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European RoyalsHistoryNorway

Birthplace of a king: Skaugum Estate

Skaugum Estate is a farmhouse that lies just outside Oslo, Norway, and it is currently the home of Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, though it has a storied history that dates back to the Middle Ages and is known as the birthplace of King Harald, in 1937.

Originally a church property, Skaugum belonged to the Church of Mary and the Convent of Nonneseter. In 1909, a Norwegian government minister named Fritz Wedel-Jarlsberg purchased the property, and he later offered to sell the residence to Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha in 1929 after they married.

A fire in 1930 meant that a new house at Skaugum needed to be built, with Arnstein Arneberg tasked with its design, and the new residence was completed two years later. The future King Harald was born at Skaugum Estate in 1937, and it remained King Olav’s official residence until 1968, when he gifted it to his son and daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Sonja.

King Harald and Queen Sonja remained at Skaugum until 2001, when they moved into apartments at the Royal Palace in Oslo. Following the tradition of Norwegian heirs living there, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit moved in following further renovations in 2003.

Originally, Skaugum was a L-shaped farmhouse. Its main house sits on a raised plot of land and includes a garden and park stretching out behind it. The house was first renovated into a Swiss chalet-style residence, though after the fire in 1930, it was returned, as much as possible, to its original design.

Arnenberg relied on a design that used the original foundations and cellars and tried to maintain original dimensions for rooms, including the dining room. It retained the L-shape, and one wing faced the garden while the service area faced in the other direction.

“It was decided not to rebuild the house in the same style but in one that reflected the transition from Neo-Classicism to Functionalism, with clean, simple lines and functional solutions,” the Royal House notes.

To prevent against future fires, Skaugum was rebuilt using bricks instead of wood. Arnenberg also designed the residence “as a home where family life takes precedence over official entertaining and events. The various rooms were also designed around the furniture that had been rescued from the flames.”

As the Nazis occupied Norway, so too was Skaugum taken over. The Royal Family fled Norway. Harald’s early life, which had been spent on the Estate, would soon see him spend time in Sweden and the United States. After the war, he returned to Skaugum to live.

In the meantime, SS-General Wilhelm Rediess lived at Skaugum briefly before Reichskommissar Josef Terboven established it as his official residence in 1940. He committed suicide in the bunker on 8 May 1945 after being dismissed from his position.

Skaugum was further renovated throughout 2002 and 2003, with Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit moving in December 2003. The residence was further renovated in 2009, with the work focused on the home’s façade and terraces.

Skaugum is a private residence owned by the Norwegian Royal Family, and is not open to the public for tours. It is guarded by the Royal Guards.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.