"Riksforsamlingen på Eidsvoll". Painting by Oscar Wergeland

The world’s second oldest written constitution still in operation

Last updated: 21.01.2014 // The Norwegian Constitution has been amended more than 400 times since 1814, but, notwithstanding this, is considered to be the same working document. And this makes it Europe’s oldest and the world’s second oldest written constitution still in operation.

The Norwegian Constitution of 17th May 1814 occupies a special place in Norwegian history. Not only did it lay the foundations for democratic development, it was also instrumental in providing Norway with status as an independent country.

After 400 years under Danish rule, the hasty formation of a Norwegian Constitution must be viewed as a strategic move to liberate the country, perhaps more than a wish to embrace democratic principles. Nevertheless, the 112 men in the Constituent Assembly produced one of the most liberal constitutions in the world at the time. Inspired by the Unitied States Declaration of Independence and the French Constitution, the Norwegian consitution was crafted around three principles: separation of powers, the safeguarding of civil rights and sovereignty of the people.

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