Founding of the Republic of Iceland

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The founding of the Republic of Iceland took place in early 1944, when the Alþing (Althing in English), the Icelandic parliament, on February 25, 1944 decided to formally sever the ties between Iceland and the Danish monarchy, in accordance with the stipulations provided in the 1918 Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, which had granted Iceland independence, but maintained the two countries in a union, with the King of Denmark also as King of Iceland, in a personal union.

The Alþing passed a law to the effect that on May 20–23, 1944 a national referendum should take place to confirm or reject the decision of the parliament. After an overwhelming majority in favour of republican independence (99%) and a new constitution (95%), the Republican Celebration (Lýðveldishátiðin) was held on June 17, 1944 in Þingvellir, where the Alþing formally severed the ties to the Danish monarchy, founded the Republic of Iceland, and elected its first president, Sveinn Björnsson.

National referendum May 20–23, 1944[edit]

The Alþing declared on February 25, 1944 that the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union from 1918 had expired, and that this declaration should be put to a national referendum. A national referendum was also to be held on the constitution of the new Republic. These referendums were to be held in the days May 20–23, 1944, and the results presented to parliament on June 16.[1]

The referendum began at noon on May 20, and ended at midnight on May 23, 1944. The newspaper Morgunblaðið, on May 25, 1944, reported that participation in the referendum had been 98%. Out of the 48100 people who voted, 99.5% were in favor of severing ties with the Danish monarchy, and 98.3% in favour of founding a republic.

The Republican Celebration[edit]

The Republican Celebration was held in Þingvellir on June 17, 1944. At 13:30, Prime Minister Björn Þórðarson officially set the celebrations going, after which a religious ceremony was held. The new flag of the Republic of Iceland was raised, and the members of parliament rose from their seats, as church bells rang. All declared unilaterally that Iceland would henceforth be a republic. The members of parliament then voted on who should be the first President of the Republic, and chose Sveinn Björnsson, who had been regent of Iceland and the King's placeholder during the war years. Sveinn thus became the first president of Iceland, and the only one not elected directly by the people of Iceland.


  1. ^ Lýðveldishátíðin. H.F. Leiftur, Reykjavík. 1945.