Queen Margrethe of Denmark, in Oslo this weekend to take part in Norway’s bicentennial celebrations, said it was generous of the Norwegian government to commission a statue of one of her own ancestors who played a major role in the events of 1814. “I’m very aware that Christian Frederik was controversial,” the queen told newspaper Aftenposten.
On Sunday she was given the honour of unveiling the statue of the former Danish Prince Christian Frederik, who briefly served as Norway’s first king after the constitution was signed on the 17th of May, 1814. In an effort to retain Danish influence over Norway, Christian Frederik had been instrumental in gathering the men who wrote Norway’s constitution and then elected him as monarch. He was the first European king to be elected by the people, but his reign didn’t last long. Instead, war broke out between Norway and Sweden, which had been granted Norway as part of the post-Napoleonic wars’ Treaty of Kiel. The conflict was brief as well, ending by late summer when Christian Frederik gave in to the Swedes and ultimately left Norway, just a few months later. The Swedish king then became Norway’s king as well, and Christian Federik ultimately became Denmark’s King Christian VIII in 1839.
The statue, formally a gift from the Norwegian government on the occasion of the bicentennial, now stands in a prominent spot in front of Norway’s Parliament (Stortinget). Sculptor Kristian Blystad, who won the competition to create it, said he was honored by its placement and by the royal guests in attendance at its unveiling, as King Harald and Queen Sonja looked on.
“Raising a statue to Christian Frederik is really a great distinction,” Queen Margrethe said. “And really generous on the part of the Norwegians, I think, that they so many years later say: ‘This man shall be honoured, even right in front of the Parliament!'”