Bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution
This year Norway is celebrating the bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution. Norway became an independent nation 200 years ago, and the anniversary is being celebrated with numerous events throughout the year – and especially now in the month of May.
At the beginning of 1814 Norway was a vassal state under Denmark with King Frederik VI as an autocratic monarch. The Napoleonic Wars were drawing to a close and Denmark was on the losing side. Under the Treaty of Kiel, Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden – one of the victors in the war.
Norway refused to accept this. Christian Frederik – the Danish Crown Prince and Vice-regent of Norway – led Norway’s resistance against the treaty. He was instrumental in establishing a number of national institutions, ministries and armed forces, and convened a constituent assembly at Eidsvoll. The assembly gathered on 10 April 1814 for the purpose of drafting a constitution for Norway. The Norwegian Constitution was adopted on 17 May 1814, and Prince Christian Frederik was elected to serve as Norway’s king. After almost 400 years, Norway was once again a sovereign state, and a constitutional monarchy as well.
Sweden’s Crown Prince Carl Johan sought to enforce the provisions of the treaty, and on 29 July 1814 Swedish soldiers marched into Norway. The Norwegian forces were defeated, and Norway was forced to enter into a union with Sweden. However, the Swedish king had to accept the validity of the Norwegian Constitution, and the new union became a union of two independent nations.
Celebration on 17 May
His Majesty King Harald formally opened the bicentenary celebration in Eidsvoll, where the Constitution was written, on 16 February. The anniversary is being marked with numerous exhibitions and events, with particular importance attached to 17 May – Norwegian Constitution Day – and the days immediately before and after. The Royal Family is attending a large number of these events.
A variety of national institutions such as the Government, ministries and armed forces are celebrating their own bicentenaries, as they emerged in the wake of the independence gained by Norway in 1814. Special homage will be paid to King Christian Frederik – Norway’s first independent king in modern times. King Harald will unveil a statue of King Christian Frederik in front of the Storting on 18 May.
This evening the kings and queens of Norway, Denmark and Sweden will attend the celebration of the Norwegian Constitution at Eidsvoll.
Norway’s neighbouring countries and previous union partners are also marking the occasion – as well as 200 years of peace between our countries. In Sweden, a seminar on the events of 1814 was held at the Bernadotte Library in the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm, which will be followed by a concert in Royal Chapel. The Swedish Royal Family took part in the celebration, and Crown Prince Haakon was their guest during the events.
Denmark is celebrating the bicentenary and the two countries’ joint history with a Norwegian festival week in Copenhagen on 17 – 24 May. Activities include a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of King Christian Frederik and a special performance by the Royal Danish Opera. Representatives from the Danish and Norwegian Royal Families will be in attendance.