World Coins: Norwegian Commemoratives

To date, Norway has commemorated its constitution three times on coins.

Today, a government founded on a constitution is normal for many nations around the world. The United States Constitution adopted in 1787 is not only the basis of the US Government, but serves as an ideal for other nations, which often copy its principles to form their constitutions. Norway’s constitution, ratified in 1814, is based off the principles of the US Constitution and is the oldest national constitution in Europe.

Following the Napoleonic Wars, many countries that had taken part in the conflict were going through changes. In January 1814, the Treaty of Kiel was signed between Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Denmark and Norway, whom had sided with Napoleon, were in union together. After the treaty was signed Crown Prince Christian Frederick started the Norwegian independence movement. The goal was reunification with Denmark; however, Christian Frederick called for a representative constituent assembly. The national assembly met at Eidsvoll, with the representatives comprised of congregations from the State Church and military units. The meetings took place at Eidsvoll Manor and in five weeks Norway’s constitution was written and ratified on May 16, 1814.

Norway’s constitution was inspired by the constitutions of the US and France after the French Revolution. However, Norway’s constitution allowed for monarchy and originally was not tolerant of religious belief, such as banning Jews from entering the kingdom. The constitution outlined the form of government, the power of the King and Royal Family, the rights of citizens, legislative powers, judicial powers and general provisions. The constitution originally had 112 articles. While radical (for its time) in that it contained such principles as the popular election of a king (not by the grace of God as other European monarchy countries believed), freedom of speech, and protection from unreasonable search and seizures, it was regressive because it made the church a constitutional institution and gave it more control of the elected body.

In summer of 1814, the Swedish started a campaign against Norway. This led to the Convention of Moss, in which it was resolved that the Swedish Crown Prince Karl Johan would allow the Norwegians to keep their constitution in exchange for ending the war and the establishment of a personal union with Sweden.

Today the constitution still is the law of Norway. While many amendments have been removed or changed over time, it is the longest-running constitutional document in Europe. In 2012, the church and state were finally separated, making Norway a secular country with no official religion.

To date, Norway has commemorated its constitution three times on coins. The first was in 1914 for the constitution’s centennial. The coin featured a standing woman overlooking a landscape. The coin, a 2 Kroner, also featured Norway’s crowned arms in some foliage. Fifty years later, Norway issued a coin for the constitutional sesquicentennial featuring the Eidsvoll Manor where the constitutional assembly took place. The 10 Kroner coin also featured Norway’s crowned arms. In 1989 Norway again commemorated its constitution with a coin for the 175th anniversary. The coin, a 175 Kroner, featured Eidsvoll Manor and the crowned arms again. With the bicentennial of Norway’s constitution in 2014 it is likely that another commemorative coin or coins will be issued.

Norway 1914 2 Kroner

Norway 1964 10 Kroner

Norway 1989 175 Kroner

Much like the constitution of the United States and other countries, the document is an ever-changing doctrine. With some of its reforms in 1814, it gave people rights they never had before. While it has restricted minorities in the country, constitutional reforms over the years and most recently in 2012 have brought Norway a government of the people and by the people.

Photos of the Norway 1914 2 Kroner courtesy of Heritage Auctions

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