Nordic countries
Denmark (Faroe Islands, Greenland), Finland (Åland), Iceland, Norway, Sami culture, Sweden
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Nordic history: • Vikings & Old NorseDanish EmpireSwedish EmpireMonarchies

Denmark, Norway and Sweden are constitutional monarchies. They can all be traced to the Viking Age around 1,000 AD.



The Nordic monarchs were traditionally also the heads of their respective national churches, though only the Danish monarchy retains that role today. However, all three countries still constitutionally require their monarchs to be Lutherans.



Denmark has been a continuous monarchy for 1,000 years. Denmark proper forms The Danish Kingdom (Kongeriget Danmark) together with the Faroe Islands and Greenland, a personal union under the same monarch; Frederik X as of 2024. The Danes hold their monarchy in high regard, especially since World War II in Europe as the Germans occupied Denmark, as King Christian X remained on the throne as Head of State in symbolic resistance, riding his horse through Copenhagen daily. There has been no coronation of the Danish monarch since that of King Christian VIII in 1840; Frederik X's ascension to the throne was simply proclaimed by the prime minister from the balcony of Christiansborg Palace without any pomp, which was followed by cheers from his subjects as he stepped out to greet them for the first time.


The royal family returns in 1945 after exactly five years in exile. Harald as a small prince.

Norway became a unified monarchy in AD 872. Norway was in a personal union with Denmark from 1380 until 1814, and then in a personal union with Sweden until 1905. Since then, Norway has been an independent monarchy. Harald V has been monarch since 1991. The first monarch after 1905, Haakon VII, was a Danish prince and brother of King Christian X of Denmark.

While the king is constitutionally the head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces, the executive power in practice rests with a cabinet (the council) headed by the prime minister. King Harald is a 4-star general and admiral. The most important executive decisions are made in cabinet meetings headed by the king, the King-in-Council. When a bill is by the parliament it becomes valid law when approved by the King-in-council. King-in-council is usually held every Friday at 11:00 in the Council Hall of the Royal palace. Cabinet ministers can be seen coming and going in black limousines.

The king appoints the prime minister based on an understanding of the political situation in the parliament, often after consulting the outgoing prime minister or the speaker of the parliament. According to tradition, a newly appointed cabinet appears from the palace to meet the press and greet the public. Each year the king drives the short stretch from the palace to the parliament building to open a new session of the parliament. The king delivers the speech from the throne which is the official proclamation of the cabinet's policy for the next 12 months.

The King's only real prerogatives are regarding medals, honours and orders. The King enjoys sovereign immunity and cannot be prosecuted or held legally accountable. Only a minority of voters and politicians (known as republicans) want to replace the king with an elected president. While frequently the subject of jokes and satire, the royal family is generally highly regarded for their low-key style, sound morals and symbol of unity and freedom during the second world war. King Harald's motto is the same as his father and grandfather: Alt for Norge translated as Everything (or all) for Norway. There has been no coronation ceremony in Norway since that of King Haakon VII in 1906; King Harald V only received a blessing from the Church of Norway.



Sweden was unified in the 11th century, and was an elective monarchy up to 1397, when the country became part of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway. In 1523, the Swedish riksdag elected Gustav Vasa as king; with him Sweden became a sovereign and hereditary monarchy.

Since 1973, the King of Sweden has been Carl XVI Gustaf. His motto is För Sverige - I tiden, "For Sweden, with the times", a phrase found on Swedish coins. Since 1975, the title confers no political power, and a purely ceremonial role. Succession had male priority until 1980 when it became gender-neutral with the King's eldest daughter Victoria being Crown Princess since then. The King has many non-government commitments; the most famous one is to award the Nobel Prize annually in Stockholm, as the protector of the Nobel Foundation.

Sweden has eleven Royal Palaces (kungliga slott), most of them open to the public.

Like most other surviving European monarchies, Sweden no longer holds coronations for its monarch; its last coronation was held for King Oscar II in 1873. King Carl XVI Gustaf merely took his oath of office before the cabinet, which was followed by a simple enthronement ceremony in the Royal Palace of Stockholm, where the royal regalia were displayed but not worn.



Finland was part of the Swedish Kingdom from the Middle Ages until 1809 (see Swedish Empire) and then a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire, with the Russian Czar as the Head of State. At independence 1917, Finland declared itself a republic. However, after the civil war, before the new constitution went into effect, a king was elected by what was left of the parliament; he never took office. A compromise was reached, where the president got far-reaching powers and a palace that could have been a king's. Most of the powers were removed in the 1980s and 1990s.



Iceland has had a parliamentary government since it was settled in the Viking Age. It was a subject of the Kingdom of Denmark, and became a republic when it gained independence in 1944.


Map of Nordic monarchies

The Nordic monarchies also feature royal guards and changing of the guard ceremonies akin to the ones of the British monarchy. While not as well-known as the British counterparts, they are no less spectacular, and without the crowds that come with the British versions.


  • 1 Amalienborg, Amalienborg Slotsplads (Copenhagen). Amalienborg is the Royal residence and consists of four identical classical mansions, each facing an octagonal courtyard. On the Queen's birthday (14th of January) and for other highlights in the lives of the royal family, the square is jam-packed with people waving the Danish flag and greeting the Queen. There is a museum in the Christian VIII Mansion displaying exhibitions of the period 1863-1972, and four generations of the royal family. There is changing of the guards each day at 12:00. (Marches from Rosenborg Castle barracks). The changing of the guard ceremony is most elaborate in the summer, when the Queen is in residence here, and features a full military band. At other times of the year, when the Queen resides in her other palaces, a scaled-down version of the ceremony is performed, with a scaled-down band of only flutes and drums if the Crown Prince is in residence, or with no band if neither the Queen nor the Crown Prince are in residence.    
  • 2 Roskilde Cathedral (Roskilde Domkirke). On UNESCO World Heritage List. This is where Danish kings and queens have been buried for a thousand years, 20 kings and 17 queens lay in the four chapels here. Most impressive are the temple like monuments for King Christian III and his wife. A wooden church was built here in the 10th century, the present church was built in early 13th century. Home to the Cathedral Museum.    


Stiftsgården, the Royal residence in Trondheim, is large wooden building fra 1778.
Royal guards at the palace. They carry real guns.
  • 3 Royal Palace (Slottet) (Oslo). The Palace is the residence and offices of the king, Norway's head of state. Council of State meetings are held there every Friday. When new members of cabinet have been appointed by the king they appear in the front of the palace for photo sessions and interivews. Building of the Palace began in 1824 and completed in 1849. The Palace sits within an elegant park on a small mount at the end of Oslo main street, Karl Johans gate, named after the Swedish/Norwegian king at the time. It was built just outside the city in neoclassical style, after Oslo's rapid expansion the palace is now surrounded by the city centre. Tours inside the palace are arranged in summertime, starting in June 21. Tickets for the tour must be bought in advance from a post office. If there are vacant spots in a tour, they sell the remaining tickets at the Palace to people waiting in line who don't already have tickets. Don't count on getting tickets on the spot unless you are quite ahead in the line since a lot of people buy them at the post offices. There are about 2 tours in English on weekdays. The palace is guarded by the Royal Guards, an infantry battalion of the Norwegian army easily recognized when in their fines uniforms.    
  • 4 Gamlehaugen, Gamlehaugveien 10 (about 10 minutes by car from the city centre, southbound bus lines 525, 60 over Fjøsanger, 20–24, 26, 560 and 620–630 from the bus station). Access to the park is free for all. The villa at Gamlehaugen, built to resemble a castle, was the home of Christian Michelsen, business tycoon and former prime minister who helped free Norway from the Swedish rule through the peaceful dissolution of the "union" in 1905. The villa is the royal family's residence in Bergen. There is a wide and popular park around the villa. Bathing possibilities.    
  • 5 Stiftsgaarden (Royal Palace in Trondheim). The King's residence in Trondheim. Originally built in 1778 for a wealthy citizen, later purchased by the state and used as residence for the governor and the royal family on visit on Trondheim. This is the biggest wooden mansion or palais in the Nordic countries and one of the biggest wooden buildings in the Nordic countries. The building is in the very centre of Trondheim and there are tours of the building for the public.    
  • 6 Regalia of Norway (Archbishop's Palace, Trondheim). The Norwegian royal regalia include the king's crown, the sword of the realm, the king's sceptre, the king's orb, the queen's crown, the queen's sceptre, the queen's orb, the crown of the crown prince and the anointing horn. These are on display in Archbishop's Palace next to Nidarosdomen (Trondheim cathedral) where coronations have been held since 1818. King Karl Johan of Sweden/Norway order the regalia made for his own coronation.    
  • 7 Nidaros Cathedral (Nidarosdomen). This is the biggest church of Northern Europe, the only major Gothic cathedral in Norway and the pride of the city. Nidarosdomen is Norway's national cathedral and one of only three churches owned by the state. It was erected over what was believed to be St. Olav's grave and it became a major pilgrimage site in Northern Europe. The Catholic church named Olav "Norway's eternal king" (Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae). Next door is the Archbishop's Palace, which was partly damaged by fire in the 1980s and has been heavily restored. In the middle ages, the ecclesiastical province of Nidaros (Trondheim) included all of Norway, parts of Sweden, Orkneys, Shetland, Hebrides, Man, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland.    
  • 8 Royal Mausoleum at Akershus castle (Akershus castle). The Royal Mausoleum contains two sarcophagi: King Haakon VII of Norway (1872–1957) and Queen Maud of Norway (1869–1938), née Princess Maud of Wales, and King Olav V of Norway (1903–1991) and Crown Princess Märtha of Norway (1901–1954), née Princess of Sweden. It is located within the Akershus castle compound. The mausoleum was built in 1948.    


  • 9 Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms slott) (Ekerö). The Royal family lives at Drottningholm Palace on the Lovön island in Lake Mälaren. The 18th-century palace is beautiful, and much of it is open to the public. The surroundings are well worth a walk as well.    
  • 10 Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan), Trångsund 1 (Stockholm/Gamla stan). Storkyrkan is the oldest church in Gamla stan. Built in the 13th century in the Gothic style, the exterior was remodelled in Baroque style around 1740. The church is the seat of the Church of Sweden bishop of Stockholm. It contains two pieces of famous artwork: the 15th-century wooden statue of Saint George and a copy of the oldest known image of Stockholm, Vädersolstavlan ("The Sun Dog Painting"), a 1636 copy of a lost original from 1535.    
  • 11 Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) (Stockholm/Gamla stan). Riddarholm is the ancient core of Stockholm and this is the city's oldest building - though no longer the oldest church, as it's nowadays simply a museum. Built as an abbey in the late 14th century. Fifteen Swedish monarchs are buried here, from Gustavus Adolphus (1594–1632) to Gustav V (1858–1950). One notable absence is Queen Kristina, who abdicated in 1654, converted to Catholicism, and is buried in St Peter's Church in the Vatican.    
  • 12 Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) (Stockholm/Gamla stan). At times referred to by Swedes at the "Royal Castle". Built between 1697 and 1754, dominating the north-eastern part of the Old Town, the Royal Palace is the official residence of the king of Sweden, though only used for state ceremonies, as the Royal family lives at Drottningholm in Ekerö. Entrance ticket includes The Royal Apartments, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Treasury, and Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities. Limited opening during state ceremonies. A changing of the guard takes place here daily in the summer, and usually about 3 times a week at other times of the year. During the summer, the changing of the guard ceremony is the most elaborate, featuring the Royal Guard in their distinctive light blue summer uniforms, and accompanied by a military band. At other times of the year, the ceremony is scaled down, without a band or a parade, and the Royal Guard wear their winter uniforms with a duller shade of blue.    
  • 13 Stones of Mora (Mora stenar) (Knivsta). A couple of monumental stones commemorating the election of kings during the Middle Ages, until monarchy became hereditary in the 16th century.    
  • 14 Hagaparken (Solna). A Royal Palace park in Solna with a rich history, open to the public, and great for picnics. The palace, Haga slott, is the residence of Crown Princess Victoria and her family, and as of 2021 not open to the public.
  • 17 Ulriksdal Palace (Ulriksdals Slott) (Solna). A Royal Palace open to the public. An orangery with a collection of 18th and 19th century sculptures. A Royal theatre which is occasionally open.
  • 18 Rosendal Palace (Rosendals slott) (Stockholm/Djurgården). Though the beautiful and central location, this Royal palace is little known. Guided tours during summer.
    • 19 Rosendal Gardens (Rosendals trädgård). A historic free-entrance garden, worth a visit for travellers not in a hurry.
  • 20 Rosersberg Palace (Rosersberg, Märsta). A 17th-century Baroque palace built at the height of the Swedish Empire, used as the summer residence of Charles XIV John (named Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, serving as Napoleon's general, before his coronation) during the early 19th century. The palace museum offers guided tours during summer. Textile furnishings are original; this is very unusual, as textiles are normally replaced as they wear out through the years. The palace contains an early replica of the United States Declaration of Independence, gifted from the USA in 1801, as well as other interesting artefacts.
  • 21 Tullgarn Palace. A royal summer palace at the southern edge of Södertälje Municipality.    
  • 22 Gripsholms slott (Gripsholm Castle). A fortified castle, with some remaining parts from the early 1500s. Many interiors have been restored to 1590s style. An 18th century theater was commissioned by Gustav III. The building hosts the national Swedish portrait collection, including most people who mattered in Swedish history, as well as honorary portraits of contemporary celebrities, such as Astrid Lindgren, Ingmar Bergman, and Benny Andersson. A notorious piece of the collection is a stuffed lion.    

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Sweden also has several nobility palaces and manors without direct connection to the Royal family.

See also

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