by Scott Mehl
A Danish prince who became King of Norway and one of a few elected monarchs, Prince Carl of Denmark (Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel) was born at the Charlottenlund Palace near Copenhagen, Denmark on August 3, 1872. He was the second son and the second of the eight children of King Frederik VIII of Denmark and Princess Louise of Sweden.
Prince Carl had seven siblings:
- King Christian X of Denmark (1870 – 1947) married Princess Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, had two sons including King Frederik IX of Denmark
- Princess Louise of Denmark (1875 – 1906), married Prince Frederick of Schaumburg-Lippe, had issue
- Prince Harald of Denmark (1876 – 1949), married Princess Helena Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, had issue
- Princess Ingeborg of Denmark (1878 – 1958), Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland, had issue including Märtha Louise, Crown Princess of Norway and Astrid, Queen of the Belgians
- Princess Thyra of Denmark (1880 – 1945), unmarried
- Prince Gustav of Denmark (1887 – 1944), unmarried
- Princess Dagmar of Denmark (1890 – 1961), married Jørgen Castenskiold, had issue
Through his paternal aunts and uncles, Carl was related to many European royals. Among his first cousins were Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Constantine I of Greece, King George V of the United Kingdom, and his future wife Princess Maud of Wales. Carl’s elder brother King Christian X of Denmark reigned from 1912 – 1947.
Prince Carl grew up with his seven siblings at his parents’ residence Frederik VIII’s Palace at Amalienborg in Copenhagen and in the family’s summer residence Charlottenlund Palace, north of Copenhagen. He attended the Danish Naval Academy, graduating in 1893 as a second lieutenant in the Royal Danish Navy. In 1894 he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant and remained in service with the Royal Danish Navy. participated in several sailing expeditions with the Royal Danish Navy from 1893 until 1905.
Because Maud’s mother was a Danish Princess, Maud visited her Danish relatives often and was familiar with her first cousin Prince Carl of Denmark, who was three years younger than her. They had played together with their other cousins at family reunions held in Denmark at Fredensborg Castle and Bernstorff Castle. There had been family gossip that Maud and Carl might marry, so it was not all that surprising when Carl proposed to Maud during a family reunion at Fredensborg Castle and Maud accepted. On October 29, 1895, the couple’s engagement was announced. Maud’s mother had some concerns about the age difference, but Maud realized Carl would make a good husband for her. She loved the sea and sailing, so a husband who was in the navy would be quite appropriate.
On July 22, 1896, Carl and Maud were married in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace in London, England with many royal guests attending including Maud’s grandmother Queen Victoria.
Carl and Maud had one son:
- Prince Alexander of Denmark, later King Olav V of Norway (1903 – 1991), married Princess Märtha of Sweden, had three children including King Harald V of Norway
In 1905, upon the dissolution of the Union between Sweden and Norway, the Norwegian government began searching for candidates to become King of Norway. Because of his descent from prior Norwegian monarchs, as well as his wife’s British connections, Carl was the overwhelming favorite. Before accepting, Carl insisted that the voices of the Norwegian people be heard in regards to retaining a monarchy. Following a referendum with a 79% majority in favor, Prince Carl was formally offered and then accepted the throne. He sailed for Norway, arriving on November 25, 1905, and took the oath as King two days later. He took the name Haakon VII and his son two-year-old son was renamed Olav and became Crown Prince of Norway. Maud and Carl were crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway on June 22, 1906.
In October of 1938, Maud came to England for a visit, first staying at Appleton House, the English home her father had given her when she married, and then at a London hotel. While at the hotel, Maud became ill and was taken to a nursing home where abdominal surgery was performed. She survived the surgery, but died on November 20, 1938, six days before her 69th birthday, from heart failure.
During World War II, King Haakon and his son fled to the United Kingdom where he maintained a Government in exile. Haakon continued to broadcast speeches to the Norwegian people. Despite pressure from Hitler, Haakon refused the Norwegian Parliament’s request to abdicate. Following the war, King Haakon and his family returned to Norway – exactly five years from the date they had been evacuated to the United Kingdom.
The post-war years saw the marriage of his eldest granddaughter, Princess Ragnhild, and the death of his daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Märtha. In 1955, the King suffered a fall from which he never fully recovered. His son Olav took over much of the King’s responsibilities and took the throne as King Olav V upon his father’s death. Haakon was the grandfather of King Harald V of Norway.
On September 21, 1957, King Haakon VII of Norway passed away at the Royal Palace in Oslo. He was 85 years old. He was buried on October 1, 1957, at the Akershus Fortress next to his beloved wife, Queen Maud.