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How the Scandinavian royals are related

Kongehuset, Sara Friberg / Kungl. Hovstaterna and Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court

The Scandinavian royals are not only excellent friends, but they are also relatively closely related to each other. During the Viking Age, the royals in these three kingdoms were bitter enemies; however, during the Middle Ages all nations were united under one kingdom under the Kalmar Union and had a common royal family under, among others, Queen Margrethe I. Today, all the Scandinavian nations have independence and their own royals united by centuries of a common lineage.

The King of Sweden and the Queen of Denmark are actually first cousins. Queen Margrethe’s mother, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, was born a Swedish princess, and she was the sister of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s father, Prince Gustaf Adolf, who tragically died in a plane crash on Kastrup Airfield in 1947 shortly after his son was born. Carl Gustaf, therefore, succeeded his grandfather to the throne in 1973.

Queen Margrethe and King Harald are second cousins. Queen Margrethe’s father, King Frederick IX, was the son of King Christian X, who was the eldest brother of Prince Carl of Denmark, who in 1905 was elected King of Norway and took the name King Haakon VII. King Harald’s maternal grandmother, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, was born a Danish princess and sister of Christian X and Haakon VII. All of these family relationships can be a bit confusing, but if we retire a few generations, it becomes a little more manageable. In other words, King Haakon VII of Norway, who ruled between 1905 and 1957, was the brother of King Christian X of Denmark who ruled between 1912 and 1944.

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King Harald and King Carl Gustaf are a little more distantly related. Harald’s grandfather was Prince Carl of Sweden, a younger brother of Gustav V, Carl Gustaf’s great-grandfather. The closest common ancestor of the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish monarchs lie in the Swedish Royal Family. All the monarchs are descendants of King Oscar I, the only son of the famous Carl XVI Johan, King of Sweden, from 1818 to 1814. King Carl Johan was the lawyer’s son from Pau, France, who became King of Norway and Sweden and founded the modern Bernadotte dynasty. He became Marshal of the French Empire under Emperor Napoleon and King of Sweden and Norway in 1818.

Until recently, all Scandinavians have married people in close family relations. In Norway, both King Olav V and King Haakon VII married their cousins. In Denmark, King Frederick IX married a more distant relative while his father, King Christian X, chose a bride quite far out in the family. In Sweden, Gustaf Adolf, the Duke of Västerbotten, followed the same line in choosing a rather distant German relative. At the same time, King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden’s two wives were German-born and British-born nobility and almost not related to the young dynasty.

The three current Scandinavian monarchs are also godparents for each other’s children. Queen Margrethe is the godmother of both Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden. King Harald is the godfather of both Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Joachim of Denmark, while King Carl XVI Gustaf is the godfather of Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. In addition, the three monarchs and their spouses have, over the years, become very close friends, who also visit each other and socialise privately away from the media spotlight.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.