Let’s Catch Up With the Norwegian Royal Family


As we did with the Swedish Royal Family yesterday, we’re going to take a look at the Norwegian Royal Family, members of whom the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to meet in a few days when they visit Oslo.

A couple weeks ago we covered the life of Edward VII’s daughter, Maud of Wales, Queen of Norway. After Maud’s death in 1938, her son ascended the throne as Olav V in 1957. He and his wife, Märtha of Sweden, had three children, the youngest of whom was a son and heir. When Olav died in 1991, this son succeeded him on the throne as King Harald V and is still reigning today.

King Harald & Queen Sonja

Harald was relatively older when he took on the top job (53) and today is one of Europe’s oldest monarchs, though well behind Queen Elizabeth II. Born just a few years before the outbreak of World War II, his early childhood was spent abroad with his mother so as to ensure their safety while his grandfather and father remained in Oslo. After a brief time spent in his mother’s native country of Sweden, the two resided in Washington, D.C. for the duration of the war.

He returned to Oslo at the age of eight and continued his education in Norway. After attending courses at the University of Oslo in the 1950s, he eventually attended the Cavalry Officers’ Candidate School at Trandum and the Norwegian Military Academy, the latter from which he graduated in 1959. The following year he spent some time at Oxford where he rowed, and made a visit to the United States for his first official trip abroad. In 1964, 1968 and 1972, he represented Norway for yachting at the Olympics.

An infant Harald with his parents and sisters

In 1959, Harald began dating Sonja Haraldsen, a Norwegian commoner, which technically barred her from eligibility to marry the prince. The two were only allowed to wed after nine years of courtship and an ultimatum Harald gave his father that if he couldn’t marry Sonja then he wouldn’t marry at all, thus creating a crisis of succession since neither man had brothers and both of Harald’s sisters also married commoners. Olav gave way and the couple finally married on August 29, 1968.

The couple have two children: Princess Märtha (b. 1971) and Prince Haakon (b. 1973).


When Harald succeeded his father in 1991 he became the first Norwegian-born monarch since the 14th century, a rather sizable gap by any historical standard. His reign has followed through on themes laid out by the two preceding reigns: informality and transparency. The Norwegian Royal Family lives simply by royal standards, has a healthy relationship with the press and is intent on ensuring they rule at the pleasure of their people – and for their people.

The King heads the Council of State at the Royal Palace every Friday and, like Queen Elizabeth, meets with ministers regularly, including weekly with the Prime Minister. Notably, up until 2012, Harald also held the position of the Head of Church of Norway. While the sovereign no longer holds that title, they are still expected to be Evangelical Lutherans.


Crown Prince Haakon served in the Royal Nowegian Navy, followed by securing a degree in political science from University of California, Berkeley. Finally, he attended the London School of Economics in 2003, where he was awarded an MSc in development studies, specializing in international trade and Africa.

On August 25, 2001 he married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby. Then 28, Mette-Marit had the unique distinction of being a single mother at the time of her marriage. The two met in the late 1990s, but didn’t begin dating until 1999. Their engagement was announced in December 2000, followed by a wedding at Oslo Cathedral.

Mette-Marit embracing Sonja on her wedding day

Mette-Marit’s older son, Marius, is not considered a public member of the Norwegian Royal Family, but is certainly a private member and often pictured in family photos. (For example, the image at the top of this post.) Mette-Marit joined her husband and in-laws for a state visit to the UK in 2005 in honor of the centennial of Norway’s independence, and a cornerstone of her work is that which she does with UNAIDS.


The couple have two children: Princess Ingrid Alexandra (b. 2004) and Prince Sverre (b. 2005). Since Norway practices absolute primogeniture, Ingrid is expected to someday follow her father on the throne as the country’s second-ever female monarch.


Haakon and Mette-Marit will serve as William and Kate’s hosts during their two-day visit to Oslo next week. As with Crown Princess Victoria and Crown Prince Daniel of Sweden, they are the closest couple in age to the Cambridges, but hold a higher place in the line of succession. In that regard, they are peers to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

An itinerary for William and Kate’s time in Oslo can be found here.

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