Kingdom of Iceland

The Kingdom of Iceland (Icelandic: Konungsríkið Ísland; Danish: Kongeriget Island) was a sovereign and independent country with a constitutional and hereditary monarchy that was established by the Act of Union with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918.[2] It lasted until 17 June 1944 when a national referendum established the Republic of Iceland in its place.[3]

Kingdom of Iceland
Konungsríkið Ísland (in Icelandic)
Kongeriget Island (in Danish)
Anthem: "Ó Guð vors lands"
("O, God of Our Land")
The Kingdom of Iceland in 1942
The Kingdom of Iceland in 1942
StatusPersonal union with Denmark
Common languagesIcelandic, Danish
Church of Iceland
(state religion)
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
• 1918–1944
Christian X
• 1941–1944
Sveinn Björnsson
Prime Minister 
• 1918–1920 (first)
Jón Magnússon
• 1942–1944 (last)
Björn Þórðarson
Historical eraInterwar period / WWII
1 December 1918
9 April 1940
10 May 1940
20 May 1944
17 June 1944
1944103,125 km2 (39,817 sq mi)
• 1944[1]
ISO 3166 codeIS
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Danish Iceland
Monarchy of Iceland
Kingdom of Iceland Coat of Arms.svg
Kong Christian 10.jpg
Kristján X
StyleHis Majesty
First monarchKristján X
Last monarchKristján X
Formation1 December 1918
Abolition17 June 1944
ResidenceChristiansborg Palace

Under a personal union, due to the Act of Union, the monarch was simultaneously monarch of Denmark.[2] The Parliament of Iceland asked that Denmark represent Iceland internationally, and day-to-day matters were delegated to a Danish plenipotentiary for Icelandic affairs based in Reykjavík, and – after the German invasion of Denmark in 1940 – a regent was appointed.[2]


Origins of Danish ruleEdit

Because of the Kalmar Union, Iceland had been under the control of the Crown of Denmark since 1380,[4] although formally it had been a Norwegian possession until 1814.[5] In 1874, one thousand years after the first acknowledged settlement, Denmark granted Iceland home rule. The constitution, written the same year, was revised in 1903 and the extent of Iceland's home rule increased in 1904.[6] A minister for Icelandic affairs, residing in Reykjavík, was made responsible to the Althing, the Icelandic parliament.[citation needed]

Establishment of the kingdomEdit

On 1 December 1918, the Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark, recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state, an independent country in personal union with Denmark through a common monarch. The Kingdom of Iceland established its own flag and coat of arms and asked that Denmark represent its foreign affairs and defence interests on its behalf while retaining full control over its foreign affairs and defence. Iceland opened its first Embassy in 1920. The Act would be reviewed in 1940 and could be revoked three years later if agreement to continue it could not be reached.[7]

World War II, British occupation and the establishment of the republicEdit

During the first year of World War II, Iceland strictly enforced a position of neutrality and took action against both British and German forces that violated it. The German invasion of Denmark on 9 April 1940 and subsequent occupation severed communications between Iceland and Denmark.[2] As a result, on 10 April, the Althing passed two resolutions investing the Icelandic cabinet with the power of head of state and declaring that Iceland would accept full responsibility for both foreign policy and coastal surveillance. On 10 May 1940, Operation Fork was launched by the United Kingdom when military forces sailed into Reykjavík harbour and began an invasion of Iceland.[2] The government of Iceland issued a protest against what it called a "flagrant violation" of Icelandic neutrality. On the day of the invasion, Prime Minister Hermann Jónasson read a radio announcement instructing Icelanders to treat the British troops as guests. On 15 May 1941, the Althing adopted a law creating the position of regent for Sveinn Björnsson in order to represent the monarchy.[2] The Allied occupation of Iceland lasted until 1941 when the Government of Iceland asked the United States (which was then neutral) to take over its defence. The defence of Iceland was the United States' first participation in World War II.[citation needed]

At its peak, Britain had approximately 25,000 troops stationed in Iceland, all but eliminating unemployment in Reykjavík and other strategically important places. In July 1941, the Althingi adopted the American–Icelandic defence agreement, passing responsibility for Iceland's defence to the United States.[2] As many as 40,000 American soldiers were then stationed on the island, outnumbering the native population of adult men. (Iceland's total native population during the war was approximately 120,000.)[citation needed]

Following a constitutional referendum in May 1944, Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944. Many Danes felt offended at its timing, as Denmark was still occupied by Germany.[citation needed] King Christian X nonetheless sent a message of congratulations to the Icelandic people.[8]

Titles of the CrownEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Statistics of Iceland. Retrieved on 18 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Halfdanarson, Gudmundur Halfdanarson (2010). The A to Z of Iceland. Scarecrow Press. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-0810872080.
  3. ^ Van Cleaf, Kristin Van Cleaf (2007). Iceland. ABDO. p. 7. ISBN 978-1599287843.
  4. ^ Nordstrom, Byron (2000). Scandinavia since 1500. University of Minnesota Press. p. 147. ISBN 0-8166-2098-9.
  5. ^ Dörr, Oliver (2004). Kompendium völkerrechtlicher Rechtsprechung (in German). Mohr Siebeck. p. 103. ISBN 3-16-148311-1.
  6. ^ "A short history of Alþingi – the oldest parliament in the world". European Youth Portal. European Union. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  7. ^ Karlsson, Gunnar (15 April 2000). The History of Iceland. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 283–284. ISBN 9780816635894.
  8. ^ Hardarson, Solrun B. Jensdottir (October 1974). "The 'Republic of Iceland' 1940–44: Anglo-American Attitudes and Influences". Journal of Contemporary History. 9 (4): 27–56. doi:10.1177/002200947400900402. JSTOR 260290.
  9. ^ a b Iceland – Flag History at Flags of the World. Retrieved on 18 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b Iceland – Royal Standard at Flags of the World. Retrieved on 18 March 2014.