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Back to school with King Harald of Norway

His Majesty King Harald of Norway had his first school day very differently from other royals in Europe. The King was born only a few years before the Second World War broke out. When the Germans invaded Norway in 1940, the Norwegian Royal Family had to flee the country and the then-Prince Harald travelled with his mother and his two sisters exile in the United States.

When the future King of Norway started school in 1943, it was while in exile in the US. King Harald went to a relatively common American school on the outskirts of Washington DC with children from wealthy American families. Information about his first school day in the United States or the two years he went to school there has never been made available.

King Harald with his two sisters in 1939, the year before WWII breaks out in Norway. Photo: National Library of Norway via Wikimedia Commons.

It has to be said that King Harald’s mother, Crown Princess Märtha, also gave all her children lessons at home. The Swedish-born Crown Princess of Norway was very concerned that no language other than Norwegian should be spoken when the children were at home. The Crown Princess wanted to express that the life in exile one day would end. Therefore, she wanted to prepare Harald for his return to Norway.

When the war was over, and the Norwegian Royal Family returned to Norway, young Prince Harald had his life changed once more. Again, he had to move from friends and his safe surroundings to a country he almost did not remember.

King Harald (left) arrives in Norway with his family in 1945. Photo: Imperial War Museums via Wikimedia Commons.

Norway was in financial ruin after World War II. In solidarity with the Norwegian population, all the royal children were sent to public schools. This made the future King Harald the first Norwegian monarch ever to attend a public school and did not receive private education at the Royal Palace.

King Harald has, therefore, had his first day of school twice, the first time in the United States in 1943. The second time, he started at Smestad School in Oslo in the fall of 1945. Then, King Harald began third grade and, in contrast to his new fellow students, spoke fluent English.

King Harald, earlier this year, pictured with Queen Sonja. Photo: Oskar Aanmoen

There was a keen interest in the young prince. In the first months of his schooling in Norway, many people often gathered in front of the gate of the school and wanted to see the young prince; this was something young Harald did not like. A friend of the future King later explained that Harald used to hide and did not come out before he was assured that all the spectators were gone.

This soon was over, and the King quickly made many new friends. Later, the King studied in Norway as well as abroad; he has studied political science, economics and history. He also received a military education from Norway.

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