Harald V ( born 21 February 1937) is the King of Norway. He succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father Olav V on 17 January 1991. The son of the then-Crown Prince Olav and of Princess Märtha of Sweden, Harald was born at the Crown Prince Residence at Skaugum, Akershus, Norway.
A member of the House of Glücksburg, a house originally from Northern Germany, Harald became the first Norwegian-born prince since Olav IV, who was born in 1370. Harald V is the formal head of the Church of Norway and the Norwegian Armed Forces. He has two children, Princess Märtha Louise (b. 1971) and Crown Prince Haakon (b. 1973), the heir-apparent to the throne.
He is closely related to other European monarchs. He is the first cousin once removed of King Philippe of Belgium and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, the second cousin of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and the second cousin once removed of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
In 2015, he became the world’s first reigning monarch to visit Antarctica, specifically the Norwegian dependency Queen Maud Land.
Prince Harald was born in Skaugum and was baptized in the Royal Chapel in the Royal Palace in Oslo on 31 March 1937 by Bishop Johan Lunde. His godparents were: his paternal grandfather, the King of Norway; his paternal grandmother, the Queen of Norway; his maternal grandfather, Prince Carl of Sweden; his maternal grandmother, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden; his uncle, the King of Belgium; King George VI and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom; and Crown Princess Ingrid of Denmark. His parents already had two daughters, Princess Ragnhild and Princess Astrid.
In 1940 the entire royal family had to flee their homes because of the German invasion. The dramatic journey northbound was marked by the Germans’ repeated attempts to kill the King through bombing. It was deemed safer for the family to split up. The King and Crown Prince Olav would remain in Norway and the Crown Princess was to make her way to Sweden with the three children. The latter party reached Sweden on the night of 10 April, but although Crown Princess Märtha was Swedish-born, they encountered problems at the border station. According to Princess Astrid and others who were present, they were admitted only after the driver threatened to ram the border gate. Another account does not describe the escape so dramatically. However, when the King and Crown Prince inquired of Swedish foreign minister Christian Günther whether they could sleep one night in Sweden without being interned, they were denied.
Prince Harald spent the following days in Sälen before relocating to Prince Carl Bernadotte’s home in Frötuna on 16 April. On 26 April the group moved to Drottningholm in Stockholm. King Gustaf V has been accounted to have had an amicable relationship with his Norwegian guests, but the topic of the war in Norway was not to be raised. However, influential Swedish politicians including Minister of Justice Westman wanted the Crown Princess and Prince Harald to be sent back to Norway so he could be proclaimed King by the Germans. After the King and Crown Prince had to leave Norway on 7 June they felt Sweden might not be the best place for the rest of the family. They started planning for them to be relocated to the United States. On 17 August the Crown Princess and her children left for the United States from Petsamo, Finland, aboard the United States Army transport ship American Legion.
Harald and his mother and sisters lived in Washington, D.C., during the war, while his father, Crown Prince Olav, and his grandfather, King Haakon, stayed in London with the Norwegian government-in-exile. One of the notable events he remembers from that time is standing behind Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was sworn in for his fourth term on the South Portico of the White House in 1945. Such childhood experiences are reflected in a trace of an American accent when he speaks English. The Doris Kearns Goodwin book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Home Front in World War II contains a picture of the King (then Prince) playing with FDR’s dog, Fala, on the North Lawn of the White House in 1944.
Prince Harald visited Norwegian servicemen on training in the United States. The prince also made visits outside America, travelling north to visit Norwegian personnel at the training base “Little Norway” in Ontario, Canada. He attended The White Hall Country School from 1943. Prince Harald returned to Norway along with his family at the war’s end in 1945.
In the autumn of 1945 he was enrolled in third grade of Smestad skole as the first royal to attend a public school. In 1955 he graduated from Oslo katedralskole and in the autumn of that year, Harald began studies at the University of Oslo. Later he attended the Cavalry Officers’ Candidate School at Trandum, followed by enrolment at the Norwegian Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1959.
In 1960, Harald entered Balliol College, Oxford where he studied history, economics and politics. He was a keen rower during his student days at Oxford and was taught to row by fellow student and friend Nick Bevan, later a leading British school rowing coach. In 1960, he also made his first official journey abroad, visiting the United States in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of the American Scandinavian Foundation.
Crown Prince Harald attended the Council of State for the first time on 27 September 1957 and took the oath to the Constitution of Norway on 21 February 1958. In the same year, he also served as regent in the King’s absence for the first time.
Harald married a commoner, Sonja Haraldsen, at Oslo Domkirke in Oslo on 29 August 1968, a marriage that sparked much public controversy at the time. The couple have two children, Princess Märtha Louise and Crown Prince Haakon, heir apparent to the Norwegian throne.
The King heads the Council of State at Oslo Palace every Friday. He also has weekly meetings with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. He receives foreign envoys, and opens parliament every October. According to the Norwegian constitution, he appoints his government. Since 1884 parliamentarism has been in place in Norway, so the government has to have support from Parliament. The King appoints the leader of the parliamentary bloc with majority as prime minister. When the parliamentary situation is unclear the king relies on the advice of the president of Parliament and the sitting prime minister. He travels extensively throughout Norway and makes official state visits to other countries.
An avid sailor, Harald represented Norway in the yachting events of Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964 and in Mexico City in 1968 and the Munich 1972. The Crown Prince carried the Norwegian flag at the opening parade of the 1964 Summer Olympics. In 1994, both the King and Crown Prince Haakon played roles during the opening ceremony of the Lillehammer Olympics. The King opened the games, while the Crown Prince lit the cauldron, paying tribute to both the King and his grandfather as Olympians. The King has also represented Norway at opening ceremonies of Olympic Games, among them Torino and Beijing. However, he wasn’t present in Vancouver, the Crown Prince attended instead, with the King and Queen attending later in the games.
With his sailing crew he won World Championship bronze, silver and gold medals, in 1988, 1982 and 1987, respectively. In July 2005, the King and his crew aboard the royal sailboat Fram XV won the gold medal at the European Championships in Sweden. In the 2007 World Championship the King obtained a sixth place.
Twice since the start of the twenty-first century King Harald was unable to perform his monarchical duties due to ill-health: in December 2003 to mid-April 2004 due to urinary bladder cancer, and in April to early June 2005 due to aortic stenosis. Crown Prince Haakon served as the country’s regent on both occasions.