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A Modern Day Fairy Tale – The Love that Turned a Commoner into Queen of Norway

Magda Origjanska

Love stories crowned with a morganatic marriage (a marriage between a noble and a low-ranked commoner) have always been of great interest whether told in fiction tales in books and films or presented as real-life stories by the media.

The continuous popularity of these type of stories owes to the well-known, though unwritten, rule that monarchies and their royal members and successors must marry a spouse from a noble family.

In the past, this rule was unanimously respected on behalf of the maintenance of the strength and security of the monarchies. In short, royal marriages were like strategic alliances that protected national interests. One’s ambitions of an emotional nature were not taken into account as they were considered secondary in the marital unit.

Queen Elizabeth’s Formal Consent To Royal Wedding (Photo by Clive Gee/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth’s Formal Consent To Royal Wedding (Photo by Clive Gee/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

However, today’s monarchies rarely comply with these ancient rules and many of them decide to step into marriage with the person they’re in love with. Despite the royal proclivity, several of the current kings and queens around the world have married a commoner.

One such famous example is the marriage between King Harald V of Norway and Sonja Haraldsen, the daughter of a cloth merchant, now the Queen of Norway. Many may wonder what it takes to become a queen from scratch, so here is the story of Sonja, “the red-blooded” Queen of Norway.

King Harald V in 2013 Author:Sámediggi Sametinget – H.M. Kong HaraldCC BY-SA 2.0

King Harald V in 2013 Author:Sámediggi Sametinget – H.M. Kong Harald
CC BY-SA 2.0

According to the “Apricity”, Sonja was born on 4 July 1937, at the Red Cross Clinic in Oslo, Norway. Her father’s name was Karl August Haraldsen, a clothing merchant and her mother’s name Dagny Ulrichsen.

Sonja has three siblings Gry, Haakon and Karl. She was educated in Oslo where she received a diploma in dressmaking and tailoring at the Oslo Vocational School, and, soon after, an undergraduate degree in French, English and Art History from the University of Oslo.

Prince Harald-as-a-child

Prince Harald-as-a-child

Her husband, on the other hand, was born on 21 February 1937 in the Skaugum residence of the royal family of Prince Olav (later King) and Princess Märtha of Sweden. Harald had two sisters, Princess Ragnhild, and Princess Astrid.

During the second world war, his mother fled with him and his sisters to Sweden before moving to Washington D.C. At first glance, these two life paths seem as if they would have never merged, however, destiny had something else in mind for both Sonja and Harald.

Prince Harald in 1955

Prince Harald in 1955

In 1959, Prince Harald of Norway met Sonja at a party. It was love at first sight but it seemed as if it could never come true as their relationship was forbidden. Love between a commoner and a future king was an unprecedented act.

King Olav V of Norway, Harold’s father, was highly aware of his son’s love for Sonja but as a man of royal duty and tradition, he insisted on his son marrying a lady of “blue blood”. The reason? A marriage to a commoner was likely to result in unwanted repercussions in the Norwegian monarchy.

Royal wedding photograph, 1968. Photo by Glorvigen, Bjørn CC BY 3.0

Royal wedding photograph, 1968. Photo by Glorvigen, Bjørn CC BY 3.0

Prince Harald couldn’t imagine his life without his beloved. He was determined to marry Sonja and, therefore, he told his father that he would either remain an eternal bachelor or he would marry the woman he truly loves.

Queen Sonja of Norway. Photo: I, JarvinCC BY-SA 3.0

Queen Sonja of Norway. Photo: I, Jarvin
CC BY-SA 3.0

His father knew that Harald’s preference was a threat to the monarchy of Norway, as he was the sole heir to the throne and, therefore, had he not accepted his son’s wish, the rule of their family would have ended.

It took almost a decade before the relationship between Sonja and Harald was publicly revealed, as well as their engagement announcement. Contrary to expectations, the Norwegian people didn’t oppose the idea of having a commoner queen.

Princess Märtha Louise of Norway (born 22 September 1971) is the only daughter and elder child of King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Author: Frankie FouganthinCC BY-SA 3.0

Princess Märtha Louise of Norway (born 22 September 1971) is the only daughter and elder child of King Harald V and Queen Sonja. Author: Frankie Fouganthin
CC BY-SA 3.0

According to RoyaI.co.uk, in March 1968, the Royal Court of Norway announced the permission of marriage given by King Olav to his son.

The wedding day was on 29 August 1968 at Oslo Cathedral. Of course, the public eye was focused on Sonja, so it didn’t take long before she became as popular as any celebrity.

Three years later, the couple had their first child, Princess Märtha Louise who then got a baby brother Crown Prince Haakon just two years later.

Read another story from us: Titanic’s Greatest Love Story – The Elderly Couple who Refused to be Parted

The marriage of Sonja and Harald might have been out of the ordinary and has challenged royal tradition, nevertheless, it was a unity of love and happiness that in 2018 celebrated its 50th wedding anniversary.

Today, Queen Sonja and King Harald are grandparents of six grandchildren.