exceeding anxiety to present to the world a more dignified and independent front in matters which she regarded as purely her own affair. In May, 1905, the Norwegian Parliament passed a bill relative to consular representation, satisfactory to Norway. King Oscar vetoed the bill. Now, according to the Norwegian Constitution, the king can neither be blamed nor censured—the responsibility for his governmental acts rests with his cabinet. Even his veto without the countersignature of at least one of his Norwegian cabinet, is, from a constitutional standpoint, non-existent.
The cabinet ministers remonstrated with the king, reminding him that a measure passed unanimously by the Parliament and supported by a united cabinet could not be vetoed. But the king refused to yield the point, whereupon the cabinet resigned. There was no possible hope of obtaining a new cabinet, and without a cabinet there is no executive department, as, according to the Norwegian Constitution, the king can rule only through a cabinet. In other words, by withholding his sanction to the consuIar bill under these circumstances, the king placed himself outside the pale of constitutional government. The Storthing (Parliament) took this view of the question, and, on June 7, 1905, seized the psychological moment to proclaim, what King Oscar by his procedure had virtually effected, a dissolution of the union, and then placed the executive power in the hands of the cabinet which had refused to serve the king.
The blow to Sweden was a heavy one. It is, however, significant of the high level of thought in both countries that the rupture should have been made without harking back to the old-time argument of bloodshed. In a debate in the Swedish Parliament at the most exciting crisis of the dispute, a member cried:—"It were far better to allow the union to be dissolved in peace than to set Swedes and Norwegians to killing each other;" and in this phase of twentieth century good sense most Scandinavians were heartily agreed.
In November, 1905, the destiny of the nation was decided by the direct vote of the people, as follows:
Total registration 439,742
The same month (November, 1905), the throne of Norway was formally offered at Copenhagen by a deputation from the Norwegian Parliament, to Prince Karl of Denmark, second son of H. M. Frederick VIII, grandson of H. M. Christian IX, then the reigning monarch of that country.
The aged King Christian made the speech of acceptance, as follows: ___
"Representatives of the men of Norway : It has pleased us to accede to the desire of the Norwegian people that we accept the ancient crown of Norway for our dear grandson, Prince Charles. We cherish full confidence that the Norwegian people, in common with him, have a happy future in store for them.
"The young King does not come as a stranger to Norway, for he claims relationship to former Norwegian kings. Nor will the kingdom of Norway be strange to him, for everywhere in the land common recollections of the history of the kingdom and the history of his race will meet him.
"It is our hope that the ties which even now unite the young King to the old land and people may be more firmly knit by the cooperation of the King and people for the welfare of the land and its future, and it is our belief that thereby not only will the welfare of the Norwegian people be furthered, but also the welfare of their kinsmen.
"We pray Almighty God that this step may bring happiness and blessing to the whole North, and that unity, peace and concord may increase between the two nations." . . .
Turning to the new King and Queen, King Christian said:
"To you, my dear grandchildren, I address myself with the hope that God may lend you power and strength to serve your country and people with fidelity and rectitude. In this way you will win for yourselves the love of your people, and will feel your-selves Norwegians in your work for the happiness and future of your country. . . .
"Go with God, my dear grandchildren, from the land and race that bore you, to the land and people which have called you, and take the blessing of your old King for you, your line, and your deeds now and forever."
The new monarch took the name of Haakon VII, and gave the infant prince the name of Olaf, thus indicating his desire to impress upon the Norwegian people his realization of the fact that the ancient order of things was to be restored—that the independent Norway of the Haakons and Olafs of old was again to be a reality.
Upon his arrival at Christiania, on November 25, King Haakon was formally welcomed by the city officials and most enthusiastically cheered by thousands upon thousands of citizens as he drove with Queen Maud and the little prince to the palace.
Two days -later, November 27, 1905, the Parliament building was filled with a distinguished assemblage, besides the members of the Storthing, all in gala at-tire, to witness the ceremony of the king's taking the oath to the Constitution.
At 12 o'clock a gavel fell ; there was immediate silence, whereupon the President declared the Storthing in session. In a moment the royal procession appeared, the King in the uniform of a Norwegian general, and the Queen in white, with a collar of ermine, and a diadem and necklace of gleaming diamonds. The King was accompanied by the Lord Steward and two adjutants, the Queen by two ladies-in-waiting. The cabinet stood in a semi-circle at the right of the throne.
When all were in position, the President's clean-cut words fell upon the intent ears of the solemn assemblage :____
"Your Majesties! The Storthing, as the representative of the Norwegian people, salutes the King and Queen of Norway, and bids them welcome ! By virtue of the unanimous choice of the Storthing and the sanction of the Norwegian people, Your Majesty has ascended the throne of Norway. But in order that Your Majesty shall be empowered to exercise the authority which the Constitution confers upon the king, Your Majesty is required to take the oath to the Constitution, as this document prescribes. And it is my duty to request Your Majesty to take this oath."
Premier Michelsen stepped forward and handed the King a document, whereupon the King, with his right hand raised, and with firm voice, pronounced the following oath:
"I solemnly promise to govern the kingdom of Norway in accordance with its Constitution and statutes, so help me God and His Holy Writ!"
Almost immediately, as a solemn echo, the thunder of the guns at the Fortress of Akershus was heard.
Again the President spoke:
"After having taken this oath to the Constitution, Your Majesty has entered into the full possession of the rights which the Constitution grants the king. Upon the occasion of your Majesty's acceptance of election as King of Norway, Your Majesty declared your intention to assume the name of Haakon VII. That name has a pleasant ring to Norwegian ears. It awakens memories of great names in our history. We see in it an omen that the reign of Your Majesty will inaugurate an era of happiness for our country.
"'Everything for Norway' is the motto that Your Majesty has chosen. That points out the great mission that is to unite us all. In the positive assurance that Your Majesty will join with the Norwegian people in faithful cooperation—a condition that is necessary in order to enable both king and people to con-tribute to the full measure of their powers toward the welfare and happiness of the country—in assurance of this, I bid all to unite in the expression of the wish: God bless and keep the King of Norway!"
The members of the Storthing repeated the words. Thereupon the King responded as follows : ___
"Mr. President ! Representatives ! Before leaving this place, after this solemn ceremony, I salute the members of the Storthing, representatives of the free people of Norway. We all know the high and honor-able position that the Storthing occupies in the Constitution of Norway and in the hearts of Norwegians. In days of seriousness and in days of rejoicing, the Norwegian people have stood back of the Storthing, It shall be my greatest pleasure, in cooperation with the Storthing and in conformity with the Constitution, to devote my powers to serving the nation—to promoting its peace and happiness. God bless the Fatherland!"
The members of the Storthing repeated this last invocation, and the impressive ceremony was at an end.
Thus it was that this nation of 2,239,880 free people made the beginning of a new era in Scandinavian history. A British writer observed at the time : "For the last hundred years she (Norway) 'has been fast overtaking her neighbors in culture and liberalism. Her political renaissance found its inspiration in her literary renaissance, from the days of Wergeland to those of Bjornson.. . . The spirit that has inspired her ... ought to be a guarantee that she will jealously guard her freedom."
One would suppose that King Haakon might now go about the work of ruling the realm without any further ado. But there is a paragraph in the Norwegian Constitution on the ceremony of coronation. It stipulates that the coronation must take place in the cathedral at Trondhjem, but it does not declare that there must be a coronation. The Constitution leaves it to the king to determine the details of the ceremony, as well as the time, thus, by implication, leaving it for him to decide whether there shall be a coronation at all or not. Karl Johan was crowned at Trondhjem in 1818, Karl XV in 1860, and Oscar II in 1873; but Karl XIII, who was the reigning sovereign in Sweden when Norway entered the union (1814), was not crowned as King of Norway, nor was Oscar I, who ascended the throne in 1844.
Haakon VII decided in favor of a coronation, and the people, as a whole, were glad of it, as it gave them another opportunity to impress upon the world the fact that they had a king of their own. Moreover, it also gave them a welcome opportunity to call conspicuous attention to their ancient seat of government and its beautiful and venerable cathedral. The coronation took place on June 24, 1906, in the presence of the most distinguished assemblage that has ever gathered in Norway. There were present royal personages from England, Germany, Russia and Denmark.