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The Coronation of King Carl Johan

7 September 2008 marked the 190th anniversary of the crowning of Carl III Johan (Carl XIV Johan of Sweden) King of Norway in Nidaros Cathedral.

King of the Norwegian-Swedish union Carl II (Carl XIII of Sweden) died on 5 February 1818. Official confirmation of his death was sent by courier from Stockholm, arriving in Norway on 10 February. Along with the sorrowful news, the courier bore a proclamation from the new king to the Norwegian people and his written oath of allegiance to the Constitution. The Storting (Norwegian parliament) swore its allegiance to King Carl Johan the following day.

King Carl Johan was crowned in Stockholm Cathedral on 11 May. The Norwegian people were represented by a delegation of Storting representatives. The coronation in Norway was held that summer in Trondheim, in accordance with Article 12 of the Norwegian Constitution of 1814, which established that the king was to be crowned and anointed in Nidaros Cathedral. The new king wished to use the long journey from Stockholm to become better acquainted with his new country.

Coronation journey

King Carl Johan travelled by land from Sweden crossing the Svinesund sound, and arrived in Christiania (now called Oslo) on 11 August. He was accompanied by his only son, Crown Prince Oscar. Queen Désirée was residing in France at the time and did not take part in either of the coronations in Stockholm or Trondheim.

On 25 August, the king and the crown prince departed on their coronation journey to Trondheim escorted by 37 persons and 91 horses. They travelled along the Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen valleys.

King Carl Johan and Crown Prince Oscar arrived in Trondheim on 1 September. They were met by a military parade, singing choirs, cannon salutes and cheering crowds.

Preparations for the coronation

Both Stiftsgården, where the king was to reside, and the cathedral were renovated for the occasion of the coronation. Nearly 1 000 rix-dollars was invested in refurbishing Stiftsgården, which had been designated as the royal abode. Furniture and household objects were borrowed from the city’s inhabitants to supplement the rather sparse furnishings.

As there had not been a coronation in Norway for 304 years, there was little experience to build on and no established ceremonial practice. King Carl Johan therefore created all the ceremonial practices for his own coronation.

Royal regalia

Norway did not have its own crown or other regalia at the time of the coronation. The original Norwegian regalia were lost (the trail of their whereabouts ends in 1537), and during Norway’s union with Denmark, coronations of the Dano-Norwegian kings were held in Denmark. King Carl Johan solved this problem by providing personal funds to have the essential items made. The royal regalia and other coronation objects were transported from Stockholm to Trondheim under military escort.

Coronation procession

The coronation was held on Monday, 7 September. A bridge leading from the royal abode to the cathedral and draped in red fabric had been erected expressly for the coronation to afford the throngs of onlookers a view of the procession.

A large number of dignitaries from Norway and Sweden took part in the procession. The royal regalia were borne in the middle of the procession. Prime Minister Peder Anker carried the King’s Crown; directly behind him followed the king. At the coronation in Stockholm Carl Johan had worn the traditional Swedish coronation dress of silver fabric. In Trondheim, the monarch chose to be crowned in his officer’s uniform, thereby founding a Norwegian tradition. All kings of Norway since then have been crowned or consecrated in uniform.

Coronation ceremony

The ceremony in the Nidaros Cathedral opened with a religious service and a coronation sermon before the coronation was performed.

Cabinet Minister Fasting and Bishop Bech of Christiania took the King’s Robe from the altar and placed it on the king’s shoulders. Prime Minister Anker read out the King’s oath of allegiance to the realm, which was repeated by King Carl Johan. The king then knelt, bared his chest and was anointed on the forehead, chest, temples and wrists by Bishop Bech.

After the king returned to the coronation throne, the prime minister and the bishop together placed the crown on the king’s head. The other royal regalia were presented to the king by the cabinet ministers who had borne them in the procession. On completion of the ceremony the herald of the realm proclaimed, “Carl XIV Johan has now been crowned King of the Kingdom of Norway and all its territories, he and no other!”

Thereafter, Crown Prince Oscar came forth and swore an oath of allegiance to the king. The Prince’s Robe was draped over his shoulders and the Crown Prince’s Coronet placed on his head. The crown had been borrowed from Sweden since Norway did not have its own at the time. (The Norwegian Crown Prince’s Coronet was not made until 1846.)

A signal was given to the warships in the harbour, which fired two rounds of 224-gun salutes.

King Carl Johan wore the King’s Robe and the King’s Crown during the procession back to the royal abode and bore the King’s Sceptre and the King’s Orb. Crown Prince Oscar also wore his robe and coronet.

Commemorative coins to the crowd

According to Article 36 of the document governing ceremonial practices for coronation:

“The treasurer of the Nidaros Diocese on horseback, accompanied by 50 men from the chasseur corps of Trondheim on horseback, shall, once the procession has returned to the royal abode, throw commemorative coronation coins to the people gathered at all the marketplaces and open squares in the city.” This throwing of coins to the crowd caused such a tumult at the coronation of 1818 that it was not repeated it at later coronations.

Festivities were held in the Nidaros Diocese throughout the entire coronation week. One highlight was a ball for 350 guests attended by the king and the crown prince.

The king and the crown prince departed from Trondheim on Saturday, 12 September. Their trip took them through the Østerdalen valley and Solør district to Christiania, and from there to Stockholm.



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