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King Carl IV (1826-1872)

Carl IV of Norway (Carl XV of Sweden) succeeded to the Norwegian-Swedish throne in 1859 on the death of his father, Oscar I. He adopted the motto "Med lov skal landet bygges", meaning “The country shall be built on the law”. He was the first Bernadotte prince to be born in Scandinavia.

King Carl married Princess Louise of the Netherlands (1828-1871) and they had one son, Carl Oscar, who died before his second birthday. After Carl IV’s death the throne therefore passed to his younger brother, Oscar.

The daughter of King Carl and Queen Louise, who was also called Louise, married the heir to the Danish throne, Crown Prince Frederik. Their son became King Haakon VII, the first monarch to be Norway’s “own” sovereign since the Middle Ages.

The coronation

King Carl and Queen Louise were crowned in Nidaros Cathedral on the Queen’s birthday, 5 August 1860. The interior of the cathedral was renovated and redecorated for the occasion. The ceremony was based on the coronation of Carl Johan, in 1818, but was much more elaborate; for the first time since 1299, a queen was being crowned at the same time. Queen Louise wore the crown that had been designed for Queen Desiree 30 years earlier.

A young king

Crown Prince Carl was only 31 when his father fell ill and he became regent, and 33 when he became king on his father’s death. He died early, at the age of 46.

Carl was a very popular king. With his handsome looks and great personal charm, he was the very embodiment of a king.

However, as regent he suffered several defeats in his attempts to exercise royal authority, and in conflicts of interests with Sweden he did not take Norway’s part. This is illustrated by the dispute over the vice-regency.

Dispute over the vice-regency

A vice-regent administers a country or province on behalf of a prince. The fact that the King had a vice-regent in Norway was regarded by the Norwegians as a sign of the country’s subordinate position in the union, and it aroused a great deal of opposition.

As Crown Prince regent King Carl had promised the Norwegians to abolish the office of vice-regent, but when as king he sought to sanction the amendment in the Norwegian Council of State, the Swedish Government and Riksdagen (parliament) opposed his decision. Carl gave in and refused to sign the document. This considerable defeat occurred right at the beginning of his reign.

The king’s role is weakened

King Carl was eager to promote Scandinavian interests, and would have preferred all three Nordic kingdoms to be joined in a single union.

When hostilities began between Denmark and Germany, Carl promised that Norway and Sweden would take the side of the Danes. However, when war actually broke out in 1864, the Swedish Government refused to support the King. Nor did the Norwegian Government wish to take part in the conflict. Once again the King was defeated on an important issue. Foreign policy had traditionally been the king’s province, but now this could no longer be taken for granted.

There were a number of other conflicts between King Carl and the Storting. But the real struggle was to emerge under his successor, Oscar II.


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