It was a royal wedding for the history books, the marriage of a future king and a regal love match to boot. Ninety years ago today, Olav of Norway married Martha of Sweden in Oslo. The couple’s romance had captured the public imagination while their rather glamourous wedding brought huge crowds to the streets of the Norwegian capital. Let’s rewind nine decades and remember the wedding that charmed a nation.
Olav, Crown Prince of Norway since 1905, and Martha were cousin who had known each other since they were children. Olav, born in 1903, was the only child of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud who had been elected as monarchs of Norway in 1905. Martha, born in 1901, was a niece of King Gustav V of Sweden – her parents were his younger brother, Prince Carl, and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark who was a sister of King Haakon.
Martha and Olav began a secret romance which culminated in a clandestine engagement at the 1928 Olympics where the Crown Prince was competing. When they finally spilled the beans on their royal love story, there were huge celebrations. Their engagement was formally announced on January 14th 1929 and Olav travelled to Stockholm in early March to enjoy pre wedding celebrations there before accompanying his bride to her new home just ahead of their marriage.
The wedding took place on March 21st 1929 at Oslo Cathedral – it was the first regal marriage in Norway for over 300 years and there was a big turnout to see the bride and groom.
The bride entered the church on the arm of her father, followed by eight bridesmaids and two pageboys. Royalty from across Scandinavia were present with the church packed with over 1,500 guests.
Princess Martha of Sweden’s wedding dress was very 1920s. Made of white silver lame, it featured a mid calf length skirt, dropped waist and full length fitted sleeves. There was a train (of course, this is a royal wedding) measuring around four metres and embroidered with lilies. The bride also wore a Brussels lace veil secured with orange blossoms and myrtle and carried a bouquet dominated by lilies.
Prince Olav’s best man was Albert, Duke of York, second son of King George V and at that time very much spare to the throne in Britain. The two men were good friends – both had been born on the Sandringham estate where Olav, under his birth name of Alexander, had spent his earliest years before his parents’ lives changed forever. The future George VI was one of the 200 guests entertained to lunch at the Royal Palace following the ceremony.
Olav and Martha went on a driving tour through parts of Europe for their honeymoon and on their return to Norway, they set up home at the Skaugum estate outside Oslo. It was there that their third child, and only son, Harald was born, joining two big sisters, Ragnhild and Astrid, in the royal nursery.
Olav and Martha were happily married until her early death from cancer in 1954. Olav became King of Norway in 1957 and ruled until his own death in 1991 when he was succeeded by Harald. The Norwegian Royal Family remains popular and well respected – a path of happiness that began in Oslo on this day, ninety years ago.