Twelve years ago it was suggested that a statue of King Christian Frederik should be erected in Oslo in time for the bicentenary of Norway’s independence in three years. However, the Secretary General of the Parliament, Hans Brattestå, recently told Aftenposten that Parliament’s Presidium has decided not to go ahead with the idea.
This is in my opinion a serious mistake by the Presidium. Christian Frederik was not only the one who was elected the first King of independent Norway on 17 May 1814; he was also the man who led the rebellion against the Treaty of Kiel, in which King Frederik VI of Denmark ceded Norway to King Carl XIII of Sweden.
The rebellion led to the declaration of Norway’s independence, the passing of a liberal constitution and eventually a personal union with Sweden on quite favourable terms. While King Christian Frederik was long reviled by historians for the manner in which the brief war with Sweden in the summer of 1814 was conducted it is now generally believed that the King took the right decision in seeking negotiations with Sweden rather than fighting to the last man and thus to a great extent probably saved Norway’s independence.
If any individuals should be singled out as the most important men of 1814, it would arguably be King Christian Frederik and Wilhelm Frimann Koren Christie, the Speaker of Parliament in the autumn of 1814. A statue of Christie was erected outside the Parliament Building on the 175th anniversary in 1989.
A statue of King Christian Frederik would be only natural at the time of the bicentenary. It is a shame that the Presidium of the Parliament has not understood the historical significance of the man to whom Parliament itself to a certain degree owes its existence.
(The above portrait of the then Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark was painted in 1812, possibly by C. G. Kratzenstein-Stub, and hangs at Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen).