Two hundred years ago a group of men gathered at Eidsvoll to create the laws that would form the foundation of an independent Norway. The constitution that was adopted then has evolved over time, and today it ensures for the Norwegian people rights that we easily take for granted in our everyday lives. With these words, King Harald opened the jubilee of the Constitution in his New Year’s speech. With only a few words he highlighted what is most important, namely that the Constitution is still relevant and has an impact on the lives and everyday activities of Norwegians in 2014.
Previous historians had taken the position that 1814 was the result of a Norwegian uprising, a demand for freedom that had built up over time. However, historian Sverre Steen called the emergence of the constitution the result of "a major power play with small states as pawns" and took the position that the events leading up to the Constitution were more a result of external events than a Norwegian drive and desire for independence. Norway was destitute and impoverished after having been at war between the years 1807 and 1814. Denmark-Norway had aligned itself with France and was on the losing side of the war, which put us in a hopeless situation. Norway was under blockade and crucial food imports were blocked. Hunger and poverty dominated life.
The Peace of Kiel ended the 434-year union with Denmark, and Denmark gave Norway to Sweden as the spoils of war. Prince Christian Frederik was sent to Norway in 1813 as viceroy to protect Danish interests during a period of threatening conflicts throughout all of Europe. He imagined a free Norway with himself as king and remained in the country. Christian Frederik became an important force in the process leading up to the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll. On 10 April 1814, 112 delegates convened for the Norwegian Constituent Assembly, and just over a month later on 17 May 1814 the Constitution was signed and dated.