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Norwegian Royal Standard

Last modified: 2003-04-05 by sean mckinniss
Keywords: norway | lion: with axe (yellow) | axe | haakon vii (of norway) | oscar ii (of sweden and norway) |
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Royal Standard of Norway Royal standard; by Zeljko Heimer, based on Album 2000 [pay00]

Royal Standard of Norway Standard of the Crown Prince; by Zeljko Heimer, based on Album 2000 [pay00]

Royal Standard of Norway Royal Masthead Pennant; by Zeljko Heimer

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Description of the Royal Standard

A yellow crowned lion rampant holding a white and yellow axe on a red field. The standard was introduced in 1905 when King Haakon VII became king of Norway. The lion in the Royal standard is different from the one in the national coat of arms – where the lion is kept in a more flat style. The standard of the Crown Prince is the Royal standard with 'an obtuse swallow-tail'. The proportion of the Royal standard is 5:7.

Jan Oskar Engene, 23 November 1995

History of the Royal Standard

The specification for the lion on the Royal standard has never been changed. The 1905 version is still in use. However, the lion on the Norwegian coat of arms changed from the 1905 version in 1937, and the result is two very diverging drawings. In the 1937 coat of arms the lion's paws and claws are almost those of a bird. The whole drawing is strictly flat or 'stylized'. This redrawing was the work of state archivist Hallvard Trætteberg – his ideas about heraldry strongly influenced public heraldry since the early 1930s (see for instance the county flags). There have been minor changes to the lion in the coat of arms – most recently in 1994. So, a picture of the Royal standard with the coat of arms lion is wrong.

The Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs produced some very attractive brochures on the flag and arms last year – also mainly in Norwegian but with nice pictures. If you want them, the address to contact is:

Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Postboks 8114 Dep, 0032 Oslo
Phone + 47 22 34 36 00 Fax + 47 22 34 95 80 (No e-mail yet)

You could also try the Norwegian embassy in your country.

Jan Oskar Engene, 24 November 1995

There are just two flags for the Royal family. One for the King and one for the Crown Prince (or, because the constitution has now been changed, the Crown Princess). The flag of the King is a banner of the arms of Norway, though in a more old fashioned artistic style compared with the official version of the arms of Norway. It was introduced by Cabinet Decision of 15 November 1905. The flag of the Crown Prince is the same banner of the arms of Norway except that the field is swallowtailed. It was introduced by Royal Resolution of 26 December 1924. The flag of the King is also used by the Queen, and the Crown Prince's flag by the Crown Princess. No flags for the rest of the royal family.

Jan Oskar Engene, 5 May 1997

The Danish and Swedish Royal flags are much older than the Norwegian royal flag which dates from 1905. When Norway and Sweden was united under the same king, the Royal flag was based on the same pattern: War ensign (Swedish or Norwegian version depending on the country) with union mark in the canton and with the 'union' arms in the white field in the centre of the cross. When Prince Carl of Denmark accepted the offer of the throne of Norway he decided that the Royal flag would be a banner of the arms of Norway. I can only speculate as to the reason for this. One could be a break with the past, that is a break with the established Swedish-Norwegian pattern. A second reason could be that an attempt was made to connect with the golden age of Norwegian history. The arms of Norway, on a field of red a gold crowned lion rampant holding an axe, is known from about 1280, and it is likely that it was used as a banner by the kings of Norway.

When you read accounts of the 1905 events, you can sometimes see the Royal flag described as the 'ancient banner of the kings of Norway', suggesting the rebirth of the nation.

As there was no former Norwegian royal family to offer the throne to, it was initially offered to a prince of the House of Bernadotte, that is a Swedish prince. However, the old king, Oscar II, was so offended by the actions of the Norwegians that he declined the offer (much to the relief of the Norwegians).

When it was clear that the king of Sweden turned down the offer, the offer was given to a grandson of the king of Denmark, Prince Carl. He was married to Princess Maud, daughter of the King of England etc., which was very convenient for the Norwegian government as it wanted a favourable attitude from the British. Prince Carl accepted the offer but insisted on a referendum because he didn't want to become king unless the people wanted him. On announcing his final decision he took the name Haakon VII as king of Norway (his two year old son Alexander was given the name Olav, he became king Olav V).

One interesting fact about the dissolution of the union is that the king, Oscar II, was so offended by the behaviour of the Norwegians that he demanded that the Royal standard from the royal palace in Oslo be sent to him in Stockholm. This flag is still kept in the library at the royal palace in Stockholm.

The Norwegian flag (civil flag/ensign) was originally adopted in 1821 and remained unchanged except for the union mark in the canton. The union mark was introduced in 1844, but removed from the state flag and ensign in 1898 and from the war flag and ensign in 1905. Sweden removed the union mark de facto in 1905 and de jure in 1906.

The arms of Norway remained the same throughout the unions with Denmark and Sweden, and did not change with the dissolution of the union with Sweden. In 1905, a banner of the arms was made the Royal flag. Of course, the union arms of Norway and Sweden lapsed with the dissolution of the union.

Jan Oskar Engene, 24 and 26 April 1998

Titles for the Members of the Royal Family

The constitution prohibits the granting of noble titles, but the king may decided the titles of members of the royal family.

According to Article 34 of the Constitution "The King shall make provisions concerning titles for those who are entitled to succeed to the Crown."

Jan Oskar Engene, 14 August 2002