In Honor of King Oscar II of Norway
by Jørn K. Baltzersen
by Jørn K. Baltzersen
Those powers which the Constitution grants the King of Norway to empower him to promote the well-being of the land according to his conviction are not greater than that they should be preserved in the hands of the regal power, such that no practice against constitutional principles is established, which according to article 112 of the Constitution cannot even be brought about with a constitutional amendment. One of the principal principles of the Constitution — the most important — is that Norway is a constitutional monarchy. This principle cannot be unified with the King sinking to a no-will tool in the hand of the Council of State. If, however, the members of the Council of State through denial of countersignature are able to prevent each and every royal decision, the King of Norway would be without any part in state power. This situation would be as equally denigrating for the monarch as harmful for Norway herself.
After in such a manner, in violation of the Constitution, having sought to nullify a legal decision by the King of Norway, the Council of State has by resigning their offices in Parliament put the King of Norway in a position without advisors. The Parliament has accepted this violation of the Constitution and through a revolutionary act declared the legal King of Norway for having ceased to reign as well as the union between the united realms dissolved.
~ Oscar, Rosendal Palace, June 10, 1905
Two weeks ago was the centenary of the last Norwegian royal veto. 11 days after this veto the Norwegian Parliament resolved to depose Oscar II as King of Norway. After yet another 3 days King Oscar protested this resolution. Today we mark the centenary of this heroic protest.
These events came as steps towards the dissolution of the Swedish-Norwegian union. This was quite a loose union. The union consisted of a mutual King — the King was King of Sweden and King of Norway — and a common foreign policy. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs was always a Swede. The union dissolution has often been erroneously described as Norway's secession from Sweden. To say that Norway seceded from Denmark is probably much more accurate, although that claim is also debatable, since it was Frederik VI who handed over the Kingdom of Norway to the King of Sweden.
In 1905 there was a much greater cultural relationship between Denmark and Norway than between Sweden and Norway. It has been said that the history of the Danish-Norwegian union is the story of two peoples growing together and that the history of the Swedish-Norwegian union is the story of two peoples growing apart. Long time after political ties with Denmark had been cut books were generally published simultaneously in Copenhagen and Christiania. Stockholm never achieved the nickname "the King's City" as Copenhagen had. It has often been claimed that the union was doomed to dissolve. However, Professor of history Øystein Sørensen has made the counterfactual history case that the union could have lived quite a bit longer. It was Swedish Prime Minister Erik Gustaf Boström who "sealed the fate of the union" when he just after the 90th anniversary of the union late in 1904 had achieved official Swedish support for 6 terms for the organizing of Norwegian consular services. These terms were perceived as an insult, and this move from the Swedish Cabinet basically dissolved all major support of the union. From then on the divide was basically about how to dissolve the union. A caricature was made of Boström with King Harald Hairfair telling him that only two men had been able to unite Norway, "you and me."
The Swedish-Norwegian King met separately with his Swedish and Norwegian councils. There was, however, a union council for foreign policy and other matters of mutual interest. There were no representatives of the Swedish Government in Christiania before the Royal Swedish Embassy was established there right after the union dissolution. The one exception — in addition to the temporary presence of the royal family, which was theoretically at least as much a Norwegian royal family as a Swedish royal family, at times — was the Governor until 1829, whereafter the Governor was a Norwegian until the position was left vacant and finally officially abolished in 1873. In a few periods the Crown Prince held the position of viceroy of Norway. Oscar II had never held this position since he had never had the position of Crown Prince. Under the entire reign of Oscar II Crown Prince Gustaf held this position for one week only.
The Swedish-Norwegian monarch was supreme commander of the military forces of both nations, and according to the Act of Union the nations were to stick together in times of war. It would be hard to imagine two military organizations with the same supreme commander at war with each other. However, these two military organizations were completely separate save the supreme commander.
The King was crowned in both countries, basically first in Stockholm as King of Sweden and then in Trondhjem as King of Norway. Carl XIII was, however, not crowned King of Norway due to old age. Moreover, Oscar I — the father of Oscar II — refused a Norwegian coronation when his queen was refused the same unofficially, probably due to her Catholic faith.
Oscar II was the only monarch to comply with the constitutional provision to stay some time in Norway each year. Of course, new means of transportation made this easier than for his predecessors, but there can be little doubt that he tried well to be a Norwegian King as well as a Swedish King. He changed both uniform and court on the border. In 1904 he established the Order of the Norwegian Lion of which he was the Grand Master. With this order Norway got her equivalent to the Swedish Order of the Seraphim. The Order of the Norwegian Lion is known as one of the most exclusive orders in the world. It had one class; knight. 11 men were knighted in total, including the French President, German Emperor Wilhelm II, and Emperor and King Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary. Oscar II spoke Norwegian with Norwegians and when in Norway.
In 1844 the union symbol was placed in the state flag, the trade flag, and the royal banner. The royal banner also got a dual royal crest. The royal banner and the state flag remained the same until the end of the union. The trade flag, however, was amended in 1898, when the "herring salad" was removed. Sweden did not remove the "herring salad" from any flags before the end of the union.
Within the union there were several trade acts, giving duty-free trade between Sweden and Norway. The last such trade act was repealed unilaterally by Sweden in 1895 as of July 12, 1897. Protectionism was triumphing over free trade, which in Norway still was relatively dominant. It has been said that this repeal contributed to the fall of the union.
Oscar II was called the most educated of Europe's monarchs in his time. He was made honorary doctor at a number of academic institutions. He knew Latin, Italian, and other languages in addition to the two languages of his realms, which he spoke fluently. He had studied esthetics, history, philosophy, and math. He translated works of Goethe and others into Swedish. He wrote own works, including diaries, memoirs, and speeches. These works are a part of Swedish literature except those speeches held in Norway.
What really can be celebrated about the union dissolution is that the union was peacefully dissolved. Historian Øystein Sørensen has stressed several points as the reason for this. Among these was that the attitude of the royal house, including King Oscar II and Crown Prince Gustaf, contributed largely to the peaceful solution. Upon the opening of the Swedish Parliament on June 21, 1905 King Oscar II spoke before Parliament:
How vital for the security of the Scandinavian peoples the union is it is not worth the sacrifices actions of force would bring […]
Another factor preventing war, and which is interesting in a wider European perspective, is that the European powers did not want war. This goes for Kaiser Wilhelm II as well. The claim that the German Kaiser was just looking for a conflict to happen comes in a different light. This was just 9 years before World War I — the war that destroyed the world of liberty. The German Emperor told Oscar that he had sympathy for him — which he showed by visiting Oscar II instead of Norway that year, as was usual — but that he wanted no war. At a peace conference in The Hague in 1907, just shortly before his death, King Oscar II was hailed as a king of peace.
The union dissolution went hand in hand with the rise of democracy and popular sovereignty. Not only did the events bring democracy forward in Norway, but seeds were also sown for parliamentarism in Sweden. The Swedish Parliament very much took control during the union crisis, and the Cabinet was a parliamentary Cabinet.
There is little doubt that the dissolution of the union was the main issue for the Norwegian political leaders in 1905. However, considering the fact that nationalism and the fight for democracy in Norway went hand in hand, it is near obvious that pro-democracy activism played a role. This role is probably underemphasized in most historical accounts. On May 27, 1905 the leader of the Norwegian Cabinet, His Excellency Prime Minister Jørgen Løvland, and the two other members of the Stockholm Cabinet delegation met at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. The issue at stake was the Consular Services Bill, which had been passed by both chambers of the Norwegian Parliament, and royal sanction of this bill. As the royal position was that the consular issue was to be resolved through negotiations between Norway and Sweden, His Majesty denied sanction. Such a denial needed a countersignature. The Cabinet thereupon handed in a pre-written resignation with an assertion that Oscar II, through exercising "personal power," acted "unconstitutionally." His Majesty would not accept the resignation as no other Cabinet "now" could be formed.
Historians believe that Prime Minister Christian Michelsen, the head of the Cabinet, wished the bill to be sanctioned. However, when the denial was there, he used this denial for all it was worth. When the Parliament met on June 7, King Oscar II was "deposed" for an act he had done as King of Norway. The Parliament simply declared that Oscar II had ceased to function as King of Norway because he could not supply the country with a Cabinet. This was his constitutional duty. His Majesty's statement on his not accepting the resignation, put in writing, was cited with the removal of the word "now." As a consequence of Oscar II no longer being Norwegian King the union was dissolved and the Constitution amended as an outcome of this dissolution. If this is not usurpation, what is?
Historians generally believe this act to be dubious at best. Historian Dr. Nils Ivar Agøy has said that he has seen only one attempt at judicially defending the act, and from what I can see from this "defense" it is very dubious indeed. The fact is that we had a constitutional arrangement with a Parliament with quite extensive powers, but still not absolute. What it did was to take the powers vested in the King and usurp those for itself. It "appointed" a Cabinet "vested" with those powers which according to the Constitution were vested in the King.
The issue of oaths made to the King and the Constitution is here quite interesting. Agøy has made an excellent account of the oath issue for Norwegian officers. The oaths to His Majesty and to the Constitution have been treated quite opportunistically. There was a theory that the constitutional oath lasted only as long as the Constitution was relevant. Once the Constitution was outdated the constitutional oath was invalid. Another theory was that since Oscar II had "ceased to govern" or "deposed himself" through the "effective abdication" in the Cabinet meeting on May 27, the oath to him was no longer valid. It is important to note that military officers had an oath of their own not made by other officials. At the end of the union with Sweden this arrangement had somewhat changed, but for most officers this was irrelevant since they had made their oaths prior to the latest changes. Moreover, a dubious case was made that since one had made an oath to the Constitution one had to support the parliamentary act, since the Parliament was standing up for the Constitution. In the end the officers chose not to defend the Constitution and the King to which they had sworn loyalty. Instead they chose the "fatherland."
Immediately after the usurpation of June 7 the most senior officers were summoned by the usurpers to resolve the issue of the oath to King Oscar. An ultimatum was made. The officers were told if they stuck to their oaths they would be relieved of duty with no pension whatsoever. Among those officers summoned there was a minority of officers prone to be loyal to King Oscar, even though among all those officers eligible to be present such loyal officers were in majority. One wonders whether this was a coincidence.
Agøy gives in the said account a short reflection of royal prerogatives. He says that the power of the royal office has been underestimated in post-1884 Norwegian history, i.e., after the impeachment trial to end liberty in Norway. After 1884 there were quite often cases where the Cabinet had to threaten to resign in order to have its way. Oscar also rejected certain single candidates for his Cabinet. Moreover, in the early 1890s there were plans to establish a completely non-parliamentary Cabinet. Especially in military council cases King Oscar II personally involved himself because he saw his military role as particularly important. He was supreme commander of the forces, a role he had "unchecked," i.e., no countersignature was required. Involving himself in council cases relevant for his role as commander is not surprising. Agøy tells us that Michelsen and his fellow usurpers showed no respect for King Oscar's independent role as commander, a role which he needed no Cabinet to exercise.
Norway and Sweden have a peculiar phenomenon called "power research projects." These are government projects initiated at the top political level to research on who has power in society. These projects are a long story. The last Norwegian "power research project" — the second one — finished in 2003, after a five-year research period. What is especially interesting for the rise of democracy is that a survey was published within this project on national symbols in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. A quite disturbing feature of this survey is that the top Norwegian national symbol was Parliament, a position which the Swedish Parliament does not have.
The status the Norwegian Parliament has as top national symbol is tightly connected to the Norwegian Parliament's role in the fight against the royal office and Sweden. The consular services issue was what brought the union down. It is quite obvious that Norway, a shipping nation, and Sweden, a manufacturing nation, would have different interests to pursue through consular services. There were Norwegian consuls, and generally Norwegians could make careers in the Swedish-Norwegian foreign service. Historian Francis Sejersted has raised doubts that the consular services were very important for Norway. It was the principle of Swedish superiority — in practice at least — over the consulates that was unsatisfactory. I must say I have sympathy for the need to take care of Norwegian interests. However, the struggle to bring the foreign office under "constitutional control" is something I would have serious reservations about.
King Oscar II did not formally recognize parliamentarism. In the year the conflict between King and Parliament was at the top, 1884, Oscar heroically declared his prerogatives to be intact while still giving in. He wrote about this in his memoirs in 1894:
This protest has never been recalled; it still stands today […] Neither will it be recalled, to the contrary, God willing, once in the future it will be brought up again […]
To begin with he heroically hesitated to comply with the impeachment trial against his Cabinet. However, Oscar II and Prime Minister Selmer could not continue the fight alone; a couple His Majesty compared to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Oscar felt abandoned by his Council and betrayed by the Supreme Court, which had given legitimacy to an illegitimate verdict by sitting through the "trial."
According to Stefan Gammelien the King got threats even from Norwegians who had emigrated to America:
[Y]ou will be chased off like a dog.
Another Norwegian-American threat — or shall we say a pre-Wilsonian Wilsonian private threat? — was:
Your days are numbered if you do not yield to the will of the Norwegian people.
German consul in Christiania, Ernst Bothmer, said after the first parliamentary Cabinet had been formed:
[The Kingdom of Norway has become] a worm-eaten figurehead on the ship of state, which is sailing under false flag with republican goods.
Oscar II was furious when the conservatives started using the instrument of vote of no confidence.
According to historian Agøy opposition to parliamentarism was especially present for some time among officers. Naval Captain Niels Juel said that he did not care about the sovereignty of Parliament, a principle "foreign to our Constitution."
Our constitutional fathers left the monarch as supreme military commander. Whether this was because it was vital that the chain of military command could not be blocked when in conflict with an enemy, because it was to give the royal office a means of striking down upon usurpers, or for another reason is an issue I will leave. However, when one does have a mixed government, one must concede that each part of this mixed government must be able to stop usurpations of the other part. Oscar II had the means of militarily striking down the usurpations that in fact did take place. Although such action was considered, no military action was made. We see that Oscar II was one of those monarchs, as Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn told us, who relinquished their powers with little opposition.
According to historian Roy Andersen just prior to the June 7 revolutionary act Parliament was to reestablish the Eidsvold Constitution of our constitutional fathers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although an independent nation, as our original Constitution asserted, did rise, the system established in 1814 was basically gone as of the June 7 revolutionary act and the following dissolution.
Historian Ole Kristian Grimnes has told us:
It is generally said that parliamentarism was established in Norway in 1884, but that's only partly true. If we with parliamentarism denote that the executive power is to act as the legislature's lengthened arm, the executive power in Norway could not do this as long as the King acted politically, and he did so even until 1905. It was not before the emasculation of the royal power that came with the union dissolution parliamentarism could function without interruption, with the King as a unifying symbol, but without political power.
We know that there has been a strong tradition of "nation-building history writing." Textbooks promoting hatred against Swedes were in common use. One could wonder whether anti-Swede indoctrination through schools was a major factor in the monolithic, almost unanimous sentiment against the union.
The revolutionary act of June 7 was a manifestation of the dangerous principle of popular sovereignty, but something perhaps even worse was yet to occur. Due to Swedish pressure a referendum — the first referendum in Nordic history — on the revolutionary act was held on August 13, 1905. There were 184 nays and 368,208 yeas to the "union dissolution that had taken place." That's 99.95% yea. The Austrian Anschluß was passed in a referendum with 99.75%. Historian Øystein Sørensen has said of the referendum:
The climate around [the referendum] was such that one, putting it mildly, had to be tough to vote nay to the Parliament's act of June 7. The result was so overwhelming that it strongly resembles countries with which one rather would not be compared.
This overwhelming result has been used as a legitimatization of the revolutionary act. The very small minority is almost always referred to when doing so. However, if one believed that the union actually was not dissolved, one could not vote at all because voting would be a concession that a union dissolution, and hence a king deposal, had taken place. Moreover, given the immense pressure towards voting and voting "the only right thing" it would be quite pointless to vote in such a farce and a joke of a "referendum." Historians should start considering those who did not vote more seriously.
On March 3, 1905 Aftenposten was victim to a demonstration for belonging to the "wrong" side on the union issue. Windows were broken.
Hans Thøger Winther was a teacher in Drammen. After having written an anonymous letter to the editor in a Swedish newspaper he was revealed and had to flee to Sweden. After he and his wife had left Drammen a mob showed up outside his house, for the second time. This time the mob was fiercer than before and threw rocks at the windows of his house. Winther had in the letter been claiming the referendum to be "pure comedy." According to Winther a terrorist oppression of all opposition was going on. The Cabinet, the Parliament, and the press were together on a strategy to prevent any opposition to surface in order to make the impression of a "Norway compact and in agreement." Winther also had written that he had met many in disagreement with what was taking place but did not dare come forward.
According to historian Agøy it was necessary for the Cabinet to use hard pressure and unorthodox methods in order to achieve external agreement. Clergyman Christopher Bruun, according to Agøy, asserted that quite a number of the priests of Norway had objections against the act of June 7 without the media letting these objections be brought to the public. According to Professor of theology Dag Thorkildsen Father Bruun believed what was going on at the time was similar to what happened in the 1880s around the fight over parliamentarism in the sense that it was about "making wrong right." Bruun had on Pentecost Sunday read the proclamation from the usurpers before the parish, but he said clearly that it was heavy-hearted. He had called a bible lesson for June 14. The Cabinet ordered his church closed, and the order was effectuated by the police. Again according to Thorkildsen the theologian Jens Gleditsch pointed out that if the June 7 act had come 30 years earlier the priests would not have recognized it and resigned their offices.
There are several examples of police being called in for protecting people from mobs. Protective custody was even used. At the polls symbolism made it very clear what was the "right" choice. People who did not vote were publicly harassed for not voting. There is at least one story of a unionist voting nay and putting his name on the envelope containing the vote so it would be rejected.
Some time ago I heard a story of what was perhaps the first opinion poll. It was conducted in Christiania, and it showed that it would be entirely risk-free to run a referendum on the union. Later I heard that this was from one of the novels of Swedish novelist Jan Guillou. Thus, I dismissed the story as fiction. However, somewhat later I learned that letters actually were written to His Majesty claiming that the Parliament was a radical body unrepresentative in this issue. Also, King Oscar II is said to have believed that the referendum could have gone his way.
The unanimity of the act of Parliament to "depose" the King has probably made its share to the mess. Professor Francis Hagerup — who had been relieved as head of the Norwegian Cabinet by Christian Michelsen — was an exceptional politician. He had always believed that negotiations were the way of solving the union problems. That's why he was relieved. If the negotiation platform were to be abandoned, a platform he felt bound by from the last election campaign, he had to bring the issue anew to the voters. He, moreover, believed that everything had to be done in a completely judicially untouchable manner. I have no doubt that he stood up for this in the secret meetings prior to the open meeting on June 7. It is sad to see the treason demonstrated by his not standing up in the final hour. One could argue that in such a national issue sticking together is the right thing to do. However, it is a dubious claim that this was a national crisis demanding everyone to stick together for survival. It was far from being such a national crisis. Also, more importantly, something much more fundamental was at stake, namely our constitutional order. This constitutional order was severely damaged by this dangerous precedent. Choosing treason against that order, upon which the founding of Hagerup's party initially was based, over treason against the "fatherland" and a nationalism which went hand in hand with the perilous concept of absolute parliamentary or popular sovereignty is no noble act.
The revolutionary act of June 7 followed by a political climate with no allowed opposition, a near unanimous referendum, women's signatures for the union dissolution, and democrats negotiating with Danish Prince Carl to become King of Norway has clearly contributed largely to bring about a constitutional order where the Parliament is the arbiter of what the Constitution is. The Parliament on June 7 no doubt usurped such a role. It is argued that this was emergency law, but that is a very dubious claim. If this case was emergency law, what later cases of conflict between King and democratically elected politicians would not "justify" "deposing" the monarch? We saw just some 6 years later — in 1911 — a unanimously passed constitutional amendment clarifying that all decisions of the King in Council needed a countersignature in order to be valid. Moreover, the military command was made subject to countersignature. One wonders if not the events of 1905 contributed considerably to this unanimity. It seems a linkage of nationalism or "love of the fatherland" and democracy, which the democracy movement tried to impose for a long time and with which it had succeeded only partly, completely triumphed in 1905. The concept that emerged is, in the words of the present-day Swedish Constitution, that "the source of all public power is the people."
We can say Oscar II was our last old order monarch. This is not to say he represented the ancien régime, which went in 1814. Moreover, he was the grandson of Carl Johan Bernadotte — born Jean-Baptiste — a son of the French Revolution, the cradle of modern democracy, and — like Napoleon — a usurper and parvenu. In that sense his successor as King of Norway, Haakon VII, who belonged to the House of Glücksborg, was more of the old order. However, Oscar II was a monarch who wanted to rule and who did rule. He did not believe in the concept of parliamentary or popular sovereignty. He did not accept a role for the monarch as a no-will tool in the hand of the Council of State, or worse — according to biographer Langslet — in the hand of Parliament. Moreover, his sympathies were generally with the political right. He stuck together with German Emperor Wilhelm II. He no doubt tastes a bit as a Hoppean monarch.
King Oscar II has his face portrayed on sardine boxes far outside the borders of Scandinavia. In 1902 a Norwegian company got His Majesty's permission to produce with the King's name and portrait. At first thought such a permission reminds one of old mercantilism under which industrial privileges were handed out. However, the permission to produce King Oscar sardines is actually a symbol of the end of mercantilism and of the freedom of enterprise, as it is the King's name and portrait only that requires royal permission.
Our Constitution has even had a protection of the freedom of enterprise since 1814, such that new and lasting infringements of the freedom of enterprise could not be established. However, this provision is only seen to forbid lasting privileges to private parties. It has no effect against government monopolies or granting money games rights to charitable organizations only. Just after the union dissolution we got lots of concession legislation, requiring government grants for hydro-electric power plants, with provisions for a no compensation "return" of the plants to the government after a certain number of years. These days this concession legislation is being revised and one hears arguments that "we" can't give away "our" resources as we do not know what these resources would be worth in 60 years. Let's "rent" it out instead, the argument goes. To this level that debate has fallen! As if the government is not powerful enough without this government capitalism, which sadly also is a concept doing its harm in the oil industry, to name the most important sector, and to name where it is least challenged.
Property rights were much more secure in most of the 19th century than what they are now. Up until the end of 19th century redistribution was considered outside the scope of the state. Since then democracy and popular sovereignty has given rise to a far-reaching big-size state. Socialism came to haunt us.
King Oscar was no absolute monarch, although with the abuse of political terms that we are haunted by, he very well might be erroneously described as one. Oscar II was a part of a regime that was supposed to be limited after monarchical absolutism had been allowed to blossom. Our mixed government of the 19th century was born in 1814, got a serious blow in 1884, and it basically got its final blow in 1905. What Bertrand de Jouvenel and On Power told us basically describes what happened:
[Authoritarianism] could, no doubt, have been avoided if there had been a stable, vigorous, and unified executive to which the legislature acted merely as limitary principle. But in fact, as we have seen, the contrary happened: the legislature made itself the ruling sovereign.
The history of Norway from 1814 until 1905 is all too often told as a story of democratic progress. A deep and complete review of our history in the "democracy is not liberty" and the "freedom of the nation is not individual liberty" perspectives, along similar lines as Lecky's Democracy and Liberty, de Jouvenel's On Power, and von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's Leftism Revisited, is very much needed. The Hoppean monarchy and democracy analysis is needed too. Furthermore, we would certainly need a politically incorrect guide to Norwegian history in the spirit of Professor Woods' Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.
The usurper Prime Minister Løvland, who initiated the process of "deposal" of King Oscar II, was Norway's first Secretary of Foreign Affairs and his motto was that our foreign policy was to have no foreign policy at all. Moreover, he was chairman — from 1901 until the year before his death in 1922 — of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for naming the Nobel Peace Laureate. He had himself been contributing to a relatively peaceful process towards democracy in Norway. He was thus a member of a gang of small criminals. Petty criminals often look up to large criminals, as we were to see was the case here also. The Norwegian Nobel Committee named Woodrow Wilson Nobel Laureate for the year 1919. Wilson had prolonged a war in order to "make the world safe for democracy" and to "end all wars." The Norwegian process had been relatively peaceful. The member of said committee had seen that such was possible. Praising fellow democrats is a vice that one could expect from democrats. However, with the relatively peaceful Norwegian experience Norwegian democrats should have known better than to celebrate this warmonger and his warring democratic crusade.
June 7 is fortunately no public holiday. It is merely a public flag day. I would say it is my least favorite public flag day. There is absolutely no reason to celebrate this revolutionary act in any way. The thought of wearing a black suit with a white shirt and black neck tie has crossed my mind. So has flying a flag on half staff. When I'm not seriously considering it, that's because June 7, 1945 was the day on which King Haakon VII returned to Norway after having led the resistance from abroad during 5 years of German occupation. Perhaps one should fly the "herring salad" on June 7?
The day October 26 is recognized as the union dissolution day in Norway and that October 26 thus becomes public flag day instead of June 7 should be warmly welcomed. That the union was dissolved without war is certainly something that should be celebrated, and the relatively peaceful character of the end of the union should serve as a guiding light for future conflicts. Save the relative peacefulness, however, I can see no reason whatsoever to celebrate the manner in which the union was dissolved.
You might say that I'm with those who in 1905 wanted dissolution, but who were sorry for the way in which it was done. The fact still remains, though, that the union and our Bernadottes represent a period with relatively limited government prior to mass democracy. Just two days ago a two-volume work on Swedish and Norwegian history in the period from 1814 until 2005 was released. I have not yet had time to have a look at it, but the title of volume 1, covering 1814—1905, is "union and democracy," and the title of volume 2, covering the last hundred years is "social democracy." None of these titles sound very well. However, when one considers that democracy only seriously blossomed in the last part of the period, there is no doubt which period is preferable. The words of Henrik Ibsen are truer today than in his days:
Norway is a free country inhabited by unfree people.
Of course, the union itself is not the point. The union nevertheless provided an argument for an absolute veto for constitutional amendments, and otherwise a strong royal office. The mixed government arrangement provided would logically do, but having supplemental arguments would absolutely be helpful. We must also keep in mind that the Swedish-Norwegian was a very loose union. Any serious study of Swedish-Norwegian relations would show that integration — or perhaps more correctly, harmonization — in most ways has been at a greater level after the dissolution of the union. For instance, Norway and Sweden had provider state cooperation after the dissolution. The European Union provides large unit rule far overreaching that very loosely connected union of Sweden-Norway.
Or maybe one could eat Veal Oscar? Oscar's at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan claims the dish to be named after Oscar Tschirky of the Waldorf. Still, variants of the dish are made so as to feature the monogram of Oscar II.
A wine from Liechtenstein, specifically from the wineries of the Prince of Liechtenstein, would certainly go well to any such dish. What an excellent celebration of non-democratic monarchy wouldn't that be?
For a more intellectual celebration reading the memoirs of Oscar II, some of his diaries or other literature from his hands would be quite appropriate. Proficiency in the Swedish language — sometimes in the Norwegian language, which is quite similar — is required though.
One could have a party on board Oscar II. One could go to Marstrand in Sweden and take one's hat off to the bust of Oscar II there. Or one could go to King Oscar's Chapel in Grense Jakobselv in Finnmark. Another option is to go to one of the many places in the mountains in Norway were King Oscar II left his mark.
Today, exactly one hundred years since June 10, 1905 we raise our glasses to the memory of the old European order and to the memory of the Grand Master of the Order of the Norwegian Lion. These memories shine gloriously.
June 10, 2005
Jørn K. Baltzersen [send him mail] is a senior consultant of information technology in Oslo, Norway.
Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com