King Harald could have become King at the age of three

On Wednesday, King Harald of Norway turns 81-years-old. There will be no big celebration like last year, but a private celebration with friends and the closest family. On the occasion of the King of Norway’s birthday, we will look at the not so well known history of His Majesty.

King Harald was only a prince and three-years-old when the Germans invaded Norway during World War II. King Harald’s grandfather, Haakon VII, refused to accept the Germans and urged Norwegians to fight. The King’s refusal of the Germans resulted was unexpected, and even the civilian population resisted the Germans. While King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav fought against the Germans in Norway, Crown Princess Märtha travelled with their children to Sweden in 1940.

King Harald in military uniform in the United States during World War II. Photo: National Libary of Norway via Wikimedia Commons.

Prince Harald lived for a short period with his mother and two older sisters in various places in Sweden after they left Norway on 10 April, the day after the invasion started. The Norwegian Royal Family was not wanted in Sweden. The elected government believed that it could be a problem and cause German aggression against Sweden. Already at the Norwegian-Swedish border, there were problems. According to Princess Astrid and others who were present, they were admitted only after the driver threatened to ram the border gate.

The royals spent some nights in Sälen before moving to Prince Carl Bernadotte’s home in Frötuna on 16 April. On 26 April the group moved to Drottningholm in Stockholm. King Gustaf V has been accounted to have had an amicable relationship with his Norwegian guests, but the topic of the war in Norway was not to be raised.

King Harald holds a big Norwegian flag. The day he returned to Norway after five years in exile. Photo: National Libary of Norway via Wikimedia Commons.

However, influential Swedish politicians, including Minister of Justice Westman, wanted the Crown Princess and Prince Harald, who was only three, to be sent back to Norway so he could be proclaimed King by the Germans. This was so the Germans could show the Norwegians that they had their own king under their rule. Similar to what happened in Denmark during the occupation there.

This would have stopped the Norwegian resistance and brought inner peace in Norway, according to the Germans and parts of the Swedish government. The Swedish Royal House opposed this strongly, and when King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav heard about the plans of the Swedish government, all changed. Quickly, Prince Harald and his relatives were moved to the United States via Finland where they lived during the remainder of the war in safe surroundings.

Prince Harald returned to Norway in 1945 when the war was won; in 1957, he became Norway’s Crown Prince. It was not until 1991 that he became Norway’s King.


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.