Posted on June 7, 2017
Again and again, in the 20th Century, June 7 has come up as an important date in Norwegian history.
On this date in 1905, Norway's parliament (which is called the Storting) declared the nation's dissolution of its union with Sweden. For almost 100 years, the two had joined together in what was called - wait for it! - the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway. But the joining of the two kingdoms, in 1814, wasn't peaceful and nice, and the two kingdoms didn't mesh as well as we outsiders might have expected, and so the Storting just said, "That's it! We're out!"
Sweden didn't accept the dissolution until October of that year.
On this date in 1940, Norway's King Haakon VII, who had been elected to rule Norway after that 1905 dissolution, had to escape his own country. Haakon, the entire royal family, the cabinet, and most of the parliament fled Norway when the Nazi forces invaded and occupied their nation. Their 5-year exile was spent in London.
And on this date in 1945, the King and the rest of the government returned after the Nazi's defeat and removal! And crowds cheered their arrival long and hard!
So...here are some interesting bits from this brief history:
- Did you notice that "King Haakon...had been elected to rule Norway"? Have you ever heard of a king being democratically elected?
Back in 1905, when the Storting had declared Norway's union with Sweden, a committee met to find a suitable king. They looked to princes in various European families, and they loved the idea of inviting Prince Carl of Denmark to be their king. After all, some of Prince Carl's ancestors were Norwegian kings.
When they asked Prince Carl to become Norway's new king, Prince Carl said that he would - BUT only if a vote was held to see whether monarch was the choice of the Norwegian people.
When 79% of all Norwegians answered, "yes, please," Prince Carl became king and adopted the Old Norse name of Haakon. It hadn't been used by a king of Norway for more than 500 years, but it was a very popular choice.
As a matter of fact, King Haakon VII became a very popular monarch!
- When the Nazis invaded Norway's capital, Oslo, in April of 1940, Norwegian forces held them off long enough for the king, the royal family, the cabinet, and most of the parliament to jump onto a train and escape out into the country.
Soon after, the Nazis entered the capital. A Norwegian fascist named Vidkun Quisling, with the Nazi's backing, declared himself the new Prime Minister. But the Nazis knew that most Norwegians wouldn't accept Quisling as anything other than Germany's "puppet" unless the king appoint Quisling to the leadership post.
So they "asked" Haakon to do so. By which I mean that they demanded that Haakon accept Hitler's demands, and they threatened violence if he didn't.
When the Nazis had overrun Denmark, Denmark's King Christian II had accepted Hitler's demands. But Haakon didn't want to do that. Despite the fact that he had the right to make a decision all by himself, he went his cabinet. He said that he hated taking responsibility for making such a decision, one that would surely result in suffering and death for who knew how many, BUT:
"For my part I cannot accept the German demands."
Haakon told his cabinet that, if they disagreed with him, and wanted to surrender to the Nazis to avoid retaliation, he would not stand in their way, but he also would not continue to lead. He would abdicate his throne (step down, no longer be their king).
The cabinet agreed with their king, however, and they told the Nazis and their people that they would resist as long as they could and survive as long as they could. When the Nazis came to the Norwegian town where the government-in-exile was staying, Haakon and the others fled through snowy forests and stayed in a humble cabin until they could finally go to England aboard a steamship.
|An important part of the resistance was keeping|
people informed. This team put out a super-
secret resistance newspaper.
All through the war, Haakon led the resistance from afar and give regular speeches that were broadcast by the BBC. Many
Norwegians tuned in with their radios and were encouraged by their king. Resisting Norwegians would wear (in secret) jewelry made from coins bearing their king's likeness; these coins were a signal to others that they were a part of the resistance, and that they were in solidarity with their king.
|Some of the soldiers fighting in the resistance were Sami.|
|Quisling chatting up Hitler.|
- After the war, as I said before, Haakon came back to his adoring people. In the meantime, the Norwegian fascist who played nice with the Nazis, Quisling, was found guilty of embezzlement, murder, and high treason, and he was executed by firing squad. I'm not sure if he ever got to know that his name became one of the words for a person who is a traitor to his country by helping an invading enemy - often serving later in a puppet government.
Other words for quisling are collaborator or sympathizer, and similar words include betrayer, defector, deserter, turncoat, traitor, and maybe even colluder.
Also on this date:
Clean Air Day in Canada