Olav V of Norway

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Olav V
Olav V of Norway.jpg
King Olav in 1957
King of Norway
Reign21 September 1957 – 17 January 1991
Benediction [lower-alpha 1] 22 June 1958
Predecessor Haakon VII
Successor Harald V
Prime ministers
BornPrince Alexander of Denmark
(1903-07-02)2 July 1903
Appleton House, Sandringham, Norfolk, England
Died17 January 1991(1991-01-17) (aged 87)
The Royal Lodge, Holmenkollen, Oslo, Norway
Burial30 January 1991
(m. 1929;died 1954)
Olav, né Alexander Edward Christian Frederik
House Glücksburg
Father Haakon VII of Norway
Mother Maud of Wales
Signature Olav V signature.png
Sports career
Medal record
Representing Flag of Norway.svg Norway
Olympic Games
Gold medal icon (G initial).svg 1928 Amsterdam 6 m mixed
5.5 Metre World Championships
Bronze medal icon (B initial).svg 1971 Seawanhaka 5.5m
Bronze medal icon (B initial).svg 1976 Hankø 5.5m

Olav V (Norwegian pronunciation:  [ˈûːlɑːv dɛn ˈfɛ̂mtə] ; [1] born Prince Alexander of Denmark; 2 July 1903 – 17 January 1991) was the King of Norway from 1957 until his death in 1991.


Olav was the only child of King Haakon VII of Norway 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 in the fourteenth century, 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. Olav became king following the death of his father in 1957.

Owing 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

The Norwegian Royal Family in 1921 Den norske kongefamilie, 1921 (6812749750).jpg
The Norwegian Royal Family in 1921

Olav was born as Prince Alexander Edward Christian Frederik in Appleton House on the royal Sandringham Estate, Flitcham, United Kingdom. [3] 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. In 1905, Carl was elected king of Norway and took the name Haakon VII. On the day Haakon was crowned, he gave his two-year-old son the Norwegian name Olav after Olaf Haakonsson, king of Norway and Denmark. [4]

Olav was thus the first heir to the throne since the Middle Ages 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 up 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 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 (a "baby Cadillac") commissioned by Queen Alexandra for 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] The car is a battery-powered, one-third size replica on a four-foot wheelbase, and is on permanent loan to the Norsk Teknisk Museum in Oslo. [10]

World War II

King Haakon VII, Crown Prince Olav, and Hans Reidar Holtermann in Scotland during World War II Ole Friele Backer kongen kronprinsen.jpg
King Haakon VII, Crown Prince Olav, and Hans Reidar Holtermann in Scotland during 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 [ citation needed ] 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 German occupation of Norway. 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. One source states that Olav helped "to build and lead a free fighting force" and made radio broadcasts" while in England. [11] 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. On 13 May 1945 Crown Prince Olav and five government ministers returned to a liberated Norway. The arrival was documented in a newsreel by British Pathé News. [12]

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.

Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha with their children Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild and Prince Harald at their exile home, Pook's Hill, in Bethesda, Maryland Kronprinsfamilien samlet utenfor Pook's Hill - pa1209 Uj L0219a W974.jpg
Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha with their children Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild and Prince Harald at their exile home, Pook's Hill, in Bethesda, Maryland


King Olav V at Holmenkollen in 1975 Olav V Holmenkollbakken OB.A8587.jpg
King Olav V at Holmenkollen in 1975

Haakon was injured in an accident in 1955; his son Olav served as regent until his death. [13] Haakon died at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 21 September 1957. He was 85 years old. After his death, Olav succeeded him as Olav V.

Olav reigned as a "People's King," and became extremely popular, despite the fact that he had no queen consort (he was a widower throughout his reign). 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. When driving was restricted during the 1973 energy crisis, King Olav – who could have driven legally – wanted to lead by example; while preparing for a skiing trip, he dressed up in his skiing outfit and boarded the Holmenkollbanen suburban railway carrying his skis on his shoulder. [14] When 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 earned the Holmenkollen medal in 1968, the Medal for Outstanding Civic Achievement in 1970 and was made Name of the Year in 1975. 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 and Iran. King Olav V opened the 14th World Scout Jamboree in July 1975 in the presence of 17,259 Scouts from 94 countries.

Although the constitution nominally vested Olav with executive power, he was not responsible for exercising it. One source states that his "duties were largely ceremonial". [15] His acts were not valid without the countersignature of a minister–usually the Prime Minister–who then became politically responsible for the act in question. He had the right to appoint the government, but in practice it was not possible for him to keep a government in office against the will of the Storting. Thus, in practice, his role was mostly representative in nature. Nonetheless, like his father before him, he commanded great moral authority as a symbol of the nation's unity.

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 Storting at that time, mention the possibility that King Olav suffered great trauma upon learning of the outbreak of the first Gulf War, which began in August 1990 . Olav's son Harald V succeeded him as King.

On the night of his death 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. [16] The National Archives have preserved all these cards.


The state funeral of King Olav V was held on 30 January 1991. During the funeral procession from the Royal Palace to Oslo Cathedral, over 100,000 people lined up along Karl Johans gate to pay their respects. [17] Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland gave the eulogy at the funeral, before the casket was moved to Akershus Fortress where a private service was held. [18]

Olav was finally laid to rest next to his wife Märtha in the green sarcophagus of the Royal Mausoleum. [19]


King Olav's leadership during the Second World War made him a symbol of Norwegian independence and national unity. As King Olav's wife, Princess Märtha, died of cancer, the King Olav V's Prize for Cancer Research was established in 1992.

A 2005 poll by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation named King Olav "Norwegian of the Century". [2]

Viktor Andersen portrayed the two-year-old Prince Alexander (Olav) in the 2009 NRK drama series Harry & Charles. Actor Anders Baasmo Christiansen was chosen to portray Crown Prince Olav in the 2016 drama The King's Choice while Tobias Santelmann portrayed Olav in the 2021 NRK drama Atlantic Crossing .


National honours and medals

Foreign honours

Other honours


Princess Ragnhild of Norway 9 June 193016 September 2012married 1953, Erling Lorentzen Haakon Lorentzen (b.1954)

Ingeborg Lorentzen Ribeiro (b.1957)

Ragnhild Lorentzen Long (b.1968)

Olav Lorentzen (b.1985)

Christian Lorentzen (b.1988)

Sophia Lorentzen (b.1994)

Victoria Ribeiro Falcao (b.1988)

Alexandra Long (b.2007)

Elizabeth Long (b.2011)

Frederik Falcao (b.2016)

Alice Falcao (b.2022)

Princess Astrid of Norway 12 February 1932married 1961, Johan Ferner Cathrine Ferner Johansen (b.1962)

Benedikte Ferner Stange (b.1963)

Alexander Ferner (b.1965)

Elisabeth Ferner Beckmann (b.1969)

Carl-Christian Ferner (b.1972)

Sebastian Johansen (b.1990)

Madeleine Johansen (b.1993)

Edward Ferner (b.1996)

Stella Ferner (b.1998)

Benjamin Beckmann (b.1999)

Fay Ferner (b.2018)

Fam Ferner (b.2021)

Nicoline Johansen (b.2019)

Ferdinand Johansen (b.2021)

Harald V of Norway 21 February 1937married 1968, Sonja Haraldsen Princess Märtha Louise of Norway (b.1971)

Crown Prince Haakon Magnus (b.1973)

Maud Behn (b.2003)

Leah Behn (b.2005)

Emma Behn (b.2008)

Princess Ingrid Alexandra (b.2004)

Prince Sverre Magnus (b.2005)


  1. Coronation discarded by constitutional amendment in 1908. Olav V instead received benediction in Nidaros Cathedral.

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Olav V
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 2 July 1903 Died: 17 January 1991
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Norway
Succeeded by
Norwegian royalty
Preceded by Crown Prince of Norway
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Chief of Defence of Norway
Succeeded by