King Haakon VII (1872-1957)
King Haakon was born at Charlottenlund Palace near Copenhagen on 3 August, 1872. He was the second son of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark, later King Frederik VIII and Queen Louise.
Christened Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel, he was known as Prince Carl until he took the name Haakon when he was elected King of Norway in 1905. He adopted the motto “Alt for Norge”, meaning “We give our all for Norway”.
This is the introduction to a full biography of King Haakon VII at
www.kongehuset.no (Historie/Kong Haakon VII /Choice of languages).
King Haakon VII was a popular monarch in Norway before the war and his rigid stance against the German invaders in 1940 made him even more popular. Frenzied crowds lined the streets of Oslo to cheer his return from exile in 1945.
If the German invasion of Norway had gone according to plan, the King, the Cabinet, and the Parliament (KCP) would have been captured on April 9th. The elite German troops assigned to this task were fortunately “delayed” when artillery and torpedoes from Oscarsborg sank the Blücher (See Blücher Time-line 1940).
As it was, the margin of safety was small. Just over an hour before German troop transports landed at Fornebu airport, a special train carrying King Haakon and members of the Cabinet and Parliament left Oslo’s central station. A meeting at the first stop, Hamar, was interrupted by the news that a special troop of German soldiers was racing after the escaping Norwegians. Boarding the train again, the group continued to Elverum.
This special force, under the leadership of German Air Attaché Eberhard Spiller, had passed Hamar and was nearing Elverum. Halfway between the two towns, a makeshift troop of Norwegians set up a line of defence at Midtskogen under the leadership of majors Helset and Laudal, two officers who were later to play important roles in the Resistance movement. Here, after a brief, hectic battle in the middle of the night, Spiller’s troops were halted, Spiller himself was fatally wounded and the German attempts to capture the King and his ministers had failed.
At Elverum harried ministers convened a session to discuss the situation and passed a resolution, hastily penned by Carl Joachim Hambro, empowering the Government: “to be the guardian of the nation’s interests… until such time as the Government and the Speaker of Parliament…shall call the next ordinary meeting of Parliament.” This “Elverum Mandate” became the constitutional foundation stone for the future Norwegian Government in Exile
On April 10, in Nybergsund, King Haakon received the German representative, Curt Bräuer, who demanded the dissolution of parliament and cabinet in favour of a new regime under Vidkun Quisling.
The King presented this demand to an extraordinary Council of Ministers with the comment that the Government was, of course, free to make its own decision but that he, personally, could not accept the German demands – He would rather abdicate than appoint Quisling as Prime Minister. The Ministers unanimously approved the King’s position and thus gave impetus to continue the resistance.
German aircraft bombed both Elverum and Nybergsund but were unable to halt the King and his Ministers from making their escape to the North of Norway.
Here the struggle against the German invaders reached a climax at Narvik, but without increased Allied support there was little hope of lasting success for the Norwegians. When the Allies decided to withdraw, the King, his Ministers and many officers and men of the armed forces decided to leave the country. On June 7 the King made a proclamation which outlined the reasons for the departure and included a rallying call:
“…they (the King and Government) do not therefore abandon the struggle to regain Norway’s independence. On the contrary – it will be carried on outside the country’s borders. They have the firm hope that the German assailants will soon be forced to relinquish their booty, and that the Norwegian people, together with other peoples now suffering under the German yoke, shall again have their right and their freedom. In this period of struggle, Norway’s King and Government will be the free spokesmen for the national claims of the Norwegian people. They will, to the utmost possible extent, maintain the sovereign existence of the Norwegian Kingdom, in order that none of the rights pertaining to a free state shall go by default. It will be their task to defend the status and political rights of the country and its people, in such a way that the nation in the hour of victory can step forth and assert its national freedom.”
Shortly afterwards, the King, the Crown Prince, most of the cabinet and members of Parliament boarded the British cruiser “Devonshire” in Tromsø. On June 4 a strong German naval force had sailed from Kiel so the danger of being intercepted at sea was acute. On the morning of June 8 the German destroyer “Scharnhorst” sighted the British carrier “Glorious” and two destroyers. “Scharnhorst” opened fire from 25 kilometers and after a brief, one-sided battle, all three British ships were sunk. HMS Devonshire continued unmolested and arrived in the Clyde on the morning of June 10th.
Even with King Haakon’s commitment to continue the struggle abroad, there were those in Norway who were not entirely convinced that opposition to the Germans was correct. Already in June, certain members of parliament still in Oslo, wrote suggesting that the King should abdicate. The King gave his reply in a radio speech from London on July 8:
“…since this proposal was not the result of deliberation it could in no way relinquish the King from his duty to the Norwegian Constitution. Nor could it release the Government from the mandate which it had received from a free Parliament on April 9”.
King Haakon, through his writings and broadcasts from London, became the most important catalyst for Norwegian aspirations, efforts, and resistance for the remainder of the war.
In his speech to the nation on May 8, 1945 King Haakon closed with the following appeal:
”Landsmenn. Vi føler alle det samme i dag. La oss beholde det samhold som ga oss seier. Og la oss i dette øyeblikk huske dem som ofret det ytterste i kampen for Norge. La oss samle oss i løftet Alt for Norge.”
(“Fellow citizens. Today we all have the same feelings. Let us keep that unity that gave us victory. And let us, in this moment, remember those who paid the ultimate price in the struggle for Norway. Let us unite in the promise: To give our all for Norway”)