The Swedish king and queen have reportedly declined an invitation to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution, grunnloven. The document announcing Norway’s freedom and independence was signed on May 17, 1814, just after Norway had been taken from Denmark and awarded to Sweden following the Napoleonic Wars.
Both the Danish and Swedish royals had been invited to join in this year’s bicentennial May 17 National Day celebrations. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik of Denmark accepted the invitation before Christmas, but the King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia won’t be taking part. The Swedish palace and parliament refused NRK’s request for comment.
Organisers were tight-lipped on the guest list, simply saying that the guests and program will be revealed in good time. “For reasons of protocol we won’t comment on who we invite to our main events at Eidsvoll (the town where the constitutional assembly met in 1814),” said Dag Nordbotten Kristoffersen, the constitutional anniversary project leader. “We are concerned with the shared Nordic history, something we will show in a good way in the anniversary year.”
Kristoffersen said the first half of the year will focus on the Danish-Norwegian history, and the second half of the year will look at the Swedish Norwegian union, including the events of 1814.
Urged to reconsider
Historians told NRK it’s unusual for the Swedish royals to reject an invitation from the Norwegian parliament. “There are plenty of historical reasons why the Swedish royal couple have chosen to decline, but there’s no such tension between the Norwegian and Swedish royal houses any more,” said author Tor Bomann-Larsen, alluding to the short war between the neighbours after Norway declared its sovereignty. Following the peace treaty, the Norwegian constitution was revised. Norway entered into a union with Sweden, and finally gained full independence in 1905.
“If it is the case they won’t be part of the big May 17 celebrations at Eidsvoll, I think that’s unfortunate,” said Ole Kristian Grimnes, a professor of history. Without the Swedish royal family, Norway would have continued under the Danish and never would have got its own constitution, he explained. “They should be here and enjoy themselves with us over this important event in Norwegian history.”
However, Bomann-Larsen has criticized the handling of the royal invitations as underhanded diplomacy. “It’s also not entirely nice of the host to put King Carl Gustaf in this situation,” he said. “So long as it’s published that Queen Margrethe has accepted, everyone understands that the Swedish king has declined. A bit of underhanded diplomacy has maybe been in place to ensure either none or both of the heads of state attend.”