Scandinavian unions

June 29 2013

1.  Kalmar Union (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), 1397-1523

The three Scandinavian kingdoms – Denmark, Norway, Sweden – were united in 1397 in the Kalmar Union. This is really the name of an intermittent series of personal unions that lasted until 1523. Denmark was the dominant partner and supplied the monarchs, but met resistance from Norway and Sweden.

2.  Dano-Norwegian Union, 1536-1814

Sweden left the Kalmar Union under Gustav Vasa in 1523 and went its own way. Civil war broke out in Denmark and Norway. The Reformation followed. The kingdoms of Denmark and Norway then entered into a personal union in 1536 which lasted until 1814. Denmark was again the dominant partner. Norway kept separate laws, coinage and army and some other institutions.

3.  Swedish-Norwegian Union, 1814-1905

The Dano-Norwegian Union was dissolved at the Treaty of Kiel (1814). Norway’s overseas possessions since pre-Kalmar days – Iceland, Greenland, the Faroes – were kept by Denmark (Shetland and Orkney had been ceded to Scotland in 1471). The territory of Norway proper was ceded to the King of Sweden. Norwegian resistance to the prospect of union with Sweden induced the governor of Norway, Crown Prince Christian Frederick (later Christian VIII of Denmark), to call a constituent assembly at Eidsvoll, which drew up a liberal constitution and elected him to the throne. Sweden invaded. The peace conditions specified that king Christian Frederick had to abdicate, but Norway was to keep its independence and constitution within a personal union with Sweden. Christian Frederick returned to Denmark. The assembly elected Charles XIII of Sweden king of Norway (November 4). The Union was dissolved in 1905. Denmark supplied Norway with the missing monarch. Prince Charles of Denmark was elected king of Norway under the name of Haakon VII and reigned until 1957.

4.  Scandinavism, c 1840-


5.  Dano-Icelandic Union, 1918-44

Iceland was already part of Denmark, but the Danish-Icelandic Act of Union, signed on December 1 1918 and valid for twenty-five years, recognised Iceland as a sovereign Kingdom in personal union with Denmark. After the German occupation of Denmark on April 9 1940, the Icelandic Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government would assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, the British invaded, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the US so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities. On December 31 1943, the Union expired. Icelanders voted on their constitution in a plebiscite. A republic was inaugurated on June 17 1944.

Europe, 1973-

Denmark joined the EEC in 1973, Sweden the EU in 1995. Neither is in the eurozone. Norway and Iceland are not members of the EU.

Devolution: Home rule for Greenland, 1979

Denmark granted home rule to Greenland in 1979. Greenland left the EEC in 1985. In 2008, Greenlanders voted to transfer more power from the Danish royal government to the local Greenlandic government.

7 Responses to “Scandinavian unions”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    The British invasion of Iceland:

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Sometimes Finland is considered part of Scandinavia, sometimes not. Its language and culture are distinct. (It joined the EU at the same time as Sweden and is the only Scandinavian country in the eurozone.)

    I suppose Scots see Iceland as a precedent for a small northern nation gaining independence. “If Iceland could do it, so can we.”

    They can also mention Norway, Finland, Ireland, the Baltic states. Even Poland.

    Did the Icelandic settlement of 1918 consciously follow the precedent of Canada in 1867? Earlier personal unions had not carried a recognition of the “independence” of the weaker state: the concept did not exist. Nor had the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich of 1867. (Canada chose not to call itself a kingdom, but its independence was recognised. The term dominion was dropped in 1982 because it suggested subservience. It is now simply Canada.)

  3. davidderrick Says:

    Members of the Icelandic parliament (Althing) visiting Denmark in 1906. Film by Peter Elfelt. Iceland had acquired home rule in 1904, but the wish for full independence was strong; the visit looks very amicable:

  4. davidderrick Says:

    In mid-April 1896, Eugen Napoleon Nicholas, the youngest son of Oscar II of Sweden (regnabat 1872-1907) and an important Swedish painter in his day, stayed with my great-grandfather at Widdington in Essex. Clausen took him to a nearby farm, the interior of whose ancient barn Clausen sometimes painted, and arranged meetings for him with other painters, such as Watts and Sargent.

    It was “quite an event for our village and we’ve been basking in a kind of reflected glory ever since” (letter to Havard Thomas). The Prince may have have stayed with him before, for a week in Cookham Dean in late 1889.

    George Clausen’s father Jürgen was a German-speaking Dane who had settled in England in 1844 and lived until 1911.

  5. […] Baltic states, Poland, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan were, before the twentieth century, merged or submerged nations, but when they at last became independent did not have famous fathers, unless you count […]

  6. […] Vienna Congress linked its two discordant nationalities [Sweden and Norway] together by a personal union [old post]. This experiment had a more successful history than the United Kingdom of the […]

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