14 January 2019

Jewel History: Northland Princess to Marry Norway's Heir (1929)

Crown Prince Olav of Norway and Princess Märtha of Sweden after their betrothal ceremony in Stockholm, January 1929 (National Library of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

"Northland Princess to Marry Norway's Heir"
(originally appeared in the Ottawa Journal, 14 Jan 1929)

STOCKHOLM, Jan 14 -- The engagement of Princess Martha of Sweden [1] to Crown Prince Olaf of Norway [2] was officially announced today.

Olav and Martha's engagement portrait, 1929 (National Library of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

Princess Martha, who was born March 28, 1901, is the daughter of Prince Charles [3], brother of King Gustaf of Sweden [4]. Princess Martha is considered one of the most beautiful of youthful European royalties. She is 27 years old. The Crown Prince was born on July 2, 1903. His engagement to various persons has been rumored [5].

Olav and Martha pose for press pictures and film after their betrothal ceremony in Stockholm, January 1929

Prince Olaf arrived here early and the betrothal ceremony took place later. The Prince, his fiancee and her parents, Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg [6], called upon King Gustaf before noon and later visited the Crown Prince [7] and Princess Louise [8] at Ulrinadal Castle.

King Haakon, Queen Maud, and Crown Prince Olav greeting Princess Ingeborg, Princess Martha, and Princess Astrid at Oslo's Østbanen, 1929 (National Library of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

Subsequently they had lunch with Prince Eugen [9] at his castle, Valvemarsudde.

Olav and Martha's wedding portrait, March 1929 (National Archive of Norway/Wikimedia Commons)

The date of the wedding has not yet been fixed [10].


1. Princess Märtha of Sweden (1901-1954) was the second of four children of Prince Carl of Sweden and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Through her father, she was the granddaughter of one Swedish king (Oscar II) and the niece of another (Gustaf V); through her mother, she was the granddaughter of one Danish king (Frederik VIII), the niece of another (Christian X), and the niece of King Haakon VII of Norway (her eventual father-in-law). Märtha and her sisters made matches that further reinforced their royal connections. Her elder sister, Princess Margaretha, had married Prince Axel of Denmark ten years earlier; less than three years earlier, her younger sister, Princess Astrid, had married the heir to the Belgian throne, Prince Leopold. Märtha's engagement to her first cousin, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, strengthened her ties to both the Norwegian and British royal houses.

2. Crown Prince Olav of Norway (1903-1991), born Prince Alexander of Denmark, was the son of King Haakon VII of Norway and his British-born wife, Princess Maud of Wales. Olav (then Alexander) was born on the Sandringham estate, which belonged to his maternal grandparents, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom. He was only two years old when his father was elected King of Norway, and before his third birthday, his name was changed to Olav (after a medieval Norwegian king). An only child, Crown Prince Olav was educated in a Norwegian military academy before attending university at Oxford. He was also an accomplished athlete who won a gold medal in sailing for Norway in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam (during which he became engaged to Märtha).

3. Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland (1861-1951), Princess Märtha's father, was the third child of King Oscar II and Queen Sofia of Sweden. In 1897, he married his first cousin once removed, Princess Ingeborg of Denmark; both were descendants of King Oscar I and Queen Josefina of Sweden. The couple's marriage was arranged, but it was an extremely happy and successful one, producing four children: Princess Margaretha, Princess Märtha, Princess Astrid, and Prince Carl. Ironically, in 1905, the senior Carl was one of the candidates proposed to be the new king of independent Norway; however, his cousin, Prince Carl of Denmark, was elected instead, becoming King Haakon VII. The fates of the two men were further intertwined when Haakon's son, Olav, married Carl's daughter, Märtha, in 1929, which meant that Carl's grandson did eventually become Norway's monarch.

4. King Gustaf V of Sweden (1858-1950), Princess Märtha's uncle, was the eldest son of King Oscar II and Queen Sofia of Sweden. He had three younger brothers: Prince Oscar (who lost his royal title when he married Ebba Munck, a former royal lady-in-waiting), Prince Carl (see note #3), and Prince Eugen (see note #9). In 1881, Gustaf married Princess Victoria, daughter of Grand Duke Friedrich and Grand Duchess Louise of Baden. Their marriage brought together two Swedish dynasties. Gustaf was part of the House of Bernadotte, which had reigned since 1818, while Victoria was descended from the House of Vasa, which had reigned in Sweden from 1523-1624. Gustaf and Victoria's marriage was arranged, and although it produced three sons (the future King Gustaf VI Adolf, Prince Wilhelm, and Prince Erik), it was not much of a success. By 1929, the couple were living in separate countries, with Gustaf at home in Stockholm and Victoria residing in Italy (partly because of her poor health). She did not return to Scandinavia for the wedding of her niece, and she died in Rome a little over a year later.

5. Olav's future spouse was the subject of rumors in the press for years. He was linked with numerous princesses, including Princess Ingrid of Sweden (who married King Frederik IX of Denmark), Princess Marie-Jose of Belgium (who married King Umberto II of Italy), Lady May Cambridge (who married Sir Henry Abel Smith), and even his future sister-in-law, Princess Astrid (who married King Leopold III of Belgium). An engagement between Olav and Märtha was also rumored in the press for years, long before they were officially (and privately) engaged during the Olympic Games in the summer of 1928. A 1926 Baltimore Sun article linking the couple noted, "Court circles express pity for Prince Olav because he is always being annoyed with rumors of his engagement to one princess or another."

6. Princess Ingeborg of Denmark (1878-1958), Princess Märtha's mother and Crown Prince Olav's aunt, was the fifth child of King Frederik VIII of Denmark and his Swedish-born consort, Queen Lovisa. One of her elder brothers became King Christian X of Denmark; another was elected King Haakon VII of Norway. Ingeborg married Prince Carl of Sweden (see note #3) in 1897 and became an extremely popular member of the royal family. For almost a decade, she essentially served as Sweden's first lady, performing duties that would normally have been undertaken by either the elderly Queen Sofia or the infirm Crown Princess Victoria. Through her four children, Ingeborg was the grandmother of three European monarchs (King Harald V of Norway, King Baudouin of Belgium, and King Albert II of Belgium) and the great-grandmother of two more (King Philippe of the Belgians, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg).

7. King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden (1882-1973), then Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, was the eldest son of King Gustaf V and Queen Victoria of Sweden. After his father's death in 1950, Gustaf VI Adolf reigned until his own death in 1973. He was devoted to scientific pursuits, amassing an enormous library and becoming a keen amateur archaeologist and botanist. Tragedy had struck his family nine years before this article was written; his wife, Princess Margaret of Connaught, died while pregnant with the couple's sixth child, leaving him a widower with five young children. Three years later he remarried to Lady Louise Mountbatten (see note #8).

8. Queen Louise of Sweden (1889-1965), then Crown Princess Louise of Sweden, was the second wife of Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. The couple married in London in 1923, three years after the death of his first wife, Princess Margaret of Connaught. Margaret and Louise were cousins; the former was the daughter of Prince Arthur, Queen Victoria's third son, while the latter was the granddaughter of Princess Alice, Queen Victoria's second daughter. Gustaf VI Adolf and Louise had one child together, a daughter who was stillborn in May 1925. Louise's extended family eventually brought even more royal connections to the Swedish court; her nephew, the Duke of Edinburgh, would marry the future Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 1947.

9. Prince Eugen of Sweden, Duke of Närke (1865-1947), Princess Märtha's uncle, was the youngest son of King Oscar II and Queen Sofia of Sweden. Eugen was a talented artist, producing especially skilled landscape paintings. His home, Waldemarsudde, became an art museum after his death in 1947.

10. Olav and Märtha married in Oslo on March 21, 1929. Theirs was the first royal wedding in Norway for more than three centuries. The couple had three children together: Princess Ragnhild (1930-2012), Princess Astrid (b. 1932), and King Harald V (b. 1937). Sadly, Märtha never became Queen of Norway. She died of cancer in 1954, three years before her husband ascended to the throne as King Olav V.