Birthday: July 2, 1903
Died At Age: 87
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Prince Alexander of Denmark, Olav, né Alexander Edward Christian Frederik
Born Country: England
Born in: Sandringham, Norfolk, England
Famous as: King
Emperors & Kings
Died on: January 17, 1991
place of death: Oslo, Norway
Cause of Death: Myocardial Infarction
Notable Alumni: Norwegian Military Academy
Ancestry: English Norwegian, German Norwegian
City: Norfolk, England
education: Balliol College, Oxford, Norwegian Military Academy
Who was Olav V of Norway?
Olav V of Norway reigned as the King of Norway from September 1957 until his death in January 1991. He was born as Prince Alexander of Denmark and became the Crown Prince of Norway in 1905, when his father was elected the Norwegian King. Following the completion of his civil education, he underwent extensive military exercise and served as a general of the Norwegian Army, as well as an admiral of the Royal Norwegian Navy. For his contributions during World War II, he was named the Norwegian Chief of Defence and, apart from several honor and medals in Norway, also earned titles and decorations from other countries, such as the 'Legion of Merit' from the United States and the Médaille Militaire from France. He became the King of Norway following his father's death in 1957. At the time of his death, he was the world’s oldest reigning monarch at 87, and was the last surviving grandchild of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Alexandra of Denmark. Olav, who was adored by his people for his simplicity and humility, was named 'Norwegian of the Century' in a poll conducted by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 2005.
Childhood & Early Life
Olav V of Norway was born as Alexander Edward Christian Frederik on July 2, 1903 in Appleton House on the Sandringham Estate, Flitcham, United Kingdom, to Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud of Wales. His father was the second son of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark, who became King Frederick VIII in 1906, and his mother was the youngest daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.
He was only two when his father, because of his Norwegian descent and his English connections, was elected the first King of Norway since 1387, after the dissolution of the Union between Sweden and Norway. He took the Old Norse name of Haakon VII and during his inauguration, gave the Norwegian name Olav to his son, after Danish king Olaf II Haakonsson.
Olav was given a thoroughly detailed Norwegian upbringing and received his high school completion certificate from Halling School in Oslo in 1921. He completed his three-year training at the Norwegian Military Academy in 1924, ranking fourth within his class, and subsequently did a two-year course in jurisprudence and economics at Balliol College, Oxford.
An avid athlete, he often participated in the ski-jumping contest at Holmenkollen in Oslo and competed in sailing regattas during his youth, and remained active in sailing even into old age. He represented Norway at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam and won a gold medal in sailing for 6-meter-class sailboats.
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Olav V of Norway became romantically involved with his first cousin, Princess Märtha of Sweden, during the 1920s and they were secretly engaged in 1928 when they were attending the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. The engagement was officially announced in January 1929 and the royal wedding—the first in the country in 340 years— took place at Oslo Cathedral in Norway on March 21, 1929.
Following marriage, the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess took residence at the Skaugum Estate in Asker, west of Oslo, which was given to them as a wedding gift. They had three children: Princess Ragnhild was the first royal to have been born in Norway in 629 years in 1930, followed by Princess Astrid in 1932 and Prince Harald V in 1937.
Early Career & WWII
Olav V of Norway joined the Norwegian Army as a lieutenant in 1931 and subsequently trained as a naval cadet serving on the training ship Olav Tryggvason. He extensively trained in the following years, participating in most military exercises, and rose through the ranks very quickly to become a colonel by 1936.
In 1939, he became an admiral of the Royal Norwegian Navy and a general of the Norwegian Army, and helped his father in resisting German advances during the Second World War. When the German forces invaded Norway in 1940, he offered to stay behind, but was forced to accompany his father into exile in the UK, from where he assisted his father's government-in-exile.
During the Second World War, Princess Märtha and the three children were sent to the United States, and lived in Pook's Hill in Bethesda, Maryland, located North-West of Washington, D.C. Both Prince Olav and Princess Märtha became good friends with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt during their stay in the country.
He remained very active throughout the war, often visiting Norwegian and Allied troops in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, and proved himself a capable leader respected by other Allied leaders. Olav, who became Norwegian Chief of Defence in 1944, returned to liberated Norway in May 1945, acting as regent for his father until his return in June, and organized the disarmament of the occupying Germans.
Reign & Death
Olav V of Norway ascended to the throne on September 21, 1957, after the death of his father, and by that time, he had already lost his wife to cancer in 1954. Due to his humble nature, he was immensely popular among his subjects, and became known as 'Folkekongen', or 'The People's King'.
Even though the war had ended, as the Commander-in-Chief of the army, he took a hands-on approach towards maintaining a strong military force. He was also the Colonel-in-Chief of the Green Howards, a British infantry regiment named after his grandmother, Queen Alexandra.
During his reign, he took special interest in improving foreign relations by making state visits to neighboring countries, as well as far away nations like Ethiopia and Iran. In his own country, he often came out in public and drove his own cars, and once even travelled by the suburban railway without bodyguards, carrying his own skiing kit.
He died of a heart attack on January 17, 1991, at the Royal Lodge, Kongsseteren, in Holmenkollen, Oslo, and was buried beside his wife Märtha in the Royal Mausoleum on January 30. Over 100,000 people joined his funeral procession, and they also left thousands of cards and letters in the courtyard outside the Royal Palace until his burial, which are now preserved in the National Archives.
His son Harald V, who succeeded to the Norwegian throne, indicated that his father was particularly heartbroken to hear the outbreak of the first Gulf War on the day of his death. In 1992, the 'King Olav V's Prize for Cancer Research' was established to encourage advances in treating the deadly disease that killed the late King's wife.
In 1913, Olav V of Norway was gifted a Baby Cadillac, a battery-powered, one-third size replica model, by his grandmother Queen Alexandra, who had bought it for £62 after noticing it during a publicity stunt. The miniature car, still owned by the Norwegian royal family, is on permanent loan to the Norsk Teknisk Museum in Oslo.
In 2004, Norwegian biographer Tor Bomann-Larsen claimed in his biography of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud that the Queen had been artificially inseminated by Sir Francis Laking, a royal physician in London. However, another historian dismissed the hypothesis in next year, pointing out that there was not enough evidence available to dispute King Olav's paternity.