Sveinn Björnsson

This is an Icelandic name. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Sveinn.
Sveinn Björnsson
1st President of Iceland
In office
17 June 1944  25 January 1952
Prime Minister Björn Þórðarson
Ólafur Thors
Stefán Jóhann Stefánsson
Steingrímur Steinþórsson
Preceded by Christian X (as the King of Iceland)
Succeeded by Ásgeir Ásgeirsson
Personal details
Born (1881-02-27)27 February 1881
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died 25 January 1952(1952-01-25) (aged 70)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Nationality Icelandic
Spouse(s) Georgia Björnsson
Children 6
Alma mater University of Copenhagen
Profession Lawyer

Sveinn Björnsson (pronounced [ˈsveitn̥ ˈpjœsːɔn]; 27 February 1881 – 25 January 1952) was the first President of the Republic of Iceland (1944–1952).

Sveinn was born in Copenhagen, Denmark as the son of Björn Jónsson (editor and later minister) and Elísabet Sveinsdóttir. Sveinn graduated from the Latin School in Reykjavík in 1900 and obtained a law degree from the University of Copenhagen 1907. He was licensed to practice before the "upper courts" in 1907 and before the Superior Court in 1920, and served as public prosecutor in Reykjavík 1907–20 and 1924–26. From September 29, 1919 to December 31 the same year, he served as prosecutor at the National Upper Court.[1]

Political and diplomatic career

Sveinn was a member of the Reykjavík City Council 1912–1920 and its chairman 1918–1920. He was elected to the Althing for Reykjavík 1914-15 and 1919-20.[2] After Iceland's independence from Denmark in 1918 he acted as minister to Denmark during 1920–24 and 1926–40.

Regent and President

Standard as Regent of Iceland

Although Iceland had become a sovereign state in 1918, its foreign affairs had been conducted by Denmark until the beginning of World War II. The German occupation of Denmark in April 1940, however, resulted in Iceland's de facto autonomy and Sveinn was elected Regent of Iceland three times during 1941–43, assuming all the prerogatives in Icelandic affairs previously held by the Icelandic king, Christian X, who was also King of and resided in Nazi occupied Denmark. In July 1941, United States troops entered Iceland on the invitation of Sveinn's government and remained, in reduced numbers, after the war; their continued presence provoked the main controversy of the nation's postwar foreign policy.

He was elected president by the Althing on the inauguration of the Republic of Iceland in 1944. His first term was only one year, since the people of Iceland were to elect their president directly for the first time in 1945. However, Sveinn was unopposed in 1945 and 1949. He died in Reykjavík in January 1952, more than one year before his third term of office was due to expire and is the only president to die in office.

Business activities

Sveinn was one of the founders of Eimskipafélag Íslands, the main shipping company in Iceland, in 1914 and its chairman 1914–1920 and 1924–1926. He was the founder of the insurance company Brunabótafélag Íslands and its director from its foundation in 1916 until 1920. He was also one of the founders of the insurance company Sjóvátryggingafélag Íslands in 1918 and its chairman in 1918–1920 and 1924–1926. Sveinn was one of the founders of the Icelandic Red Cross on 10 December 1924 and its first chairman, serving until 1926.


On 2. September 1908 he married Georgia Björnsson, born Hansen (born 18 January 1884, died 18 September 1957). They had six children: Björn (1909), Anna Catherine Aagot (1911), Henrik (1914), Sveinn Christen (1916), Ólafur (1919), Elísabet (1922). His eldest son Björn Sveinsson Björnsson served in the German military as a part of the Schutzstaffel in World War II.[3]

His great grandson is Henrik Björnsson, singer and lead guitarist in the shoegaze rock band Singapore Sling.


Political offices
Preceded by
Kristján X
King of Iceland
President of Iceland
Succeeded by
Ásgeir Ásgeirsson

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