King Harald V of Norway vowed to remain unmarried for life unless he could marry his true love, the daughter of a cloth merchant – She became the Queen of Norway


The course of true love never did run smooth.

– William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” | Act 1, Scene 1

They say that true love knows no bounds and that it always wins. There is no reason why two people who truly love each other should not be together. There are no rules when it comes to love, and you can easily fall in love with anyone.

The story of King Harald V of Norway and Queen Sonja proves that the course of true love never did run smooth. The couple had to keep their relationship secret, as the then-crown prince’s father could not accept the fact that his son wanted to marry a commoner. However, Harald had eyes only for Sonja and decided to follow his heart.

For as long as monarchies have existed, they have had an unwritten rule that required the monarch and his heirs to marry a spouse from a royal or noble family.

In the past, this practice was mostly done as strategic diplomacy for national interests. In most cases, royals used marriages to strengthen the power or influence of their royal house by making strategic alliances; personal feelings and preferences weren’t taken into consideration.

In the last century, this attitude started to change as more and more monarchs decided to marry for love regardless of their partner’s status. Despite the prevailing royal preference, some of the world’s current kings and queens decided to marry a commoner.

A young Mary, Queen of Scots and her husband, Francis II of France shortly after his coronation
A young Mary, Queen of Scots and her husband, Francis II of France shortly after his coronation

One commoner who married into the current generation of rulers is Sonja Haraldsen. She is married to King Harald V, making her the current Queen of Norway.

Her road to becoming a queen wasn’t easy at all, though. She had to fight for acceptance from the Norwegian royal house.

Sonja was born on July 4, 1937, in Oslo, Norway. She was the daughter of clothing merchant Karl August Haraldsen.

She received a diploma in dressmaking and tailoring at the Oslo Vocational School and later, an undergraduate degree in French, English, and Art History from the University of Oslo.

Queen Sonja of Norway. Photo Credit
Queen Sonja of Norway. Photo Credit

The then-prince Harald met Sonja at a party in 1959. It was love at first sight when they saw each other but unfortunately, their relationship was forbidden. It was unacceptable for a commoner to marry the future king.

Prince Harald’s father, King Olav V, tried for years to persuade his son to marry a lady of royal birth.

He didn’t have any personal grudge against Sonja but he was afraid that if his son married a commoner it would have a negative impact on the young Norwegian monarchy. Prince Harald didn’t listen to his father, though, and stayed firmly committed to Sonja.

Prince Harald in 1955
Prince Harald in 1955.

He was determined to marry Sonja, and he made it clear to his father that he would remain unmarried for life unless he could marry her. If Harald stayed a bachelor then the rule of his family would end, as he was the sole heir to the throne.

After nine years, Prince Harald of Norway obtained his father’s approval and he married Sonja on August 29, 1968, in Oslo. Sonja became the Princess of Norway.

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When Olav V died in 1991, they became King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Together they traveled throughout Norway and internationally to establish themselves as monarchs. They deepened their commitment to their country, living according to Harald’s motto “Alt for Norge,” or “All for Norway.”