Harald was born on 21 February 1937 in Skaugum, the official residence of the Norwegian royal family, and was the third child and only son of Olav V and Martha of Sweden.
During the Second World War, Harald and his siblings left Norway for the safety of Sweden while Haakon VII and Olav, then Crown Prince, remained behind. While the Norwegian royal family were readily welcomed by the Swedish royal family, influential Swedish politicians were not so keen and campaigned to have them returned to Norway. When Haakon and Olav were finally forced to flee Norway for London, they made arrangements for Martha and the children to travel to the United States.
While the family settled in Washington DC, Martha worked tirelessly behind the scenes to promote the interests of Norway and she became a very close friend to President Franklin D Roosevelt. Harald also did his share by visiting Norwegian servicemen who were training in the United States and Canada. Meanwhile, Haakon and Olav had formed a government-in-exile in London and the king broadcast frequent messages to the people of Norway via the BBC World Service. The regular broadcasts helped boost the moral of the Norwegian people and the efforts of the resistance.
After the war ended, Harald and his family returned to Norway where they resumed their lives. Tragedy struck in April 1954 when Martha died of cancer and her loss was a tremendous blow to the county and her family. Harald would eventually name his only daughter, Martha Louise, in her memory.
After graduating from the University of Oslo, Harald embarked on a military career after enrolling at the Cavalry Officers’ Candidate School at Trandum and later the Norwegian Military Academy. Harald’s grandfather, Haakon VII, died on 21 September 1957 and Harald became Crown Prince of Norway. On 21 February 1958, Harald took the oath to the Constitution of Norway and also began acting as regent during his father’s absence.
In June 1959, Harald met Sonja Haraldsen at a party and they were pictured together for the first time that August when Harald invited her to his graduation ball. However, the relationship had to be kept quiet as Sonja was a commoner and it was against Norwegian law for them to marry. After nine years of dating, Harald finally told his father he would remain unmarried if he was not allowed to marry Sonja. Since Harald was the only heir, Olav had no choice but to consult with the government and permission was finally granted.
Harald and Sonja were married at Oslo Cathedral in Oslo on 29 August 1968 and they went on to have two children, Martha Louise, born 22 September 1971, and Haakon, born 20 July 1973. Haakon caused controversy when he announced his engagement to Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby as she was a single mother who had once been involved in the rave scene and had admitted to using drugs. However, Harald remained supportive of his son and public opinion of Mette-Marit improved when she spoke out against drug use in a press conference prior to the wedding.
After the death of his father on 17 January 1991, Harald succeeded to the throne and was the first Norwegian-born monarch for 648 years. Although he is the sixth Harald to reign in Norway, he chose to use Harald V as the earlier Harald Bluetooth is not numbered. Harald also adopted his grandfather’s royal motto “Alt for Norge” which means “All For Norway”.
Harald has also made an effort to modernise the Norwegian royal family with the help of his wife and children, and the family have become more open with the public. A comprehensive refurbishment of the Bygdoy Royal Estate, the Royal Palace, the royal stables and Oscarshall has been undertaken and some have been opened to the public. The popularity of the monarchy in Norway is at an all time high and most Norwegians think Harald has shown great leadership skills during times of crisis.