The Norwegian Royal Family: Scandinavian royals

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The royal family of Norway is historically closely linked to the Swedish and Danish royal families. Today’s royal family is often portrayed in the media as a happy patchwork family. What at first glance seems rather unusual for the nobility makes the Norwegian royals all the more down-to-earth and popular. Here you can find out how the Norwegian royal family came about and which members currently belong to it.

The Norwegian monarchy

The history of the Norwegian monarchy

The history of the Norwegian monarchy goes back a long way, similar to that of neighbouring Sweden. The first king from the Ynglinge dynasty ruled over a part of western Norway as early as 870 AD. He was called Harald Hårfagre, which meant Harald “beautiful hair”. Throughout history, various dynasties ruled over Norway until the Danish kings came to rule over Norway and Sweden in 1389 as part of the so-called Kalmar Union.

Jean Baptiste Bernadotte
Jean Baptiste Bernadotte ruled over Sweden and Norway for some time.

As Denmark was in an alliance with Napoleon, rule over Norway fell to Sweden in 1763. Napoleon made his marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte King of Sweden and Norway, thus founding the House of Bernadotte, which ruled over Norway for around 90 years. While the Swedish royal family is descended from Bernadotte to this day, Norway regained the independent Kingdom of Norway in 1905 with King Håkon VII.

The king is thus the progenitor and founder of the dynasty of the current Norwegian royal family. He was originally a prince of Denmark and descended from the House of Glücksburg. Håkon VII was appointed king in 1905 by referendum in Norway, as the original Norwegian royal family had completely died out.

The significance today

Since 1991, the Norwegian monarchy has been led by His Majesty King Harald and his wife, Her Majesty Queen Sonja. The first heir to the throne from the Norwegian royal family is their son, Crown Prince Haakon.

Norway is a constitutional monarchy today, which is why the King’s duties and functions are mainly representative and constitutional, which means that he is present at meetings of the Norwegian government, whose decisions are only valid with his signature. The King is also in constant dialogue with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

Crown Prince and Crown Princess Norway
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess at a public appearance (Photo: Liv Anette Luane, Det kongelige hoff)

He further is the supreme commander of the Norwegian army. His representative duties show his closeness to the population, as he is present at ceremonies and visits public institutions. In 1991, the Norwegian Succession to the Throne Act was amended, which previously provided for a purely male succession to the throne, but now also includes first-born female descendants.

Overall, the Norwegian royal family is very popular. Under the name “Det Norske Kongehuset”, the royal family has their own Instagram account, which provides insights into the lives of the royals.

Incidentally, only those family members who are in line to the Norwegian throne or belong to the immediate royal family are given a title of nobility. The King is addressed as “His Majesty”, while “Her Majesty” is the Queen’s title. The heir to the throne and crown prince, on the other hand, is referred to as “His Royal Highness”, while his daughter, as the heir to the throne behind him, is referred to as “Her Royal Highness”.

The members of the royal family

King Harald Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway

King Harald V and Queen Sonja
King Harald V and Queen Sonja (Photo: Jørgen Gomnæs / Det kongelige hoff)

The current reigning king has been Harald V (*1937) since 1991. Looking at the family tree of the Norwegian royal family, he is the grandson of the founder of the dynasty, Håkon V. Although he had two older sisters, he became King of Norway as a male descendant in accordance with the Law of Succession.

His mother was a princess of Sweden by birth from the House of Bernadotte and the cousin of his father, King Olav. In 1968, Harald married Sonja Haraldsen (*1937), making her the first middle-class woman to become Queen of Norway. The wedding took place in Oslo. The couple has two children: Märtha Louise and Haakon.

In the early 2000s, the King suffered from cancer and therefore temporarily handed over some of his duties to his son, the Crown Prince. He is now considered to have recovered.

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit

Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit
Crown Prince Haakon and his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit (Photo: Jørgen Gomnæs / Det kongelige hoff)

Even though Haakon Magnus (*1973) is the younger son of the royal couple, he became crown prince in accordance with the Norwegian law of succession to the throne, meaning that he is first in line to the throne after his father. He studied political science in the USA and later law in Oslo.

In 1999, he met his future wife Mette-Marit Høiby (*1973) and they married two years later. Mette-Marit brought a son from her first marriage into the family, Marius Borg Høiby (see centre cover), which initially caused a great deal of public interest. However, her son is now considered “almost royal” and is particularly popular on social media.

Mette-Marit and Haakon have two children together, Ingrid Alexandra and Sverre Magnus and have lived on the Skaugum estate in Asker near Oslo since 2003. The family is repeatedly described in the press as a happy patchwork family and is therefore very popular with the Norwegian population.

Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus

Prince Sverre Magnus and Princess Ingrid Alexandra
The siblings Prince Sverre Magnus and Princess Ingrid Alexandra (Photo: Julia Naglestad / Det kongelige hoff)

Princess Ingrid Alexandra (*2004) is second in line to the Norwegian throne after her father. The change in the law makes her the first female Queen of Norway as head of state. In addition to her grandfather, the King, and her aunt Märtha Louise, her godparents are Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and King Felipe of Spain.

Her younger brother Prince Sverre Magnus (*2005) is third in line to the throne. Both attended public schools in Norway. In 2024, Princess Ingrid Alexandra begins her one-year military service.

Princess Märtha Louise

Princess Märtha Louise
Princess Märtha Louise (Photo: Cathrine Wessel, Det Kongelige Hoff)

Princess Märtha Louise (*1971) is the elder daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja and the sister of Crown Prince Haakon. Through her marriage to Ari Behn, a Norwegian writer, she renounced her aristocratic title and was henceforth only allowed to call herself Princess. The couple has three daughters together, Maud Angelica, Leah Isadora and Emma Tallulah Behn, who bear their father’s civil surname and no aristocratic titles.

However, the couple separated at the end of 2016. In 2019, Ari Behn took his own life, which shocked the whole of Norway. According to media reports, he suffered from depression.

Although Märtha Louise did not receive any direct financial support from the royal family, she fulfilled representative duties for them. In 2022, she became engaged to the US-American Durek Verrett and later that year declared that she would no longer perform official duties for the royal family. The couple, about whom there has been some uproar, announced to get married in 2024.

The whole family enjoys spending time together. For example, on a summer holiday together in the Norwegian Lofoten Islands in 2020, where all three generations came together.

Royal Family Trip to Lofoten Islands
The whole family looks very relaxed on a trip to Lofoten in 2020 (photo: Elin Rønning, Det kongelige hoff).

The Royal Palace of Oslo

The Royal Palace was built in Oslo in 1824 and houses the royal couple’s flat, the offices of the crown prince and princess and other employees as well as several guest rooms. On the ground floor, the cabinet meets weekly with the king in a hall. In summer, the palace can be visited by tourists. It is surrounded by extensive palace gardens, in front of which is the large palace square.

Royal Palace of Oslo
The castle is the headquarters of the Norwegian monarchy.
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