Founding of the Republic of Iceland

The founding of the Republic of Iceland took place on 25 February 1944 after the Icelandic parliament decided to sever the ties between Iceland and the Danish monarchy, in accordance with the stipulations provided in the 1918 Danish–Icelandic Act of Union. That act had granted Iceland independence, but maintained the two countries in a personal union, with the King of Denmark also being the King of Iceland.

The parliament passed a law to the effect that on 20–23 May 1944 a national referendum should take place to confirm or reject the decision of the parliament. After an overwhelming majority in favour of republican independence (99%) and a new constitution (95%), the Republican Celebration (Lýðveldishátiðin) was held on 17 June 1944 in Þingvellir, where the parliament severed the ties to the Danish monarchy, founded the Republic of Iceland, and elected its first president, Sveinn Björnsson.

National referendum May 1944

The parliament declared on 25 February 1944 that the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union from 1918 had expired, and that this declaration should be put to a national referendum. A national referendum was also to be held on the constitution of the new Republic. These referendums were to be held from 20 to 23 May 1944, and the results presented to parliament on 16 June.[1]

The referendum began at noon on 20 May and ended at midnight on 23 May 1944. The newspaper Morgunblaðið, on 25 May 1944, reported that participation in the referendum had been 98%. Out of the 48,100 people who voted, 99.5% were in favour of severing ties with the Danish monarchy, and 98.3% in favour of founding a republic.

Republican Celebration

The Republican Celebration was held in Þingvellir on 17 June 1944. At 13:30, Prime Minister Björn Þórðarson set the celebrations going, after which a religious ceremony was held. The Icelandic flag was raised and the members of the parliament rose from their seats as church bells rang. All declared unilaterally that Iceland would henceforth be a republic. The members of parliament then chose Sveinn Björnsson as the first president. Björnsson had been regent of Iceland and the King's placeholder during the war years. He was the only president not elected directly by the people of Iceland.

Additional Notes

Many Danes felt offended at its timing, as Denmark was still occupied by Axis Forces. The deposed king in Copenhagen, Christian X, nonetheless sent a message of congratulations to the Icelandic people.[2]


  1. Lýðveldishátíðin. H.F. Leiftur, Reykjavík. 1945.
  2. Hardarson, Solrun B. Jensdottir (October 1974). "The 'Republic of Iceland' 1940-44: Anglo-American Attitudes and Influences". Journal of Contemporary History. 9 (4): 27–56. JSTOR 260290.

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