King Harald of Norway: the story of a modernizing royal in pictures

King Harald V of Norway
A reign of more than thirty years
Links with all European monarchies
Exile during World War II
Rowing champion
Crown Prince
A controversial marriage
The royal couple had two children
A woman of action
A sports enthusiast
Harald's coronation
Tour of the country
A modernizing monarch
His children may marry commoners
A diverse family
His official duties continue...
...but he's no longer a Saint
A multi-decorated king
Empathy after disasters
An increasingly present Crown Prince
The future king
An elderly couple...
...with an assured succession
Three other granddaughters
The throne is no longer reserved for men
Princess Astrid
A popular royal family
King Harald V of Norway

This little boy would become the king of Norway, a kingdom founded eleven and a half centuries ago. Click further to read the story of Harald the Fifth, a fascinating Scandinavian monarch.

A reign of more than thirty years

Here's Harald V in more recent days. He's been the King of Norway since his coronation in 1991.

Links with all European monarchies

As the son of Crown Prince Olav and Märtha of Sweden, Harald is a nephew of the Belgian Queen Astrid. He is also related to Prince Philip, the late husband of Queen Elizabeth, which places him (on a distant spot) in the line of succession to the British throne.

Exile during World War II

Harald was born in 1937. When the Nazis invaded Norway, his family had to go into exile in the United States until 1945. In this photo, he is playing with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dog.

Rowing champion

A tireless yachter, Harald represented Norway in several sailing competitions at the Olympic Games. He even served as the flag bearer of his country's delegation to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964!

 

Crown Prince

In the meantime, Harald had become the Crown Prince of Norway. When his grandfather Haakon VII died in 1957, as his father acceded to the throne as Olav V.

A controversial marriage

In 1968, Prince Harald married Sonja Haraldsen. They had been in a relationship for nine years, most of them in secret because their love was controversial. Sonia was 'just' a commoner. Harald had told his father, however, that he would not marry anyone unless it was Sonja. And he got his way.

The royal couple had two children

Sonja became Crown Princess and, later, Queen of Norway. The couple had two children: Princess Märtha Louise, born in 1971, a trained physiotherapist who defines herself as a clairvoyant, and Haakon, born in 1973, the current Crown Prince.

A woman of action

Sonja became involved with the Norwegian Red Cross in the late 1980s. She's been the sponsor of more than ten charities. A great lover of art and music, she created a biannual competition for young singers that bears her name.

A sports enthusiast

For his part, Harald has continued his sports activities, participating in the organizing committees of several competitions. His team won the sailing world championships in 1987 and 2005, and he continues to participate in regattas every year.

Harald's coronation

After his father passed away in January 1991, Prince Harald ascended the throne and became King Harald V. He was the first king of Norway to bear this name for over 800 years.

Tour of the country

At their request, the royal couple was consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim in June 1991. The ceremony was followed by a tour of the country, which lasted several weeks.

A modernizing monarch

Harald's reign has been marked by a desire to make the Norwegian monarchy more modern and accessible to the public.

Image: Handout by the Royal Court of Norway, 2020

His children may marry commoners

Following the practice he had initiated, he accepted the presence of commoners in the royal family. Thus his son married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, a single mother who worked in a clothing store.

 

A diverse family

His daughter Märtha Louise married the writer and artist Ari Behn. Their marriage did not last and she is currently with the 'shaman of Hollywood,' Durek Verrett.

His official duties continue...

Norway is now a constitutional monarchy, but the king continues to solemnly open the parliamentary session with a speech delivered every year in October. He represents his country abroad and acts as a mediator during changes of government.

...but he's no longer a Saint

Harald V renounced the title of head of the Lutheran Church of Norway in 2012. Six years later, the person of the King no longer held the quality of being a Saint.

A multi-decorated king

As proof that certain customs continue, the King has received many medals and distinctions, both Norwegian and foreign ones. In addition to those of the British crown, he holds the Grand Cross of the Order of the Icelandic Falcon and the famous French Legion of Honor.

Empathy after disasters

Harald V was able to show authority and empathy when his country was hit by disasters, such as the New Year's storm in 1992 or the horrific massacre by Anders Breivik in the summer of 2011. Norwegians recognize themselves in this figure who embodies the unity of the country.

An increasingly present Crown Prince

Harald's frequent health problems in the 2000s have pushed his son Haakon into the limelight. The Crown Prince has served as regency on several occasions, and he even delivered the King's speech for the opening of Parliament in 2020.

The future king

After Harald's death, Haakon will become King of Norway as Haakon VIII. His education and activities have prepared him for this future role.

An elderly couple...

Both the Norwegian King and Queen are in their eighties. In 2021, they celebrated the thirty years of their reign.

...with an assured succession

Harald and Sonja have five grandchildren. Prince Haakon has a daughter, Ingrid Alexandra, born in 2004, who follows him in the line of succession to the throne, and a son, Prince Sverre Magnus, born in 2005, who is third in line.

Three other granddaughters

For their part, Princess Märtha Louise and Ari Behn had three daughters: Maud Angelica (2003), Leah Isadora (2005), and Emma Tallulah (2008). The couple divorced in 2017 and Behn died two years later.

The throne is no longer reserved for men

A 1990 constitutional amendment provides that the throne will go to the monarch's first child, whether it's a boy or a girl. In the distant future, Ingrid Alexandra could therefore succeed her father Haakon and become the first Queen of Norway.

Princess Astrid

This is a chance that Princess Astrid, the King's sister and five years his senior, did not have. The closest she got to the throne was in the years between her mother's death in 1954 and the marriage of her brother in 1968. During those years she served as the royal house's First Lady.

A popular royal family

Be that as it may, Harald V was and still is a very popular king. Until Haakon succeeds him one day, he embodies a monarchy that is both ancient and focused on the future.

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