The King Connection

The original Game Show of Thrones, by Barbara K. Rostad

Contestant #1: Christian Frederik.  Portrait by J. L. Lund.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Contestant #1: Christian Frederik.
Portrait by J. L. Lund.

Game Show Host: Welcome to The King Connection, your favorite game show. Today we’re looking at Norway. You know how it works. Unlike What’s My Line? or Queen For A Day, it will be up to you, the audience, to determine The King Connection.

The year 1814 resonates with every Norwegian. It is the year the Norwegian Constitution was written. And just as July 4 means something to all Americans, May 17 or Syttende Mai is dear to the hearts of Norwegians and those of Norwegian heritage.

But who was the monarch of Norway in 1814? Was there a king in command at Eidsvoll when the constitution was drafted? Just what—and who—is the King Connection?

Listen closely to each of these presenters. Which will you choose as having the true King Connection? Let’s begin. You first.

(Points to Christian Frederik)

Christian Frederik: My name is Christian Frederik, Norway’s 1814 monarch. It’s thanks to my effort that Syttende Mai ever came into being. Who do you think called the Constituent Assembly to Eidsvoll? If not for me, you’d have nothing to celebrate.

I am from the House of Oldenburg. You don’t get more mainstream royalty than that. And I saw to it Norwegians would maintain loyalty to that house. Toward that end, I placed myself at the head of the Norwegian Party of Independence.

The Treaty of Kiel stated there should be a union between Norway and Sweden. But we did not want such a union until the Swedes let go of their hostilities. They refused. Instead, the Swedish Crown Prince invaded. What nerve! I still don’t like to talk about it.

Host: Very well, then. Next.

(Points to Carl II)

Contestant #2: Carl II. Portrait by Carl Frederik von Breda.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Contestant #2: Carl II.
Portrait by Carl Frederik von Breda.

Carl II: My name is Carl the Second and I am Norway’s 1814 monarch. My royal line stems from the House of Oldenburg and I became a Grand Admiral when I was just a few days old. Both myself and my adopted son Karl Johan are among those privileged to serve as King of Norway.

I did not become king in my youth, however. My older brother came ahead of me. After 20 years he was assassinated at the opera. Some think I had a hand in that unfortunate occasion. Some people are just so suspicious! Then his son ascended to the throne. Finally, I became king. But my frequent rheumatic attacks deteriorated my health. My stint as Norway’s king was all too short.

Host: To the point. Thank you. Next.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons Contestant #3: Frederick VI. Portrait by Friedrich Carl Gröger.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Contestant #3: Frederick VI.
Portrait by Friedrich Carl Gröger.

Frederick VI: I am Frederick the Sixth, Norway’s 1814 monarch. What’s My Line? Why, the House of Oldenburg, of course. Born to teenaged parents, I was Crown Prince from Day One. My reign is long and distinguished. My father’s mental illness prompted me to exert my power as Crown Prince as soon as I reached 16, the age of legal majority. Then I ascended to the throne upon my father’s death in 1808.

Neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars was my goal. But when the English bombed Copenhagen in 1807, I threw my support to the French. This, despite King George III of Great Britain being my mother’s brother. But mother died in exile when I was only seven.

My father, the king, with his catatonia and schizophrenia, was not much of a parent—or a king. That’s why I got him to sign a document when I was only 16 that all actions requiring the monarch’s signature must also be signed by the Crown Prince: me. So my control began in 1784, just a few short years after the American Revolution.

Later, during the Napoleonic Wars, I made sure grain was sent to the starving Norwegians. When you are united with a country for 434 years, you have a certain loyalty to the people. So for me it was a sad day indeed when the Treaty of Kiel forced me to ultimately cede Norway to Sweden.

Host: Thank you all. That was most impressive. Now folks, it’s your turn. Which of these three held the scepter in 1814? Carl II? Christian Frederik? Frederick VI?

Most of you chose Frederik VI. But is he the true King Connection? Let’s find out now. Will the real 1814 King of Norway please stand up?

(All three rise)

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Time out! These folks want to know if they picked the right one! Will two of you please sit down!

(They all keep standing; long pause)

Is this mutiny or what?

Frederick VI: We were all Norwegian kings in 1814.

Host: What? What kind of Triple Crown is that? Folks, are you buyin’ this?

Christian Frederick: It’s true! And I had the longest rein! Almost eight months.

Host: You’re sure about that? Let’s hear it from each of you. King Frederick, you’re first.

Frederick VI: I was king of Denmark and Norway starting in March 1808. I was not happy about losing Norway to Sweden in the Treaty of Kiel. That was signed in January, so my rein as one of Norway’s kings in 1814 was indeed brief.

It was never my plan to let Norway go permanently. I sent Christian Frederik to Norway to promote support for Denmark. Part of the strategy was to put a wedge between Norway and Sweden by encouraging Norwegian independence. Talk about backfiring!

Host: Well, Denmark may not thank you, but Norway thanks you. Christian Frederik?

Christian Frederik: I was elected Regent of Norway February 16, 1814, by a group of prominent Norwegians, and unanimously elected King of Norway May 17, 1814, by the Constituent Assembly following the signing of the Constitution at Eidsvoll.

Sadly, just three months later the Norwegian army was defeated by the Swedes. Fighting was not my strong point. I transferred executive power to the Storting on October 11, 1814, abdicated my throne, and returned to Denmark.

Sure, Norway linked up with Sweden until 1905. But the House of Oldenburg prevailed. My great-grand nephew Prince Carl of Denmark became the first king of a truly independent Norway. He took the name Haakon VII of Norway. And his King Connection? Haakon VII, who saw Norway through the German occupation of World War II, is father to King Olav V and grandfather to King Harald V, constitutional monarch of Norway on this May 17, 2015.

Host: So you helped make the Eidsvoll event happen? Well, it may not have turned out quite the way you meant. But Norway thanks you just the same. And you, Carl the Second?

Carl II: I wasn’t king of Norway for long, barely three and a half years, but my rein did begin in 1814. The agreement creating the union between Sweden and Norway was signed on November 4, 1814. That’s why my adopted son Karl Johan, who succeeded me to the throne, wanted that date to be celebrated in Norway, not May 17.

Host: So each of these monarchs did in fact wear the Norwegian crown for a portion of 1814. That, folks, concludes today’s episode of The King Connection. Hurra for Syttende Mai and the 1814 King Connection!

This article originally appeared in the May 8, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.