The Norwegian Order of St. Olav is the highest order and decoration that is distributed in Norway and to Norwegians. It is handed out personally by His Majesty the King of Norway, who is also the Grand Master of the Order; at the moment, this is His Majesty King Harald V of Norway.
The order is mentioned in Norway’s constitution under Section 23, which gives the order status as the King’s personal order that the King can hand out to whomever he wants. The order is usually distributed to members of the Norwegian Royal Family, Norwegians and foreigners who have performed excellent service for Norway in a particular area. As a result, this has led to the order being distributed to athletes, actors and royals from other nations.
The order was established in 1847 by King Oscar of Sweden and Norway. It is named after his Majesty King Olav of Norway, also known as St. Olav or Olav the Holy. This is the king that christened Norway; Olav the Holy died in the battle at Stiklestad in the year 1030.
During World War II, the order was handed out by both the Norwegian King in exile in London and the Norwegian Nazi-friendly government. The distributions that took place under the German-friendly government are not recognised by the Norwegian Royal Family.
After World War II, the number of orders distributed has been tightened. The King’s fortune medal in gold and silver is today distributed to people who had received the order before World War II. This makes the order more exclusive, and in Norway, it is seen as a huge honour to be awarded the order.
The order is divided into five degrees. These are a knight, first-class knight, commander, commander with the cross and grand cross. After an extended amount of time, members of the Norwegian Royal Family will be awarded a chain, also. The last Norwegian royal to be awarded the chain of St. Olav was Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mette-Marit.