The first true historical king of Norway is generally accepted to be Harald Hårfagre, Harald the Fairheaded. The Norse Sagas credit him with the achievement of uniting all of Norway under his rule as a result of his victory at the battle of Hafrsfjord; although most likely he only ruled in the west of the country and exercised some kind of overlordship over the rest of the country.

There were kings before Harald but the extent to which they were kings of Norway as opposed to being merely kings in Norway is not really known, and even their very existence is somewhat questionable.

Norway, it should be remembered was one of the sources of those troublesome Vikings whose activities plagued the various kingdoms of the British Isles throughout the ninth and tenth centuries right up until the time of the Norman Conquest. The territories of the kingdom of Norway also included, at various times, the Orkneys, the Hebrides and even the Isle of Man and many of these kings of Norway entertained territorial ambitions on the British mainland; most notable of those being Harald Hardrada, Harald the Ruthless, who was defeated and killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge making his bid for the crown of England.

Håkon den Gode or 'the Good' and Olav Trygvasson are generally given credit for the business of introducing Christianity to Norway. Håkon also known as Håkon Adelstensfostre, that is fostered by Athelstan, was brought up in England as was Olav, so that Norway was effectively evangelised by English priests.

But Norwegian kings were generally married off to fellow Scandinavian royals, a process that to increasingly close relationships with both Sweden and Denmark. Eventually Håkon VI married Margrete, the daughter of Valdemar Atterdag the king of Denmark; their son Olav succeeded to the throne of Denmark in 1375 on the death of Valdemar Atterdag followed by Norway in 1380 on the death of his father. The two kingdoms were therefore united under one crown; Norway initially had some measure of autonomy with a separate Council of the Realm but this was abolished in 1536 when Norway ceased to be an independent kingdom, and came to be treated as just another Danish possession.

Danish rule continued until 1814 when Denmark, who had backed the defeated Napoleon was forced by the Treaty of Kiel to hand over Norway to Sweden. The Norwegians were not that happy with this state of affairs, briefly revolted and chose their own king. Sweden managed to buy off the revolt by agreeing to accept a separate constitution for Norway. This state of affairs continued for another ninety years with the Norwegians increasingly becoming fed up with the Swedes until the referendum of August of 1905 when Norway voted 368,392 to 184 in favour of independence. A Danish prince by the name of Carl was invited to take the throne of Norway. Carl accepted and chose the name of Håkon. His grandson, Harald V is the current king of Norway.

Early rulers of Norway

Historical rulers of Norway

  • Harald I Hårfagre Harald the Fairhaired c872-c930
  • Eirik I Blodoks Eirikr Bloodaxe c930-c936
  • Håkon I den Gode Håkon the Good (Håkon Adelstensfostre) c936-960
  • Harald II Grafell Harald Greycloak 960-970
  • Håkon Ladejarl (Håkon Sigurdsson) 970-995
  • Olav I (Olav Tryggvason) 995-1000
  • Eirik Ladejarl (Eirik Håkonsson) 1000-1015 joint ruler
  • Svein Ladejarl (Svein Håkonsson) 1000-1015 joint ruler
  • Olav II den Hellige Olav the Saint (Olav Haraldsson) 1015-1035
  • Magnus I den Gode Magnus the Good (Magnus Olavsson) 1035-1047
  • Harald III Hardrada Harald the Ruthless (Harald Sigurdsson) 1046-1066
  • Magnus II (Magnus Haraldsson) 1066-1069
  • Olav III Kyrre Olav the Religous (Olav Haraldsson) 1067-1093
  • Magnus III Berfott Magnus Bareleg (Magnus Olavsson) 1093-1103
  • Joint rule with his two brothers

  • Olav IV (Olav Magnusson) 1103-1115
  • Oystein I (Oystein Magnusson) 1103-1122
  • Sigurd I Jorsalfare Sigurd the Jerusalemfarer or Crusader (Sigurd Magnusson) 1103-1130

In 1130 Norway entered a period of intermittent civil war where the kingship was disputed right up until the year 1227.

  • Magnus IV (Magnus Sigurdsson) the Blind 1130-1135
  • Harald IV (Harald Magnusson) 1130-1136
  • Sigurd II (Sigurd Munn) 1136-1155
  • Inge I Krokryggv Inge the Hunchback (Inge Haraldsson) 1136-1161
  • Oystein II Oystein Haraldsson 1142-1157
  • Håkon II Herdebrei Håkon the Widebreast (Håkon Sigurdsson) 1157-1162
  • Magnus V (Magnus Erlingsson) 1161-1184
  • Sverre (Sverre Sigurdsson) 1177-1203
  • Håkon III (Håkon Sverresson 1202-1204
  • Inge II (Inge Bardsson) 1204-1217
  • Håkon IV (Håkon Håkonsson) 1217-1263
  • Magnus VI Lagabote Magnus the Law-maker (Magnus Håkonsson) 1263-1280
  • Eirik II Prestahatare Eirik the Priest-Hater (Eirik Magnusson) 1280-1299
  • Håkon V (Håkon Magnusson) 1299-1319
  • Magnus VII (Magnus Eiriksson) 1319-1343
  • Håkon VI (Håkon Magnusson) 1343-1380
  • Olav IV (Olav Håkonsson) 1380-1387

Ruled by Denmark until 1814, and the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars; Sweden picked the right side and got Norway as its reward.

Ruled by Sweden between the years 1815 to 1905.