The Kings of Sweden & Norway

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Aristocracy, Kingdoms, Kings, Noble Titles, Royal Titles

The Kings and Queens of Sweden and Norway have occupied a historic role in the evolution of Europe’s royal dynasties. 

Though the nations of Norway and Sweden may have played less pivotal roles in the tumultuous epochs of Europe as it evolved and emerged during the Middle Ages, playing a quieter role in history than some of the neighbour European territories such as the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Empire, and the Napoleonic Empire etc, these Nordic nations are nevertheless rich with royal history and ancient legacies. 

While the monarchies of Sweden and Norway can trace back their roots to age-old Nordic legends and characters, the story of the crowns of these two historic nations took an interesting turn in the early nineteenth century when the monarchy was more closely allied to some of the larger European nations. 

Charles XIV John – A French King of Sweden & Norway

During the Napoleonic Era, as the Emperor of France was expanding his reign and power throughout the many countries of Europe, the nations of Norway and Sweden began negotiating an alliance. 

Carl XIV John of Sweden & Norway c1840

Carl XIV John of Sweden & Norway c1840 – Emile Mascré, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The resulting agreements between the three countries would see a French military man known as Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte ascend to the thrones of Sweden & Norway. This unassuming soldier had risen through the ranks to become one of Napoleon’s favourite confidantes and political allies. 

As a result of this powerful connection, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was selected as the French envoy that would accede to the monarchies of Norway and Sweden, in a bid to form a closer bond between the two countries and the powerful French Empire. 

Upon acquiring the thrones of these ancient Nordic monarchies, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became known as Charles XIV John, with the official title of King of Sweden and Norway. His French wife, formerly known as Desiree Clary, once the fiancé of the famous French Emperor, would also assume the royal title of Queen of Sweden and Norway.

Together this eminent couple would become the founders of the House of Bernadotte, a great royal dynasty that would see its descendants in high-ranking roles throughout many of the esteemed monarchies of Europe in the generations that followed. 

Oscar I – King of Sweden & Norway

Perhaps one of the most notable of the early descendants of the House of Bernadotte was the only son of the French couple who had laid claim to the thrones of Sweden and Norway on behalf of the Emperor Napoleon. 

King Oscar I of Sweden

King Oscar I of Sweden – Arvid Gottfrid Virgin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Oscar I was the French-born son of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and his wife Desiree, the newly crowned king and queen of Sweden and Norway

Although born and raised in France, Oscar I was considered one of the most popular of the kings of Sweden and Norway. He became a Crown Prince as a young man when his father assumed the Nordic crowns, and was believed to take quickly and enthusiastically to the language and culture of his adoptive nations. 

The story of Oscar I would add a rich thread of intriguing connections to both the monarchies of Sweden and Norway and the House of Bernadotte. In a curious twist, his choice of wife was the granddaughter of the Empress Josephine, the woman who had stolen the heart of the famous Napoleon I, who had abandoned his fiancé at the time – Oscar’s mother Desiree. 

This new royal union would go on to cast a rich tapestry of royal connections and eminent positions in the monarchies of Europe, securing the role of the House of Bernadotte as one of the most important royal dynasties of Europe

Oscar I would be regarded by many as a great and successful king, ushering in a period of prosperity and, in the provision of Nordic-born heirs, securing a historic new royal lineage for the Swedish and Norwegian thrones. 

Contemporary Kings of Sweden & Norway

  • Carl XVI Gustaf – King of Sweden 

The current King of Sweden is Carl XVI Gustaf who assumed the throne in 1973, inheriting the crown from his grandfather Gustav VI Adolf. 

The Swedish throne has seen a great many changes in its evolution to modern times. In line with many of the royal dynasties of Europe, the monarchy plays a more symbolic role in the governance of the nation. The days of the absolute rule of the King of Sweden are long gone, with the current king being a constitutional figurehead rather than a powerful sovereign ruler. 

Yet the modern monarchy has evolved with the times and, like many of Europe’s royal families, is enjoying a renaissance of public interest and esteem as the contemporary royals adapt to modern social sensitivities and address archaic issues such as primogeniture and gender equality. 

While the Swedish monarchy is moving with the times in order to survive and thrive in contemporary society, it still retains its historic origins and many of the notable legacies that tell the story of this unique nation and its many kings. 

For example, Carl Gustav is regarded as the current head of the House of Bernadotte, the dynasty that originated with the French soldier who became a favourite of Napoleon and one of the most iconic Kings of Sweden and Norway 

  • Harald V of Norway

Although the allied union of the monarchies of Sweden and Norway would not endure to modern times, it’s a testament to the relationship between these two nations that the current King of Norway spent a good deal of his childhood in Sweden, when the royal family were exiled during the Second World War. His mother, Princess Märtha, was also a Swedish Princess. 

King Harold may hail from a tradition of alliances with neighbouring nations, yet he holds the historic role as the first Norwegian-born king to ascend to the throne of Norway for over 600 years. 

Alongside millennia of royal history and ancient dynasties, the monarchy of Norway has also seen many constitutional changes over the centuries, with the modern royal family adopting a range of honourary duties in line with many of the contemporary royal dynasties of Europe. 

Also resonant with many of Norway’s neighbouring monarchs, King Harold is related to numerous high-ranking royals throughout Europe, including the King of Belgium, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the Queen of Denmark, the Queen of Greece, and the Queen of the United Kingdom. 

The stories of the Kings of Norway and Sweden have taken a number of intriguing turns over the centuries. Yet the legacy of these historic nations are typical of the evolution of European monarchies, and in their willingness to embrace the cultural shifts of contemporary society, these ancient royal monarchies look set to endure for many generations into the future.

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