Haakon VII, King of Norway

Haakon VII, King of Norway
   Born Christian Fredrick Charles George Valdemar Axel, Prince Charles for short, the future Haakon VII of Norway was the son of King Fredrick VIII of Denmark (1843–1912). In 1896, he married Princess Maud (1869–1938), daughter of King Edward VII of Great Britain (1841–1910). When Norway declared independence from Sweden in 1905, the Norwegian parliament offered Prince Charles the throne, which he accepted after a plebiscite held November 13–14 of that year. He took the name Haakon after several of his old Norse predecessors.
   Many of the founding fathers of the new Norwegian state were republicans, but they realized that the public was largely monarchist. The choice of Haakon affirmed the ties to Denmark, which Norway was a dependency of from 1380 to 1814, and through his wife, the ties with Britain. The latter was paramount, as the British Empire was Norway’s largest trading partner and also commanded the high seas on which Norway’s important merchant fleet was navigating. Good relations with Britain also lessened the prospects of Swedish intervention aimed at quashing Norwegian independence, and that other great power would support Sweden in doing that.
   In a constitutional monarchy based on parliamentarism, King Haakon’s role as head of state made him more a ceremonial symbol than a real political force. At certain pivotal points in Norwegian history, however, he rose to the occasion. He became an important advisor on foreign policy to the government during World War I, in which Norway stayed neutral. In a 1927 political crisis, Haakon turned to the Labor Party and asked them to form a new government, as they were the largest party in the parliament. The task was formally assigned to the king by the Constitution, but reduced to a formality under normal circumstances after the introduction of parliamentarism in 1884.
    Barton, H. Arnold. Sweden and Visions of Norway Politics and Culture, 1814–1905. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2003;
    Stenersen, Øivind, and Ivar Libey. A History of Norway from the Ice Age to the Age of Petroleum. Lysaker: Dinamo Forlag, 2003.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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