Royals feared Labour government

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Norway’s newly established royal family feared for their future when the Labour Party won government power in the early 1930s. Labour opposed the monarchy and even managed to prevent Crown Prince Olav from turning Oslo’s Oscarshall castle into a royal residence.

Tor Bomann-Larsen's latest book on the royal family is likely to be popular despite its stiff price tag of NOK 449 (around USD 80). Its title translates to "Word of Honour." PHOTO: Cappelen Damm

Political intrigue surrounding King Haakon, Queen Maud, their son Olav and his new wife Crown Princess Märtha, who also was his royal Swedish cousin, is detailed in historian Tor Bomann-Larsen’s latest book on the royals. The book is the fifth in a series that studies the lives of Haakon and Maud and how they came to launch Norway’s royal family that was installed in 1905, after Norway’s unhappy union with Sweden was dissolved.

It covers the period from 1928, the year before Olav married Märtha, until 1940, when Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany and the royal family went into exile in England and the US. Midway during the period, when Labour ‘s Johan Nygaardsvold became prime minister in 1935, King Haakon was worried.

Labour had long opposed the monarchy set up in Norway and Haakon thought he’d be dethroned. Martin Tranmæl of Labour had earlier declared the party revolutionary, and even dashed Olav’s wishes to live at Oscarshall on the fashionable Bygdøy Peninsula, writes Bomann-Larsen. Tranmæl wrote in the influential newspaper Arbeiderbladet at the time that Bygdøy instead should be open for “tired workers” and he wanted to create waterfront walking paths all around the peninsula. The paper’s agitation, with Tranmæl as editor, scared King Haakon, according to Bomann-Larsen.

Another historian, Hans Olav Lahlum, though, told newspaper Aftenposten that Labour was never a concrete threat to King Haakon or Crown Prince Olav and his young family. Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) lacked a majority in parliamant in the early 1930s, Lahlum said, so an effort to unseat the monarchy would not have succeeded.

Bomann-Larsen’s book, introduced on the Scandinavian talk show Skavlan Friday evening and released in Oslo on Friday afternoon, also contains sensational information revealing that Crown Prince Olav wanted to negotiate with the Nazis in Germany and did not want to leave Norway when the Germans invaded. He ended up going along with the wishes of his father, and the two royals went into exile in London.

The book further reveals that Olav’s decision to marry his cousin Märtha, a Swedish princess, was not entirely popular and that even his mother, Queen Maud, feared the marriage of cousins would yield unhealthy children even though she had married a cousin herself. King Haakon, the former Prince Carl of Denmark, was the son of an English princess who was Maud’s aunt.

“I know that the Queen was very opposed to the marriage,” wrote the king’s adjutant, according to Bomann-Larsen’s book.

The book, entitled Æresordet (Word of Honour), follows four earlier volumes on the lives of Haakon and Maud before they married (1864-1896), just after they married (1896-1905), the years after their  move to Norway (1905-1913) and from the years 1913-1928.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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