Friday, 31 January 2014

The heirs of 1914: Norway

The young man who was heir to the throne of Norway in 1914 had not been born to be his country's king.  But after a hugely successful reign, he was voted Norwegian of the 20th century such was the love his people had for him.  Of all the heirs to the throne of a century ago, Olav of Norway has the greatest claim to have been the greatest monarch of them all.

Olav, Crown Prince of Norway in 1914 - already popular in his adopted country, his success and the affection his fellow citizens had for him would only grow as the 20th century progressed

Norway's Crown Prince of a century ago had been born in England in 1903 and christened Alexander Edward Christian Frederik.  But the decision of his father, Prince Carl of Denmark, to accept an invitation to become king of Norway in 1905 changed everything for the little prince - including his name.  On the day that Carl became Haakon VII of Norway, his only son and heir became Olav and stayed Olav for the rest of his life.  The little boy's childhood switched to his new country and by 1914, the eleven year old Crown Prince was well into an education that would turn him into an academic and athlete in equal measure and lay the groundwork for his successful reign.

Olav with his parents, King Haakon VII and Queen Maud, early on in their time as the new royal family of Norway

Olav went on to enjoy academic success at Oxford and athletic success in the Olympics where he won a gold medal for sailing in 1928.  But his greatest success came from 1957 onwards when he succeeded his father as king of Norway and went on to win great affection from his fellow citizens.  In 2005, exactly 100 years after his father had carried him off a ship from England and into a new life in Norway, his adopted country voted him their person of the century.  Olav, of all the heirs of 1914, made the crown he inherited his own.

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