Norwegian-Swedish War of 1905
Norwegian soldiers 1905
Norwegian soldiers from "Jegerkorpset" during the Battle of Lier, October 8, 1905.
DateJuly 26, 1905 - May 17, 1906
Result Treaty of Moss
Territorial changes Status quo ante bellum
Flag of Norway
Kingdom of Norway
Flag of Sweden
Kingdom of Sweden
Flag of Norway Haakon VII Flag of Sweden Oscar II

The Campaign against Norway, or The Norwegian-Swedish War of 1905 (Norwegian: Den norsk-svenske krigen i 1905; Swedish: Den norsk-svenska kriget i 1905) was fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and Kingdom of Norway following the Norwegian proclamation of independence from the Swedish-Norwegian Union on June 7, 1905.

Angered by the action of the Norwegian parliament, the conservative members of the Swedish parliament along with members of the Swedish High Command prepared to invade Norway in order to completely annex Norway under Swedish rule. The war began on July 26, 1905 when Swedish forces crossed the border into Østfold. The war ended on May 17, 1906 with the Treaty of Moss (1906) causing Sweden to abandon their claim of Norway.

Background to the conflict

King Oscar II of Sweden

King Oscar II of Sweden.

Norwegian nationalistic aspirations in 1814 were frustrated by Sweden's victory in a brief, but decisive war that resulted in Norway entering into a personal union with Sweden. The Norwegian constitution was largely kept intact, allowing for an independent Norwegian state with its own parliament, judiciary, and executive powers. Foreign relations were, however, conducted by the King through the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs. There were largely feelings of goodwill between the two peoples, and the common Kings generally tried to act in the interest of both Kingdoms.

However over the years, a divergence of Norwegian and Swedish interests became apparent. In particular, Norwegians felt that their foreign policy interests were inadequately served by Sweden's ministry of foreign affairs. There were several driving factors behind the growing conflict:

Norway's economy was more dependent on foreign trade and therefore more sensitive to the protectionist measures the Swedes were adopting. Norway was affiliated to the United Kingdom, Sweden to Germany. Norway had greater interests outside of Europe than Sweden. In addition, Norwegian politics were increasingly dominated by liberal tendencies, whereas Swedish politics tended more toward the conservative. When free trade between the countries was restricted in 1895 through the abolition of the "Interstate laws" (Mellomrikslovene), the economic reasons for the continued union were also diminished.

Flag of Sweden 1905

Flag of the Kingdom of Sweden between 1844 and 1905, when in the union.

The conflict came to a head over the so-called "consul affair," in which successive Norwegian governments insisted that Norway establish its own consular offices abroad rather than rely on the common consuls appointed by the Swedish foreign minister. As the long-standing practice for the conduct of joint foreign policy had been that a Swede always hold the office of foreign minister, the Swedish government and king rejected this insistence as an abdication of the throne's right to set foreign policy.

While Norway's Liberal Party had pioneered an uncompromising position through the so-called "fist policy," the Conservative party also came to adopt a strong policy in favor of at least de facto independence and equality within the personal union. Although both parties made efforts to resolve the issue through negotiations, Norwegian public opinion became gradually more entrenched.

Both Sweden and Norway increased military expenditures. Norway modernized the frontier forts at Kongsvinger and Fredriksten and built a series of new forts along the border.


File:Norwegian Storting - June 7 1905.PNG

In early 1905, Christian Michelsen formed a coalition government consisting of liberals and conservatives, whose only stated objective was to establish a separate Norwegian corps of consuls. The law was passed by the Norwegian parliament. As expected and probably as planned, King Oscar II refused to accept the laws, and the Michelsen government resigned. When the king declared himself unable to form a cabinet under the present circumstances, a constitutional crisis broke out on June 7, 1905. The Norwegian position was that the impasse had resulted in a de facto dissolution of the union. Norway considers June 7 to be the date of Norwegian independence. The text of the unanimous declaration, remarkable for the fact that the declaration of the dissolution was an aside to the main clause, read:

Since all the members of the cabinet have resigned their positions; since His Majesty the King has declared his inability to obtain for the country a new government; and since the constitutional monarchy has ceased to exist, the Storting hereby authorizes the cabinet that resigned today to exercise the powers held by the King in accordance with the Constitution of Norway and relevant laws - with the amendments necessitated by the dissolution of the union with Sweden under one King, resulting from the fact that the King no longer functions as a Norwegian King. Initially reacting to this declaration as a rebellious act, the Swedish government indicated an openness to a negotiated end to the union, insisting among other things on a Norwegian plebiscite.

The plebiscite was held on August 13 and resulted in an overwhelming 368,208 votes (99.95%) in favor of dissolution against 184 (0.05%) opposed. The government thereby had confirmation of the dissolution. 85 percent of Norwegian men had cast their votes, but no women (universal suffrage was not extended to women until 1913, but Norwegian feminists collected more than 200,000 signatures in favor of dissolution).

Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen weighed in heavily for dissolving the union and traveled to the United Kingdom, where he successfully lobbied for British support for Norway's independence movement.

In its resolution of June 7, the Storting had invited King Oscar II to allow one of his younger sons to assume the Norwegian throne. However, due to the rising tensions between Sweden and Norway both the king and the Norwegian politicians refused. They then went for other alternatives, and in early July a Norwegian delegation approached the 33-year-old Prince Carl of Denmark, the second son of the Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark. The Norwegian parliament had considered other candidates but ultimately chose Prince Carl, partly because he already had a son to continue the line of succession, but more significantly because Carl was married to Maud of Wales, the daughter of King Edward VII. By bringing in a king with British royal ties, it was hoped that Norway could court Britain's support.

Prince Carl impressed the delegation in many ways, not the least because of his sensitivity to the liberal and democratic movements that had led to Norway's independence. Though the Norwegian constitution stipulated that the Storting could choose a new king if the throne were vacant, Carl was aware that many Norwegians — including leading politicians and high-ranking military officers — favored a republican form of government. Attempts to persuade the prince to accept the throne on the basis of Parliament's choice failed; Carl insisted that he would accept the crown only if the Norwegian people expressed their will for monarchy by referendum and if the parliament then elected him king.

Norwegian nationalism

Swedish nationalism

Like Norway Sweden was also in a grip of nationalist feelings in 1905. Traditionally, nationalism had been a more important political force in Norway than in Sweden. It mobilized and the united both the elite and the people in a struggle for political freedom and political rights and the creating of a Norwegian state in 1814. The need for a corresponding ideological force was not as great in Sweden due to their unbroken traditions since the Middle Ages. However, when nationalism became in the 1890s an important political factor in politics in Europe, it reached Sweden as well.

In the 1880s the relationship with Norway meant that the national had a more central role in politics and culture in Sweden. Swedish-Norwegian contacts stimulated the emergence of Swedish nationalism in two ways. The national-liberal waves in Norway inspired like-minded in Sweden, which, however, had far less achieved their ideas there. At the same time, the Norwegian political nationalism resulted to a more aggressive Swedish right-wing nastionalism, who like the Norwegian political party Venstre earned a lot from a heated debate over the Union. Sammen med forsvarssak var unionsspørsm§let fanesaken for den svenske høyresiden. Along with national defence the union question was fanesaken the main matters of the Swedish right. Gjennom store deler av 90-tallet styrket unionsstriden høyresiden i dens kamp for å forhindre stemmerettsutvidelser og reformer i det politiske systemet. Through most of the 1890s the dispute over the union strengthened the right-wing politicians in its struggle to prevent expasnions in the voting system and reforms in the political system.

War or peace?

Treaty of Moss

Negotiations started in Moss on April 30, 1906 between the Norwegian Storting and the Swedish Riksdag, and after a 10 days of hard negotiations a peace treaty, called the Treaty of Moss, was signed by both governments and military leaderships, represented by Prime Minister Christian Michelsen of Norway and Christian Lundeberg of Sweden on May 16, 1906. King Frederik VIII of Denmark, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany acted as intermediaries.

The convention comprised four documents, all written in Norwegian, Swedish and German, with the following main points:

  • The conflict should return to Status quo ante bellum.
  • King Oscar II of Sweden should abandon all claims to the Norwegian crown and the Norwegian land.
  • A 25 km wide demilitarised zone should be established on both sides of the border.
  • The Norwegian and Swedish parliaments were to convene by the following week to ratify the convention.

The Norwegian Storting accepted the agreement immediately, signing it on May 12. Despite disputes among the social democrats and the conservatives in the Riksdag in Sweden, Sweden finally signed it on May 16. The treaty was concluded the following day when King Oscar II of Sweden and King Haakon VII of Norway signed it, coincidentally coming into effect on Norway's independence day.


In Sweden the feelings were mixed. While the left congratulated the Norwegians for defending their freedom, independence and their right to defend their country, the Conservative, pro-Monarchic and anti-Democratic establishment considered the peace treaty to be a humiliating defeat. The conservative and projectionist Prime Minister Christian Lundeberg was replaced with the social democrat Karl Staaff, who ran into sharp conflict with the conservative Swedish establishment. An intense smear campaign was launched against him, picturing him as the destroyer of Swedish tradition and society. While his staunch anti-military politics were welcomed by the majority of the Swedish population and as well by the Norwegians, created the greatest fundraising in the Swedish history until that time, the 12m kronor coastal battleship HMS Sverige where the funds where raised in a few months in 1912. Staaff had to bite the lemon, and the ship was ordered.