Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Monarch Profile: King Olav V of Norway
Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha had a very happy and devoted marriage. The couple were alike in many ways; friendly, humble, approachable and compassionate. The pair were very down-to-earth with the Crown Princess making clothes for her children by hand. Those children were Princess Ragnhild, born in 1930; Princess Astrid, born in 1932 and finally the future King Harald V born in 1937. For Crown Prince Olav these were years of great happiness and contentment. Yet, there was also growing concern about the increasing belligerency of Germany to the south. By then a colonel in the Norwegian army, Crown Prince Olav was well aware of how unprepared Norway was for any military conflict. Despite the best efforts of the King, working behind the scenes, to increase Norwegian military preparedness, the political leaders of the country put their faith in neutrality as the only protection for the Kingdom of Norway. Because of the ties between the Royal Families, Norway was most adamant about not coming into conflict with Great Britain. However, as World War II spread, it became clear that Norwegian neutrality would be violated by either Britain or Germany. The only question was who would make the first move.
When the Germans invaded, Crown Prince Olav stood firmly beside his father the King in a firm resolve to resist the attack as long as possible. He advised both civilian and military officials in reacting to the crisis and the Norwegian troops offered fierce resistance to the German attackers. The Germans hoped that the Norwegian Royal Family could be captured but the Norwegian royal guards offered heroic resistance to prevent this, earning the grudging respect of the Germans who nicknamed them the “black devils” because of their dark uniforms. Norway was conquered and occupied but the government and Royal Family were able to escape to Great Britain. Crown Prince Olav wanted to stay in Norway with his people but the government would not allow this and he went into exile as well. Still, the war was not over and the Crown Prince continued to assist the government-in-exile and the Norwegian troops who had been evacuated and the new Norwegian forces recruited in exile. He visited Norwegian forces in the UK, US and Canada during the war and earned the respect of the British and American military leadership for his talent and grasp of the situation. In 1944 he was made Chief of Defense for Norway and helped to coordinate with the Allies on any issue involving Norway or Norwegian forces. When victory came and Norway was liberated it was the Crown Prince who oversaw the disarmament of the German occupation army.
As an example of that, in 1968 he won the Holmenkollen Medal, the highest Norwegian award for skiing skill. The King loved to ski and this led to another incident which showed both his love for the sport and his down-to-earth style. During the 1973 energy crisis travel was banned on certain weekends. The King did not want to miss a good ski weekend and, though as the King he certainly could have made himself an exception, to set a good example for the rest of his people he traveled on the train with everyone else. Throughout his reign he continued to support winter sports, sailing, scouting, international relations (he was the first Norwegian monarch to travel abroad extensively) and he kept up his interest in the military, never taking national security for granted. He always kept himself well informed on national issues and policy while strictly respecting the constitutional limits to his position. Olav V was, in every way, a model constitutional monarch, attentive to his duties and combining a deep sense of history with a great sense of humor. Admired by people of Norwegian descent around the world the King also supported charitable ethnic organizations of Norwegians living abroad.