by Scott Mehl
King Olav V of Norway was born Prince Alexander Edward Christian Frederik of Denmark on July 2, 1903 at Appleton House on the Sandringham Estate in the United Kingdom. He was the only child of Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud of Wales. He was the paternal grandson of King Frederik VIII of Denmark and Princess Louise of Sweden, and the maternal grandson of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
At the time of his birth, there was little expectation that he would one day become a King himself. However, this would all change in 1905, when his father was named as the new King of Norway, taking the name Haakon VII. Young Alexander took on the name Olav and at the age of just two years old, became Crown Prince of Norway.
Following his elementary education, Olav attended the Norwegian Military Academy, graduating in 1924, and then studied law and economics at Balliol College, Oxford University, graduating in 1926. An avid skier and sailor, Olav represented Norway in the 1928 Olympic Games, winning a Gold Medal in the sailing competition and remained active in sailing his whole life.
Crown Prince Olav served in the Norwegian Armed Forces, first in the navy and then the army, working his way up to the rank of Colonel by 1936. In 1939, he was appointed Admiral of the Norwegian Royal Navy, and General of the Royal Army. His extensive military training would serve him well in the coming years, as the Nazis began their takeover of Europe.
- Princess Ragnhild (1930 – 2012), married Erling Lorentzen, had three children
- Princess Astrid (1932), married Johan Ferner, had five children
- King Harald V (1937), married Sonja Haraldsen, had two children
In April 1940, when the Germans invaded Norway, the Norwegian government and the Royal Family were forced from Oslo. Olav’s wife and children went first to Sweden, and then at the invitation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, sailed for the United States where they remained for the duration of the war. The King and Crown Prince, along with the government established themselves in Elverum, in Eastern Norway. However, it soon became clear that they would not be able to withstand the German forces. On June 7, 1940, King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav sailed for England where they established a government-in-exile in London. Here they continued to rally and support the Norwegian people. In 1944, Crown Prince Olav was appointed Chief of Defense, and took the lead of the Norwegian forces, working with the Allied Forces.
On May 13, 1945, just five days after the Germans surrendered, Olav and several government ministers returned to Norway. The King, as well as Olav’s wife and children, returned the following month.
In April 1954, Crown Princess Märtha died of cancer, having been ill for some time. Three years later, Olav became King Olav V of Norway, following the death of his father on September 21, 1957. Olav, already much loved by the Norwegian people, became even more popular during his reign. He was often found amongst his people – driving around town, stopping in shops, taking the train to the ski slopes unaccompanied – gaining him the nickname “The People’s King”.
King Olav V died of a heart attack on January 17, 1991, at the Royal Lodge (Kongsseteren) in Holmenkollen, Oslo, Norway. He was buried with his wife in the green sarcophagus alongside his parents in the Royal Mausoleum at the Akershus Fortress.