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25th October, 2005

BLUE PLAQUE FOR KING HAAKON VII OF NORWAY

Tuesday 13:10

As part of this year's 100th anniversary celebrations of Norway's independence from Sweden in 1905, King Haakon VII of Norway (1872-1957), first King of Norway following its independence, will be commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque on Thursday 27 October at 10.30am at the Residence of the Norwegian Ambassador, 10 Palace Green, London W8.

The blue plaque will be unveiled by Princess Astrid of Norway in the presence of King Harald V of Norway (grandson of King Haakon and second cousin of Her Majesty The Queen), his wife, Queen Sonja of Norway, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will also be attending the ceremony at which a statue of King Haakon's wife, Queen Maud, will be unveiled by King Harald V of Norway. Queen Maud was formerly the British Princess Maud, daughter of Edward VII and grand-daughter of Queen Victoria.

King Haakon became a potent symbol for Norwegian nationalism when he led the government-in-exile from 10 Palace Green in London during the Second World War.

King Haakon is the second Norwegian to be commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque. The composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was also honoured in September 2004. Other European royalty to have been commemorated with blue plaques include Charles X (1757-1836), last Bourbon King of France, and Napoleon III (1808-73), Emperor of the French, who is honoured with the earliest surviving blue plaque, erected by the Society of Arts in 1867.

Haakon was born Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel, the second son of King Frederik VIII and Queen Louise of Denmark and was known as Prince Carl of Denmark. He joined the Danish Navy at the age of 14 and was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant in 1893. In 1896 he married his first cousin, Princess Maud, daughter of King Edward VII and his wife, HRH Princess Alexandra of Denmark. After marriage, Carl continued to serve as a naval officer, dividing his time between England and Denmark and the couple had a son in 1903, Prince Alexander, later King Olav V of Norway.

In 1905, Carl was invited to become constitutional monarch of a newly-independent Norway and became King Haakon VII, taking his name from the medieval Norwegian rulers. His accession was confirmed, at his own insistence, by a national vote. Haakon's reign saw Norway's rapid economic expansion although the world slump in the 1930s saw unemployment reach 33%.

The German invasion of Norway in April 1940 brought Haakon into greater personal prominence. He escaped capture, arriving in London early in June 1940 and resided at Buckingham Palace until the first heavy air raid on the capital in September. He then moved to Bowdown House in Berkshire and, two years later, to Foliejohn Park in Windsor Great Park. It was at the Norwegian Legation at 10 Palace Green, Kensington, that Haakon met with his ministers, held weekly cabinet meetings and listened to reports of conditions back home from Norwegian refugees. It was also here that Haakon worked on speeches broadcast regularly by the BBC, aimed at bolstering the spirits of his subjects in Norway.

Haakon's tireless efforts on behalf of his people inspired opposition to the German occupation throughout the war, and his monogram 'H7', which was chalked up on buildings across Norway, became the symbol of the Norwegian resistance movement. Equally important was the practical contribution to the war effort made by his government-in-exile. By 1945, 25,000 Norwegians were fighting on behalf of the Allies and Norway's merchant navy provided an invaluable service carrying supplies to Britain, especially during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Following the defeat of Germany, Haakon returned to an enthusiastic reception in Norway in June 1945, and enjoyed great popularity for the rest of his reign. He presided over Norway's entry into NATO in 1949 but withdrew from public life in 1955 at the age of 82 after a bad fall. He died in September 1957 at the age of 85.

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors:

* Over the past 140 years, nearly 800 blue plaques have been erected in London, celebrating great figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived or worked. They commemorate people who stayed in the city, lived there for part of their lives, or were Londoners born and bred - figures as diverse as Sir Winston Churchill and Jimi Hendrix.

* The blue plaques scheme is being extended by English Heritage across the whole of England on a region-by-region basis, starting with the East of England and the East Midlands.

* To be eligible for a blue plaque, nominated figures must have been dead for 20 years, or have passed the centenary of their birth, whichever is earlier. Plaques can only be erected on the actual building inhabited by the nominated figure, not the site where the building once stood. Buildings marked with plaques must be visible from the public highway. To make a nomination please call English Heritage Blue Plaques team on: 020 7973 3794 or 7973 3757.

Client ref 367-09-05

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