The Re-establishing of a Norwegian State


The period since 1814 is part of the longer history of the Norwegian state. The re-establishing of Norwegian state institutions in 1814 linked up with Norway’s first period as a sovereign state, from the first signs of a state in the 9 th century until Norway became part of the Danish union in the 16 th century.

When the Norwegian Council of the Realm was dissolved in Copenhagen in October 1536, at Norway’s final submission to the Danish Crown and at the introduction of the Lutheran Reformation, the country was without central executive institutions for the first time in centuries.

271 years later, in the autumn of 1807, the war between Great Britain and Denmark-Norway made it necessary once more to have a minimum of executive institutions in Norway. A temporary government commission and a number of other public offices were established in Christiania (Oslo). The commission was in function until the autumn of 1810.

From Denmark to Sweden
When the Danish-Norwegian realm was dissolved three years later, in the Treaty of Kiel on 14 January 1814 - where Norway was submitted to Sweden, separate Norwegian governing bodies again became necessary. Contributing to this was that the Danish Governor-General in Norway, Prince Christian Frederik, at this moment was already rallying support for declaring Norway an independent state. The Prince was thus opposing the Swedish-Norwegian union dictated in Kiel by the allied powers of the Napoleonic Wars - Prussia, Russia, Great Britain and Austria.

Council of Government
The first, rather temporary, Norwegian executive body in 1814 was a meeting of leading men assembled by Prince Christian Frederik, at Eidsvoll (north of Christiania (Oslo)) on 16 February. The meeting advised the Prince to let the people elect a national assembly, which again would pass a constitution and elect a king.

Following the February meeting, Prince Christian Frederik declared himself Norway’s regent on 19 February. On 2 March 1814 he established the first permanent Norwegian political body since 1536, the Council of Government. Members of the Council were given the title “councillor of government”.

Christian Frederik elected king
The National Assembly, which met at Eidsvoll on 11 April 1814, elected Christian Frederik as Norway’s king on 17 May 1814, while passing the Constitution with its regulations concerning national executive bodies. On 19 May Christian Frederik accepted the election as king, taking his oath on the Constitution. From the same date the Council of Government changed its name to the Council of State. Members of the Council had their title changed to “councillor of state”. This title is still in use, more or less interchangeable with “minister”.

Council of State
Since - in the months as an independent state until 4 November 1814, in the 90 years in union with Sweden and in the century since 1905 – the Council of State has been the central institution of Norway’s executive power. With the exception of the periods 13 August - 4 November 1814 and 7 June - 18 November 1905, the Council of State has met under the King’s presidency. Second to the King (and in short periods before 1884, to the viceroy) have ranked various representatives of the executive power: the first minister in the months before the union with Sweden; the governor, the prime minister and the first minister in the years 1814-1873, and the prime minister since then.

Parliamentary system
Prime Minister Johan Sverdrup’s 1884 Government marks the initial step of the introduction of the parliamentary system in Norway. From then on the party-political affiliation of the Council of State is mentioned in the registry; in coalition governments also each minister’s party affiliation is mentioned.