The Life of King Harald V of Norway

King Harald V with Estonian Ambassador to Norway Janne Jõesaar-Ruusalu as she
presents her credentials to the King. Image: Flick

King Harald V was born on February 21, 1937 to then Crown Prince Olav (later King Olav V) and Princess Martha of Sweden.  He was barely three years old when the Norwegian Royal Family fled their country after the German invasion. The Royal Family had to split up—Harald’s father and grandfather, King Haakon V, stayed in Norway and eventually moved to London with the Norwegian government-in-exile. Crown Princess Martha and Harald’s older sisters, Princesses Ragnhild and Astrid, first they stayed in Norway but feeling unwelcomed, they fled to the United States, where they were guests of President and Mrs. Roosevelt.

 In 1945, the Royal Family returned to Oslo and Harald subsequently attended the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Military Academy, and Balliol College, Oxford.

In 1957, King Haakon VII died and his father succeeded as King Olav V. That same year, he joined the Council of State for the first time, swearing allegiance to the Constitution of Norway in 1958, when he turned 21. It was also that year when he served as regent in the King's absence for the first time.

On August 29, 1958, Harald married a commoner, Sonja Haraldsen, at the Oslo Domkirke on August 29, 1968. The marriage initially sparked public controversy since Sonja was a commoner. They married, anyway, and were blessed with two children, Princess Märtha Louise and Crown Prince Haakon, heir apparent to the Norwegian throne.

On January 17, 1991, King Olav V died and he succeeded to the throne. Since his accession, the King’s reign has been relatively peaceful. He spends time visiting the different parts of Norway, as well as also embarks on official state visits to other countries.

King Harald is an avid sportsman, representing the country in sailing competitions at the Olympics in three instances: 1964, 1968, and 1972.

The King’s health was not without issue. Twice he had to leave for a while from his duties as head of state because of health. From December 2003 until April 2004, he had to take time off because of urinary bladder cancer. From April until June 2005, he had to recuperate from aortic stenosis. Both on these occasions, Crown Prince Haakon served as the country's regent.


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