Monday, 22 October 2012

My latest article: King Olav and his son’s marriage

What has attracted most interest after the publication of Ingar Sletten Kolloen’s authorised biography of the Queen, Dronningen, on 10 October, is probably her own version of the nine long years she and the current King had to wait for King Olav’s consent to their marriage. Today I have written a short piece in Dagsavisen, where I argue against that newspaper’s claim that it was King Olav’s reactionary ideas and his enlightened despotism that were the reasons for the long wait. On the contrary, I argue, it was his concern for public opinion and the future of the monarchy that caused the long wait. Public opinion was at first strongly opposed to the Crown Prince’s marrying a commoner, wherefore King Olav had little choice but to wait and see if public opinion became more favourable with time – which it did, so that the King in 1968 finally risked giving his consent. You may read the whole comment here (external link).


  1. That is an interesting comment. I wish I knew more regarding this period of the couple's lives and the controversy concerning their relationship, but I have not been able to find very much information (English-language, at least).

    It would be interesting to know the reasons for public opposition to the marriage, given that the Scandinavian countries today possess a reputation for egalitarianism. I also wonder whether the reaction would have been similar had Crown Prince Harald wished to marry, for example, a descendant of the former nobility or a member of a very wealthy family (I am uncertain as to whether Sonja's family fell in this category).

    1. The reasons for the opposition seem to be quite simply that it was unusual for royals, and heirs to the throne in particular, to marry commoners. Thus such a marriage would not be what people expected. That other (foreign) heirs to the throne married non-royals in the meantime probably helped pave the way.

      Class is not much of an issue in Norway, but I would place the Haraldsen family somewhere between affluent (but not *very* wealthy) upper middle class and upper class. With a handful of exceptions (those two or three people who retain the family estates) members of the former noble families live completely ordinary lives, so I cannot imagine that would have mattered the slightest (although the question is of course hypothetical).

      A recurring objection against royals marrying commoners back then was that the in-laws would become some sort of "half-aristocracy", which one obviously did not want (as we know, that did not happen and with the exceptions of Ari Behn, the late father of the current Crown Princess and the ex-step-great-niece of the current Queen they have all been very discreet).

    2. Thank you, Trond. It does seem that the public opposition in Norway was of the sort that would naturally dissipate with the passage of time and the occurrence of similar marriages.

      I inquired about the former nobility as it appears that male-line descendants of European royal and noble families tend to be treated as if they were royal or noble still. For instance, the marriages of Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Birgitta of Sweden to Ms. Sibylla Prinzessin von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha and Mr. Johann Georg Prinz von Hohenzollern, respectively, were deemed equal marriages under the Act of Succession,and were publicly perceived as such.


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