The Kings of the Liberation

King Haakon VII of Norway was born at Charlottenlund Palace near Copenhagen on August 3rd in 1872 as HRH Prince Carl; the son of HRH Prince Frederik of Denmark and HRH Princess Louise of Sweden. He was a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg branch of the House of Oldenburg.

Prince Carl was raised in the Royal household in Copenhagen and took his education at the Royal Danish Naval Academy.

In 1896 Prince Carl married his first cousin Princess Maud of Wales at Buckingham Palace. She was the youngest daughter of the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

On July 2nd in 1903 their only child HRH Prince Alexander was born, the future King Olav V of Norway.

King Haakon VII, Queen Maud and Prince Olav in 1906. (Copyright: The National Library)

After the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved in June 1905, a committee of the Norwegian government started the search for a king to the newly independent nation. They decided to offer the throne to Prince Carl of Denmark, who was a direct descendent of the Old Norse kings. He asked for the holding of a referendum to show whether the monarchy was still the choice of the Norwegian people.

A 79 percent majority of the votes overwhelmingly confirmed that Prince Carl was desired as Norway’s new king and he was elected on November 18th in 1905. The same day he took the Old Norse name Haakon, which had been used by no less than six previous Norwegian kings. He also renamed his son Prince Alexander with the Old Norse name Olav.

King Haakon, Queen Maud and the two-year-old Prince Olav arrived in the Norwegian capital on the morning of November 25th in 1905.

King Haakon VII greets Norway's Prime Minister Christian Michelsen with the two-year-old Prince Olav on his arm. (Copyright: Wikipedia.)

Two days later, King Haakon took the oath as Norway's first independent king in 518 years. The coronation of the King and Queen took place in the Cathedral Nidarodomen in Trondheim on June 22nd in 1906.

King Haakon VII and Queen Maud just after the coronation in the cathedral Nidarosdomen. (Copyright: The National Library)

King Haakon and Queen Maud became highly popular and gained much sympathy from the Norwegian people as they traveled extensively through their new country. He had a highly uniting effect on the population, and in 1927 he typically stated: “I am also the King of the Communists.”

In 1938 a tragedy hit the little family as Queen Maud died in London on November 20th after an operation due to cancer. The King was left alone to meet the dramatic events taking place around Europe initiated by the ever more powerful Nazi-Germany.

The Norwegian Royal Family is especially closely linked to the events of WWII. When Nazi troops invaded Norway on April 9th in 1940 the family was forced to flee the country, and came to came to play an immensely important role in the resistance movement.

It is hardly possible to exaggerate the impact King Haakon personally came to have on the historic events during WWII, from his threat to abdicate if his Government wished to cooperate with the Germans to his being a symbol and a uniting leader of the Norwegian resistance throughout the war.

King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav during the escape from Nazi troops. (Copyright: Norway's Resistance Museum)

The triple portrait The Kings of the Liberation was painted to Norway’s Resistance Museum at Akershus fortress at the occasion of the 70 years celebration of the liberation of Norway from Nazi occupation in 2015. The paintings were a gift from Samlerhuset and Norway’s Resistance Museum’s friends.

The documentary film The Kings of the Liberation tells the tale of the Royal Family’s role in WWII and sets Kolby’s portraits of King Haakon, King Olav and King Harald in a historic context.

Read an article on The Royal House of Norway's official site, which gives a little peek into the unveiling.

The years after the liberation the King ruled a war-torn Norway with great challenges. His popularity now saw new heights, and in 1947 the people of Norway gave him the Royal Yacht Norway as a commemoration of his contribution during WWII.

"The Liberation Kings" - the then- Prince Harald, King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav. (Copyright: Norway's Resistance Museum)

After a fall at the Royal estate at Bygdoy in 1955 King Haakon was left using a wheelchair. His immobility and helplessness was said to depress him and to make him loose his customary involvement and interest in current events, and Crown Prince Olav took a more active role in state affairs.

King Haakon died on September 21st in 1957, and the Crown Prince succeeded as King Olav V. King Haakon and his Queen Maud rest in the white sarcophagus in the Royal Mausoleum at Akershus Fortress.