Olav V of Norway

For other kings named Olaf, see King Olaf (disambiguation).
Olav V
King of Norway
Reign 21 September 1957 – 17 January 1991
Benediction[1] 22 June 1958
Predecessor Haakon VII
Successor Harald V
Prime Ministers
Born (1903-07-02)2 July 1903
Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, United Kingdom
Died 17 January 1991(1991-01-17) (aged 87)
Kongsseteren in Holmenkollen, Oslo, Norway
Burial 30 January 1991
Akershus Castle, Oslo, Norway
Spouse Princess Märtha of Sweden
Issue Princess Ragnhild
Princess Astrid
Harald V of Norway
Full name
House Glücksburg
Father Haakon VII of Norway
Mother Maud of Wales
Religion Church of Norway
Medal record
Representing  Norway
Olympic Games
1928 Amsterdam 6 m mixed
5.5 Metre World Championships
1971 Seawanhaka 5.5m
1976 Hankø 5.5m

Olav V (Alexander Edward Christian Frederik; 2 July 1903 – 17 January 1991) was King of Norway from 1957 until his death.

Olav was the only child of Haakon VII and Maud of Wales. He became heir apparent to the Norwegian throne when his father was elected King of Norway in 1905. He was the first heir to the Norwegian throne to be brought up in Norway since Olav IV, and his parents made sure he was given as Norwegian an upbringing as possible. In preparation for his future role, he attended both civilian and military schools. In 1929, he married his first cousin Princess Märtha of Sweden. During World War II his leadership was much appreciated and he was appointed Norwegian Chief of Defence in 1944. At his death in 1991, he was the last surviving grandchild of Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Alexandra of Denmark.

Due to his considerate, down-to-earth style, King Olav was immensely popular, resulting in the nickname Folkekongen ("The People's King"). In a 2005 poll by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Olav was voted "Norwegian of the century".[2]

Birth and early life

Crown Prince Olav, 1907

Olav was a Danish prince born in Appleton House on the royal Sandringham Estate, Flitcham, United Kingdom.[3] He was named Alexander Edward Christian Frederik. His parents were Prince Carl, second son of Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark (later King Frederick VIII), and Princess Maud, youngest daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom who was the eldest son of Britain's Queen Victoria. When his father was elected king of Norway, he took the Norwegian name Haakon VII, and on the day he was inaugurated, he gave his son the Norwegian name Olav.[4]

Olav was the first heir to the throne since medieval times to have been raised in Norway. Unlike his father, who was a naval officer, Olav chose to complete his main military education in the army. He graduated from the three-year Norwegian Military Academy in 1924, with the fourth best score in his class. Olav then went on to study jurisprudence and economics for two years at Balliol College, Oxford.[5]

During the 1930s, Crown Prince Olav was a naval cadet serving on the minelayer/cadet training ship Olav Tryggvason.[6] Olav moved upwards in the ranks of the Norwegian armed forces, rising in the army from an initial rank of first lieutenant, to captain in 1931 and colonel in 1936.[7]

He was an accomplished athlete. Olav jumped from the Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo, and also competed in sailing regattas. He won a gold medal in sailing at the 1928 Summer Olympics[8] in Amsterdam and remained an active sailor into old age.

On 21 March 1929 in Oslo, he married his first cousin Princess Märtha of Sweden with whom he had two daughters, Ragnhild and Astrid and one son, Harald. As exiles during World War II, Crown Princess Märtha and the royal children lived in Washington, D.C., where she struck up a close friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt. She died in 1954, before her husband ascended the throne.

The British Film Institute houses an early film, made in 1913, in which a miniature car commissioned by Queen Alexandra for the Crown Prince Olav tows a procession of Londoners through the streets of the capital, before being delivered to a pair of 'royal testers' of roughly Olav's age.[9]

World War II

As Crown Prince, Olav had received extensive military training and had participated in most major Norwegian military exercises. Because of this he was perhaps one of the most knowledgeable Norwegian military leaders and was respected by other Allied leaders for his knowledge and leadership skills. During a visit to the United States before the war, he and his wife had established a close relationship with President Roosevelt. These factors would prove to be important for the Norwegian fight against the attacking German forces.

In 1939, Crown Prince Olav was appointed an admiral of the Royal Norwegian Navy and a general of the Norwegian Army.[7]

During World War II, Olav stood by his father's side in resisting the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany. During the campaign he was a valuable advisor both to civilian and military leaders. When the Norwegian government decided to go into exile, he offered to stay behind with the Norwegian people, but this was declined. He reluctantly followed his father to the United Kingdom, where he and his staff and servants and aides continued to be a key advisor to the government-in-exile and his father. It is a popular legend among his countrymen that he did not allow himself any dessert or sweets for the duration of the Norwegian occupation.

Olav made several visits to Norwegian and Allied troops in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. In 1944, he was appointed to the post of Norwegian Chief of Defence and after the war he led the Norwegian disarmament of the German occupying forces. His war decorations from other nations, including the War Crosses of Norway, France, Greece and the Netherlands, the US Legion of Merit and the French Médaille Militaire, are testament to the international recognition of his contribution to the war against Hitler.


Royal Monogram

Succeeding to the Norwegian throne in 1957 upon his father's death, Olav reigned as a "People's King," and became extremely popular. He liked to drive his own cars, and would drive in the public lanes, even though as a monarch he was allowed to drive in bus lanes. During the 1973 energy crisis driving was banned on certain weekends. King Olav never wanted to miss an opportunity to go skiing, and while he could have driven legally, he wanted to lead by example. So he dressed up in his skiing outfit, and boarded the Holmenkollbanen suburban railway carrying his skis on his shoulder.[10] He was later asked how he dared to go out in public without bodyguards. He replied that "he had 4 million bodyguards" —the population of Norway was at the time 4 million.

For his athletic ability and role as King, Olav V earned the Holmenkollen medal in 1968. He had a strong interest in military matters and took his role as titular Commander-in-Chief very seriously. As well as his ceremonial roles in the Norwegian Army, he also served as Colonel-in-Chief of the Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Yorkshire Regiment), the British regiment named for his grandmother Queen Alexandra.

The King represented Norway extensively abroad during his reign, conducting state visits to both neighbouring countries and more distant destinations such as Ethiopia.

King Olav V opened the 14th World Scout Jamboree in July 1975 in the presence of 17,259 Scouts from 94 countries.

Illness and death

During the summer of 1990, the King suffered from health problems, but recovered somewhat during Christmas the same year. At the age of 87, on 17 January 1991, while residing in the Royal Lodge Kongsseteren in Oslo, he became ill and died in the evening of a myocardial infarction. An interview given by King Harald V, and hints in a biography by Jo Benkow, who was the president of the parliament in that time, mention the possibility that King Olav suffered great trauma upon learning of the outbreak of the first Gulf War, which began the day of his death. Olav's son Harald V succeeded him as King.

The night after he died (and for several days up until the state funeral), Norwegians mourned publicly, lighting hundreds of thousands of candles in the courtyard outside the Royal Palace in Oslo, with letters and cards placed amongst them. The National Archives have preserved all these cards.

Olav and his wife Märtha are buried in the green sarcophagus in the Royal Mausoleum at Akershus Fortress.

Titles, styles and honours

Styles of
King Olav V of Norway
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir

Titles and styles

Orders and medals

Other honours



  1. Coronation discarded by constitutional amendment in 1908. Olaf V instead received benediction in Nidaros Cathedral.
  2. "Folkekongen ble århundrets nordmann". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). 17 December 2005. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  3. Sandelson, Michael (28 October 2011). "Norway's Queen Maud in euthanasia speculations". The Foreigner. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  4. "Olav to Martha". Time Magazine. 21 January 1929. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  5. Benkow 1991, pp. 97-108
  6. Bratli 1995, p. 93
  7. 1 2 Dahl 1982, p. 48
  8. http://www.nytimes.com/1991/01/18/obituaries/olav-v-norway-s-king-33-years-and-resistance-hero-dies-at-87.html
  9. Article from NRK on the king Featuring a photo of the event and explanatory text (Norwegian). Retrieved 24 November 2006
  10. "People". Time Magazine. 26 October 1962. p. 1. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  11. Badraie
  12. Royal House of Norway web page on King Olav V's decorations (Norwegian) Retrieved 5 October 2007
  13. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41815. p. 5791. 11 September 1959. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
  14. Solholm, Rolleiv (14 November 2008). "King Harald receives honorary title". Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Norway Post. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
  15. https://books.google.se/books?id=3pLGZWs0wLIC&pg=PT53&lpg=PT53&dq=Earl+Warren+odd+fellow&source=bl&ots=-m9cHELpdR&sig=Wme8zjGlOWareVyH51BMBd7oRoM&hl=sv&sa=X&ved=0CFoQ6AEwCGoVChMI6-OysfCryAIVZo5yCh1w9gIm#v=onepage&q=Earl%20Warren%20odd%20fellow&f=false


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Olav V of Norway.
Olav V
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 2 July 1903 Died: 17 January 1991
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Haakon VII
King of Norway
Succeeded by
Harald V
Norwegian royalty
Preceded by
as Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway
Crown Prince of Norway
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Wilhelm von Tangen Hansteen
Chief of Defence of Norway
Succeeded by
Otto Ruge
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