Guest post: King Haakon refused to yield

Originally a comment by Harald Hanche-Olsen on No tell us what you really think.

This is a bit of an aside from the main story, but since monarchy was discussed, I dare say that Norway has the best functioning constitutional monarchy in the world. The royal family demands tremendous respect, and much of it is well deserved.

When the union between Norway and Sweden was dissolved in 1905 and king Oscar of Sweden could no longer be king of Norway, prince Carl of Denmark (full name Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel, how is that for a mouthful?) was offered the throne. Many Norwegians were in favour of a republic instead, so prince Carl demanded a referendum to decide between the alternatives, republic or constitutional monarchy. The monarchy side won by a good margin, and he accepted the throne, taking the name Haakon.

In 1928, the Labour Party won the election for parliament. Conservatives were alarmed at this, as the Labour Party was more of a revolutionary party in those days. But Haakon, determined to stay within his constitutional role, asked a representative of the Labour Party to form a government. “I am also the communists’ king” he said – a statement well remembered.

Then, when Nazi Germany attacked in April 1940, the occupiers demanded that the King appoint one Vidkun Quisling – yes, that Quisling – as prime minister. At that point, Parliament had dissolved itself, giving over all its powers to the King and government for the duration of the war. The government was undecided, but King Haakon refused to yield, saying he would rather abdicate. So in the end, he escaped to England with the government and stayed there for the rest of the war.

These two events go a long way to explain the popularity of the royal family to this day. One more story, from more recent days:

After the July 22 terror, a nearby hotel was converted to a center for taking care of the survivors and their families. At one point, two girls walked through the lobby, both crying. There they walked into the arms of an elderly man, and after sobbing into his chest for a while, one of them looked up and discovered they were being hugged by the king.

I am still tearing up just writing this, and that helps explain why, though I am a republican in theory, I am sort of a monarchist in practice. I think many Norwegians share the sentiment. So long as the royal family keeps living up to the high standards they have set for themselves, I am willing to put my republican impulses on the back burner.

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