Olav V of Norway

Olav V
King of Norway
Reign 21 September 1957 - 17 January 1991 (&000000000000003300000033 years, &0000000000000118000000118 days)
Consecration 22 June 1958(1958-06-22) (aged 54)
Predecessor Haakon VII
Successor Harald V
Spouse Princess Märtha of Sweden
Princess Ragnhild
Princess Astrid
Harald V of Norway
Full name
Olav, né Alexander Edward Christian Frederik
House House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Father Haakon VII of Norway
Mother Maud of Wales
Born 2 July 1903(1903-07-02)
Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, England
Died 17 January 1991(1991-01-17) (aged 87)
Holmenkollen, Oslo, Norway
Burial 30 January 1991
Akershus Castle, Oslo
Olympic medal record
Men's sailing
Competitor for  Norway
Gold 1928 Amsterdam Sailing 6 m mixed

Olav V (2 July 1903 – 17 January 1991) was the king of Norway from 1957 until his death.

A member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, Olav was born in the United Kingdom as the son of Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud of the United Kingdom and given the names Alexander Edward Christian Frederik. He became Crown Prince and heir-apparent to the throne of Norway when his father was elected king 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 royal duties, he attended both civilian and military schools. In 1929, he married his first and second 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, he was the last surviving grandchild of Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Alexandra of Denmark.

Birth and early life

Born in Appleton House, Flitcham, Sandringham estate, Norfolk, United Kingdom to Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud of Wales, (daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom), he was given the names and title of Alexander Edward Christian Frederik, Prince of Denmark. He was given the name Olav when his father became King Haakon VII of Norway in 1905.

Olav was the first heir to the throne since medieval times to grow up in Norway. He graduated from the Norwegian Military Academy in 1924, and went on to study jurisprudence and economics at Balliol College, Oxford.

During the 1930s, Crown Prince Olav was a naval cadet serving on the minelayer/cadet training ship Olav Tryggvason.

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 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 one son, Harald, and two daughters, Ragnhild and Astrid. 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.

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.

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 followed his father to the United Kingdom, where he continued to be a key advisor to the government-in-exile and his father.

During the war, 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, though as a monarch he was allowed to drive in public transport 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. Famously, he also attempted to pay for the ride, but the conductor informed him that someone in the back had already paid his ticket. 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.

During the summer of 1990, the King suffered from health problems, but recovered somewhat during Christmas the same year. 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 a great trauma during the outbreak of the first Gulf War. Olav's son Harald V succeeded him as King.

The night after he died, and for several days up until the state funeral, Norway saw a great demonstration of mourning as Norwegians lit 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.



Orders and medals

Other honours


Norwegian Royalty
House of Oldenburg (Glücksburg branch)
Royal Arms of Norway.svg

Haakon VII
   Crown Prince Olav
Olav V
   Crown Prince Harald
   Princess Ragnhild
   Princess Astrid
Harald V
   Princess Märtha Louise
   Crown Prince Haakon
   Princess Ingrid Alexandra
   Prince Sverre Magnus

Titles from birth to death

Styles King Olav bore from birth to death, in chronological order:

Monarchical styles of
King Olav V of Norway
Royal Arms of Norway.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir

Olav V
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 2 July 1903 Died: 17 January 1991
Political offices
Preceded by
Wilhelm von Tangen Hansteen
Chief of Defence of Norway
Succeeded by
Otto Ruge
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Haakon VII
King of Norway
Succeeded by
Harald V

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