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The Norwegian Royal Crown Stolen by an Archbishop


By Edgar El, CC BY 3.0, Wiki Commons

Norway’s present collection of royal regalia consists of nine pieces. They include three crowns – the king’s crown, the queen’s crown and the crown prince’s crown. However, this was made in 1818 for the coronation of King Karl XVI Johan. Norway had at least one monarchical royal crown before this, but that one is lost. What happened to it?

We know that the first Norwegian king to be crowned in Norway was Magnus V. His coronation happened in 1163, two years after he became Norway’s king, and the regalia used was brand new for the occasion. Magnus V assumed power in 1161, when he was five years old. This was problematic and his rule was marked by am ongoing Norwegian civil war that lasted for almost 90 years. Magnus V ruled Norway from 1161 until he was killed at the age of 28 in 1184.

The young King Magnus V and his crown. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Norwegian king’s “saga” from this time tell us about the life and work of the monarchs. They describe the crown and the coronations quite briefly. Nevertheless, they confirm that there was at least one crown in use and that the coronations took place for almost all Norwegian monarchs after 1163.

We know that Magnus V’s crown and sceptre are the same ones used during the coronation of King Sverre in 1194. Probably this crown was in use by the following Norwegian monarchs for the next 100 years. During this period, Norway’s power and wealth increased. Magnus V’s crown was in probably somewhat poor condition around the 1250s.

The crowned seal of King Haakon IV. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

We know for certain that King Haakon IV of Norway had a new Norwegian royal crown made in 1252. This crown was made in London and transported to Norway with military ships. What happened to Magnus V’s royal crown is uncertain. Possibly the gold from the first royal crown was melted down and included as part of the new crown.

This crown was so flashy and beautiful that it was used by all Norwegians kings from Haakon IV in 1252 until the establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1388. During that time, a coronation sword and a coronation axe were also made. The years 1388 saw the beginning of centuries of Norway being in union with Sweden and Denmark, then just Denmark and from 1814 just Sweden. This made Haakon IV’s crown superfluous. It was simply no longer needed.

A similar crown on the seal of King Haakon V. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The crown was kept by Norway’s largest cathedral, the Nidaros Cathedral, in Trondheim from 1388 and for the next 150 years. It was the responsibility of the bishop who presumably stored it in a warehouse.

Norway’s break with the Roman Catholic Church happened in 1536 and 1537. The Reformation was introduced in Norway at the same time as Denmark. There were no popular Lutheran movements in Norway, such as in Denmark and Sweden. The reformation met great resistance and Archbishop Olav Engelbrektsson led Norway towards a new civil war.

The old version of Nidaros Chatedral in Throndheim. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Civil War did not come as Olav Engelbrektsson realized he was going to lose it. He fled Norway in 1537 and took with him all the valuables he could. A source from that time says that the archbishop also brought with him the old Norwegian king’s crown, the king’s sword and axe. It does not mention anything about the sceptre.

This is the last time the old Norwegian regalia is mentioned in any sources. What happened to them is uncertain. Olav Engelbrektsson took the crown to Belgium in 1537 where he settled. He died the following year in 1538. Some wonder whether he minted the crown for gold coins that he could use to live on for the rest of his life. Some believe it was too short of time to do so and that the crown probably survived the archbishop. Maybe it is still out there somewhere?

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.