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Eidsvoll-bygningen and the Constitution of 1814

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Carsten Ankers (1747–1824) was a close friend and ally of the Danish crown prince Christian Frederik, a connection that has given Eidsvoll national importance. Towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Russians and British insisted the Danes be punished for their alliance with the French, and proposed taking Norway from Denmark and handing it over to Sweden. In an attempt to forestall these territorial shenanigans, the Danes dispatched Christian Frederik to Norway, where he set up home in Carsten Ankers’ house in 1813, and proceeded to lobby for Norwegian support. In April of the following year more than a hundred of the country’s leading citizens gathered here near Eidsvoll to decide whether to accept union with Sweden or go for independence with Christian Frederik on the throne. The majority of this National Assembly chose independence, and set about drafting a liberal constitution based on those of France and the United States.

Predictably, the Swedes would have none of this. Four years earlier, the Swedes had picked one of Napoleon’s marshals, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, to succeed their previous king who had died without an heir. As King Karl Johan, Bernadotte was keen to flex his military muscles and, irritated by the putative National Assembly, he invaded Norway in July 1814. Frederik was soon forced to abdicate and the Norwegians were pressed into union with Sweden, though Karl Johan did head off much of the opposition by guaranteeing the Norwegians a new constitution and parliament, the Storting.

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