Heads of state, royalty and mourners from over 100 countries and thousands of Norwegians farewelled ‘the People’s King’ in Oslo on 30 January 1991.

Olav V of Norway, 1957. Photo: The Royal House of Norway

The People’s King

King Olav V of Norway died at 10.20 pm on 17 January 1991, aged 87, at the Bygdoy Royal Lodge, after reigning for 33 years.

He had adopted his father, King Haakon VII’s motto was ‘Alt for Norge’ (We give our all for Norway).

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The Crown Prince was proclaimed as King Harald V of Norway following an extraordinary Council of State at midnight at the Royal Palace. 

Thousands of mourners arrived later that night and the following days to light candles and to lay flowers to pay their respects to the late King and show support for the Royal Family.

The Royal Palace Square was soon filled with a sea of flowers and candles – similar to those left at Kensington Palace following the death of Diana Princess of Wales in 1997.

A 21-gun salute was fired from Akershus Fortress to honour King Olav’s memory on 18 January at 12 noon.

Queen Elizabeth II said, after hearing about King Olav’s death, that ‘A friend of Great Britain has passed away.’

The Norwegian Prime Minister, Mrs Gro Harlem Brundtland, had described King Olav as ‘the kindest king in the world’.

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King Harald later expressed his gratitude for the people’s support in his New Year’s Speech on 31 December 1991:

‘The enormous response and outpouring of sympathy made it clear that the Norwegian people stood beside us in our common grief. The condolence message registers from throughout the country, together with the candles and all the greetings from the Palace Square, warmed our hearts and consoled us in those difficult days.’


Thousands lined the streets of the capital city Oslo on 30 January 1991 to farewell King Olav as he made his final journey from the Royal Palace to Oslo Cathedral.

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Schools, most shops and offices were closed and public servants were given three hours off work as the funeral took place.

Heads of state, royalty and mourners from over 100 countries marched in the funeral procession, as it slowly travelled along the city’s main street, Karl Johan’s Gate, lined with as Armed Forces personnel.

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King Olav’s coffin,  draped with the red and gold Royal Standard, was carried on a gun carriage drawn by a military field vehicle driven by men from the Norwegian Royal Guards.

A single wreath from his successor, King Harald and Queen Sonja, and his grandchildren Crown Prince Haakon Magnus and Princess Märtha Louise sat on top.

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The Norwegian Royal Family, wearing black, marched immediately behind the coffin, followed by King Olav’s principal aides.

Members of other royal Families followed, including:

  • Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
  • King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
  • Charles, Prince of Wales (representing Queen Elizabeth II)
  • King Baudouin of Belgium
  • Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
  • Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg
  • Prince Albert of Monaco (representing his father, Prince Rainier III)
  • Prince Hans Adam of Liechtenstein
  • Crown Prince (now Emperor) Naruhito of Japan
  • Crown Prince (now King) Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand

The Prime Minister, President of the Norwegian Parliament, Mr Jo Benkow, President of the Supreme Court Mr Erling Sandene President of the Supreme Court followed the royal guests.

Laid to rest in Akershus Fortress

After the service in the Cathedral, King Olav’s coffin, accompanied by a guard of honour and the King’s closest relatives, moved to Oslo’s medieval Akershus fortress for a private ceremony in the chapel.

King Olav was laid to rest next to his wife Märtha in the royal mausoleum in the crypt underneath the chapel, following the traditional sprinkling of earth on the coffin.

The sarcophagi of King Haakon VII, Queen Maud (the white sarcophagus), King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha (the green sarcophagus). Photo: Per E. Hadland, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

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