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Who is King Harald?

Oskar Aanmoen/Royal Central

King Harald is the first King of Norway born on Norwegian soil in 567 years. He was born at Skaugum estate 21 February 1937 and is the son of King Olav of Norway and his wife Martha, who was Crown Princess of Norway and Princess of Sweden.

King Harald grew up at the Skaugum estate just outside the capital Oslo with his two older sisters, Princess Astrid and Princess Ragnhild. When King Harald was three-years-old, the Germans invaded Norway during the Second World War. This forced the Royal Family to flee the country. King Harald and his two sisters were taken to Sweden where King Harald’s grand-uncle reigned as King. After a few weeks in Sweden, the Norwegian Royal Family was given political asylum in the United States, and throughout the war, King Harald lived just outside Washington D. C. along with his mother and two sisters.

His Majesty the King. Photo: Oskar Aanmoen / Royal Central.

When the war was over, King Harald returned to Norway. He was eight-years-old, and he was enrolled at the Norwegian school to continue his education. Having completed compulsory schooling, the King entered the army and performed his military service before joining the Norwegian Military Academy. After four years of education in the army, King Harald moved to London where he studied political science, history and economics at Oxford University for two years.

King Harald’s grandfather, King Haakon VII, died in 1957. After that, he became Crown Prince and received a number of official and ceremonial duties. After King Harald returned from his education in London, he showed great interest in international diplomacy and the Norwegian business community. He was also, for many years, a representative for the World Wide Fund (WWF). King Harald is a skilled athlete. From his early youth, he has been interested in both skiing and sailing. King Harald participated in the Olympic Games in sailing several times and won numerous international sailing regattas, including the World Championships in sailing in 1987. The King is also a skilled hunter and fisherman. Several times the King’s guests have been served food that the King has shot.

His Majesty the King. Photo: Oskar Aanmoen / Royal Central.

The King married Sonja Haraldsen in 1968, and together they have two children, Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Martha Louise. When King Olav died in 1991, King Harald was enthroned as King of Norway. In Norway, the tradition is that kings are not crowned, but blessed (Norwegian: signet) in a large-scale worship.

King Harald love nature experiences, which he combines with hunting and fishing. He is concerned about environmental issues, and he was president of the World Wildlife Fund for 20 years. During the ski world cup in 1982, His Majesty was the chairman of the main committee. In January 2011, he was awarded the Honorary Award of Sport during the Norwegian Sports Gala. The King remains an active competitive sailor and participates each year in national and international regattas.

In the summer of 2016, the King held a speech who gained international attention.  You can see the speech at the bottom of this article with English subtitles.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.