Childhood & Early Life
King Harald V of Norway was born on 21 February 1937 at the Skaugum estate, a manor house located at the foot of the Skaugumsåsen Mountain in the Greater Oslo Region of Norway. He was the first prince to be born in Norway in 567 years after Olav IV (born in 1370).
His father, King Olav V of Norway, was born as Prince Alexander Edward Christian Frederik of Denmark. He became heir apparent to the Norwegian throne when in 1905 his father, Prince Carl of Denmark, was elected as the King of Norway and was titled King Haakon VII of Norway.
His mother, Princess Märtha of Sweden, was a popular and respected member of the royal family. She died of cancer in 1954, three years before her husband became the king.
Harald V was the youngest of his parents’ three children, having two elder sisters called Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid. Although he was the youngest, because of Norway's law of agnatic succession, he became second in the line of succession after his father at birth.
Prince Harald was baptized in the Royal Chapel of the Royal Palace in Oslo on 31 March 1937. For the first three years of his life, he was raised at his parents’ home at the Skaugum estate, living the usual life of a prince.
His life changed abruptly when on 9 April 1940, Germans invaded Norway, planning to arrest the members of the royal family and the government, and thus compel Norway to capitulate. Fortunately, the royal family was able to leave Oslo by a special train before the arrival of invaders.
They spent the first night in Elverum, Norway. On 10 April 1940, the Germans sent emissary demanding that the king appoint Vidkun Quisling, a German puppet, as prime minister. The king refused to oblige. On the same day, Crown Princess Märtha left for the country of her birth, Sweden, with her three children.
The family spent the first few days of their exile in Sälen and then on April 16 moved to the home of Prince Carl Bernadotte in Frötuna, Sweden. They lived there until April 26 and then moved to Drottningholm in Stockholm.
The Swedish king was not against their stay in his country. But many important politicians were of the opinion that the crown princess’s arrival had put Sweden’s neutrality in jeopardy and that Prince Harald V should be sent back to Norway so that the Germans could proclaim him as the king.
By June 1940, it became apparent that it was not safe for Prince Harald V to remain in Sweden. Thereafter, President Roosevelt sent the United States Army’s transport ship to the Finnish port of Petsamo to bring the Norwegian royal family to the USA.
On August 17, the crown princess and her three children left for the United States aboard American Legion, while the king and the crown prince remained in London, running a government in exile. The ship, which also picked up many American nationals from a number of countries, reached the USA on August 28.
In the USA, the Norwegian royal family was initially kept at Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate, and then moved to the White House, where they possibly lived for two or three months. Eventually, they settled down at Pook’s Hill, a 150-acre estate with a Tudor-style mansion in Bethesda, Maryland.
While in the USA, they often visited the White House. A 1944 photograph shows Prince Harald V playing with President Roosevelt's dog Fala on the White House’s North Lawn. He also remembers standing behind Roosevelt when the latter was sworn in for the fourth time as the US President in 1945.
In 1943, Prince Harald V was enrolled at The White Hall Country School. Sometime during this period, he also visited Norwegian servicemen training centre in the United States and their training base in Ontario, Canada.
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Return to Home
On the night of 8 May 1945, the Germans signed the Instrument of Surrender and with that, the Second World War came to an end in Europe. On May 13, Crown Prince Olav returned to Norway along with five government ministers.
On 7 June 1945, King Haakon, Crown Princess Martha and her three children returned to Norway. Thousands of cheering Norwegians thronged the street to welcome them home. That autumn, Prince Harald V was enrolled in third grade at Smestad skole, thus becoming the first prince to attend a public school.
For his secondary education, the prince was enrolled at Oslo katedralskole (Oslo Cathedral School), a prestigious school in Norway that traces its origin to the Middle Ages. In 1954, while still in school, he lost his mother to cancer. It was a tremendous loss for him.
In 1955, after receiving his school leaving certificate, he entered the University of Oslo, but did not graduate from there. Instead, he joined the Norwegian Cavalry Officer’s Training School at Trandum.
Prince Harald V’s grandfather King Hakkon died on 21 September 1957. After that, his father Olav V became the King of Norway, and Harald V was appointed the crown prince. On September 27, he attended the Council of State for the first time.
On 21 February 1958, he took the oath to the Constitution of Norway. From September 11 to 13, he served as regent, when his father went on an official visit to the Kingdom of Denmark, visiting King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid.
In 1959, Harald V completed his military education at the Military Academy and in the following year, he entered Balliol College, Oxford, studying history, economics and politics there. In 1960, he also made his first official tour, visiting the USA on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the American Scandinavian Foundation.
Crown Prince Harald V studied at Oxford until 1962. It was during this period that he became a keen rower and sailor. He represented Norway in the yachting events of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, in Mexico City in 1968, and in Munich in 1972.
After completing his education, he began to work closely with his father, carrying out an increasing number of official tasks and travelling abroad with trade delegations to promote Norwegian industries. Concurrently, he continued to show a keen interest in rowing, winning bronze, silver and gold medals in 1988, 1982 and 1987, respectively, at the World Championship.
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King of Norway
In the spring of 1990, when King Olav’s health deteriorated, Crown Prince Harald began to take over more and more responsibilities. Eventually, on 17 January 1991, when the king passed away, Harald automatically succeeded the throne. When Harald V became the King of Norway, his son Haakon became the crown prince and his wife Sonja became the queen.
On 22 January 1991, the king took an oath to uphold the Constitution in the Storting. The ceremony was also attended by Queen Sonja, which made her the first Norwegian queen to attend the Norwegian Legislature.
With his accession, Harald V became the first Norwegian-born king since Magnus VII of the 14th century. He chose to continue the tradition of royal benediction, being consecrated together with Queen Sonja in the Nidaros Cathedral on 23 June 1991. Thereafter, he went on a 10-day tour of Southern Norway
He also carried forward his grandfather’s motto, "Alt for Norge" (All for Norway). Harald V’s reign has been marked by modernizations and reforms of various kinds, and he has made the royal household more accessible to the public and media.
Although the king’s position is mostly ceremonial in Norway, Harald V has several important duties attached to his role. Not only does he open the parliament and appoint the prime minister from the majority block, he also holds weekly meetings with the prime minister and the foreign minister.
He holds the rank of General in the Army and Air Force; and of Admiral in the Navy. Every Friday, he heads the Council of State at the Royal Palace, in addition to frequently receiving foreign envoys and dignitaries.
When Norway was devastated by ‘The New Year’s Day Storm’ on 1 January 1992, he showed exemplary leadership quality by delivering a compelling speech to unite Norwegians. Later, the royal family conducted a 22-day tour of Norway’s four northernmost counties. Since then, Harald V has been visiting at least one county each year, staying there for two to three days.
In 1992, he visited Sweden and Ireland and hosted Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and her husband Prince Henrik. In 1994, he visited Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom. In the same year, he played an important role in the opening ceremony of the Lillehammer Olympics.
In 1995, he visited Spain and the United States of America. Thereafter, he went on state visits to Poland, Netherland, Luxembourg, and Austria in 1996; Czech Republic and People’s Republic of China in 1997; South Africa and Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1989. In 1999, he visited Romania.
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As the new millennium drew in, he continued his state visits, touring France in 2000, Japan and Italy in 2001, Canada and Hungary in 2002. Concurrently, he also continued to host foreign dignitaries at home.
In 2003, he visited Belgium and Brazil. But later that year, he became ill, suffering from bladder cancer. Therefore, he could not undertake his state duties from December 2003 to mid-April 2004. He resuming his state visits on June 8, when he visited Greece. Later, he visited Singapore and Vietnam.
From April 2005 to early June 2005, he suffered from aortic stenosis, which prevented him from performing his state duties. However, the illness could not prevent him from hosting Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan, when they came for a state visit between May 10 and 13.
He resumed his state visits in April 2006 when he took a trip to Switzerland, and later to Ireland in September 2006. Thereafter, he visited Finland and Germany in 2007, Portugal in 2008, South Africa in 2009, Slovakia in 2010, Slovenia and Croatia in 2011.
During the 2011 Norway Attacks, when Anders Behring Breivik blasted two bombs, killing and injuring many, the king once again rose to the occasion. He not only sent his condolences to the victims and their families, but also visited them along with Queen Sonja and urged his countrymen to unite.
In 2012, his position as the formal head of the Church of Norway was abolished by a constitutional reform. Later in 2018, his status as holy was dissolved, leaving his sovereign immunity intact. In 2015, he became the world's first reigning monarch to visit Antarctica.
Awards & Achievements
In 2017, King Harald V of Norway was awarded Årets navn (Name of the Year), a prestigious prize from Norway's popular newspaper Verdens Gang. He has also received many Norwegian as well as foreign honors from countries, such as the UK, France, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Argentina, Thailand, etc.
He is an honorary Colonel in the British Royal Marines. He is also a patron of the Anglo-Norse Society in London, along with Queen Elizabeth II.