Who Was the First King of Norway?

Norway has a rich history going back over 1000 years. Like many of their European counterparts, Norway also had a long history of royalty ruling the country. This royal history dates back to the first King of Norway in the 800s.

The first King of Norway was King Harald Fairhair. He became King after defeating rival jarls and taking over their lands. Because he was the first King to rule over the entirety of Norway, he is considered the country’s first King.

The rest of this article will discuss the history of the Norwegian Royal Family, King Harald Fairhair, how he became the monarch and the current state of the Norwegian Royal Family.

Also, see How Did the Crown Princess of Norway Die? to learn more.

Was King Harald Fairhair the First Norwegian King?

In the early 800s, the country we now know as Norway was still broken up into multiple small kingdoms.

Most of these were ruled by jarls or self-proclaimed kings of the territory. This was during the Viking era, so it was common for land to exchange hands after being conquered.

However, this changed in approximately the year 885. This was the year Harald Fairhair ascended to the throne after he conquered the lands his rivals held until all of Norway was under his control.

Thus, he became the first King of Norway.

Why Was Norwegian King Harald Nicknamed “Fairhair”?

It may seem odd for most native English speakers to see “Fairhair” as a surname. However, Norwegian historical figures are often identified by nicknames rather than birth names.

In Viking cultures, it was common for men to earn their nicknames through a battle or by virtue of a specific feature they possessed.

These nicknames were not subtle in any way. For example, if a warrior fought battles with an axe, he would likely be nicknamed Battleaxe.

In King Harald’s case, his shiny, luscious hair was his most prominent feature. Thus, he was nicknamed Fairhair.

How Did King Harald Fairhair Become the King of Norway?

According to a series of sagas (Scandinavian prose depicting historical events), King Harald Fairhair ascended to the throne in the late 800s in approximately 885. [1]

He ruled until 930 or so, when he appointed his son as his successor.

According to these sagas, Harald Fairhair spent his youth in various battles. These battles won him different territories in Norway.

By his 20s, he became the first King of a unified Norway.

Did Harald Fairhair Really Exist?

King Harald Fairhair was widely considered a true historical figure and the first King of Norway. He was also often considered one of the most famous and great Norwegian Kings of all time.

However, there is some doubt about the validity of these claims.

In the 1970s, historian Peter Sawyer first brought up his doubts about the existence of King Harald Fairhair.

The main cause of these doubts was the lack of contemporary documentation of King Harald.

He claimed that written accounts from the corresponding period did not sufficiently confirm the existence of such a historical figure.

Most accepted accounts of King Harald Fairhair were written approximately 3-4 centuries after his supposed reign. [2] These are mainly in the form of sagas, which are dramatized accounts of historical figures.

Thus, historians can’t prove that these accounts weren’t highly fictionalized.

There is some information that supports the existence of King Harald Fairhair.

For example, the existence of Eric Bloodaxe—a figure thought to be King Harald Fairhair’s son and successor to the throne—is fairly well documented. [3]

Does Norway Still Have a Royal Family?

Considering Norway’s long-lived monarchy, it might make everyone wonder: does Norway still have a royal family?

Norway still has a royal family. The current members of the Norwegian Royal Family are King Harald V and Queen Sonja Haraldsen, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, and Princess Ingrid Alexandra.

The current royal family belongs to the House of Glücksburg. [4]

Is Norway a Monarchy or Democracy?

All this talk of kings and queens begs the question: is Norway still a monarchy? The answer to that is no.

Norway is a constitutional monarchy, wherein the King wields very limited powers while the parliament makes most decisions.

It is similar to the system followed in England, where the King or Queen has some authority but not absolute power like in a monarchy.

What Power Does the Current King of Norway Have?

The King’s current role is mostly ceremonial. [5] He conducts regular meetings with the Prime Minister and other important government officials to ensure the smooth running of the country.

He also hosts foreign dignitaries and visits foreign countries for diplomacy.

Apart from that, the King formally opens the Norwegian parliament every autumn. He was also the head of the Church of Norway until 2012.

Most of the power in the country is held by the parliament. Currently, the King’s only roles are to represent the country on formal occasions.

Why Does Norway Still Have a Royal Family?

Norway still has a Royal family because it is popular and the public supports it. The country has been a constitutional monarchy since 1814.

When Norway became a fully independent nation in 1905, it held a referendum to decide between democracy and monarchy and decided to continue with a monarchy.

King Haakon VII was King at the time, and his descendants make up the current royal family.

Another reason Norway has not completely dismantled the royal family is its popularity.

The current Royal Family of Norway, including the King and Queen, is incredibly popular among the local Norwegians.

They are beloved for their progressive views and support for various social causes.

The current royal family is also considered “relatable,” making them all the more popular.

Queen Sonja was born a commoner who was allowed to marry into the family due to the insistence of a love-struck King Harald V.

His son, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, also married a non-royal, a single mom working as a waitress at the time.

Is the Royal Family of Norway Related to Queen Elizabeth?

The Royal Family of Norway is related to the English royal family. Many European royal families are related to each other due to the frequent intermarriages between them.

The current Norwegian king, King Harald V, is Queen Elizabeth’s second cousin.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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