Friday, 17 May 2013

On this date: 199 years of independence

Today is the National Day of Norway, commemorating the events of 1814 which led to Norway’s independence and the passing of the Constitution which remains in force today, making it the second oldest exisiting constitution in the world. The bicentenary next year will be marked with a series of events.
Today the schoolchildren paraded as usual in large and small places all over the country. In Oslo the parade passed by the Royal Palace, where it was greeted by the King and Queen, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus from the balcony. As usual Princess Astrid watched from a window, while Princess Märtha Louise this year took part in the celebrations in London, where she lives with her family.
The tradition of the royal family greeting the people on 17 May dates to 1845, when Queen Josephine, Prince Gustaf and Princess Eugénie greeted the celebrators from a window in the then royal residence, the Mansion. The first person to do so from the balcony of the Palace, which was inaugurated in 1849, was Crown Prince Regent Carl in 1858.
The British terror bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807 forced the Danish state, which Norway was part of, into the Napoleonic wars on the French side. King Frederik VI remained Napoléon’s ally until the end, and by the Treaty of Kiel of 14 January 1814 he was forced to cede Norway to the King of Sweden. This was not accepted by the Norwegian, and the King’s cousin and heir, Prince Christian Frederik, who had served as Lieutenant of the Realm since the previous year, headed a rebellion which led to a constituent assembly being convened at Eidsvoll, where the Constitution was passed on 16 May 1814. It was signed the following day and Christian Frederik elected King of independent Norway.
A brief war with Sweden followed in July and August, which ended with an armistice on 14 August. Christian Frederik abdicated on 10 October, and having passed several amendments to the Constitution, an extraordinary Parliament voted in favour of a personal union with Sweden on 4 November, when Carl XIII was elected King of Norway. However, Norway retained its independence and its constitution in the personal union, which came to an end in 1905.

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