From the moment it is felled, the giant Norwegian spruce — known as the Queen of the Forest — is revered and cosseted by foresters.

The Mayor of Oslo and Lord Mayor of Westminster hold the ends of the saws, while schoolchildren from Norway sing Christmas carols when the time is right for the item to be taken to London.

It is not for cameras as experts do the difficult job of cutting through and lifting the tree onto a crane before carefully placing her in a specially designed cradle.

A 20-metre-tall tree was donated by the Norwegians to Britain every year since 1947 as a thanks-giving for British assistance during World War II.

The new 24 m (78 ft) version will go up in London’s Trafalgar Square on Thursday.

Since 1947, the 20-metre tall tree in London's Trafalgar Square (pictured in 2017) has been donated to UK as a thank-you from Norwegians for British support during World War II

As a gesture of gratitude from Norwegians during World War II, the tree that stands 20m tall at London’s Trafalgar Place (photo in 2017) was donated to UK in 1947.

The Christmas symbol is widely known, but not everyone knows the real story and heroic role of the King of Norway, who was a hero in his own right.

As evil and foolish as humanity has been so many times, sometimes there is a human being who shows courage, integrity and decency at a moment in history that these qualities are under threat. 

By his refusal to surrender those values to unspeakable evil, by his love of the country of which he ruled during exile in Britain, King Haakon VII of Norway was such a man — and made popular broadcasts to his country via the BBC through the war.

He was aware that the Nazis would find him and capture him after their invasion of neutral Norway in April 1940. Therefore, he kept his uniform on, in fear they might publish embarrassing photos of him wearing pyjamas.

He was tall and thin at 67 years old, with a moustachioed face. His English wife Maud, third child of Edward VII and his second daughter, died from cancer less than two years before.

Norway’s royal couple was very well-liked. They were viewed as a personable presence in medieval Norway. The King has been estimated to have given tens or thousands of private audiences in the course of his life.

Maud missed England, however, and she stayed at her parents’ Sandringham home in Norfolk as a gift from her father.

There, she could indulge her twin passions, riding and — by taking trains from King’s Lynn to London —clothes shopping. 

In the late 1920s, her petite, elegantly dressed figure was often seen teetering down Bond Street. Usually, she was accompanied by one or more of her dogs.

Maud, who died in the UK during November 1938’s visit, was a victim of AIDS. He was left desolate. Their beloved son, Crown Prince Olav (35) and he accompanied the body of their loved one back to Oslo via HMS Royal Oak. The storms had battered them.

The country’s main weapon against Nazism was surprise after the German invasion in Norway, 8-9 April 1940.

Norway was at peace for over 150 years. Hitler believed King Haakon would grant his request that he remove his ministers and create a government under the disgraceful Vidkun Quisling of the Norwegian Nazi Party.

Not many people know the story of heroism behind the gift, and the courageous role played all those years ago by King Haakon VII of Norway (pictured with Queen Maud and Prince Olav)

Few people are aware of the history of the gift and of the brave role King Haakon VI of Norway played in it all these years (pictured together with Queen Maud, Prince Olav).

Six hours after Hitler’s troops had crossed the border, Denmark surrendered. To act otherwise is to run the risk of more bloodshed, and nearly certain death. Haakon and his government insisted that Norway wouldn’t collaborate with Nazis.

They did not forsake the principles they believed in: free and democratic government. Legality that followed the will the people. 

Even at an early stage, the Norwegians were able to take advantage of the gangster-state they encountered.

As German warships neared Oslo, the national gold reserve, 53 tons of ingots worth about £2billion, was smuggled from the Bank of Norway to a hiding place on the shores of a fjord, with just hours to spare.

When the Germans arrived, they found the vaults unoccupied and the King absent. He ran to a small hotel located in the village of 135 miles east of the capital. His son and the members of their Parliament were also there.

Hitler declared that Hitler should take the King to death or live after they heard that Germany had refused the ultimatum of surrender.

The tiny village was soon surrounded by low-flying aircraft. As the attacks on the village began, father and son fell face first into the snow near the road.

Although explosives and other incendiary weapons were falling around them, King Haakon kept his cool as he grabbed a machine-gun shot that fell between Prince Olav.

He said, “A greeting to you personally from Germany,” and he continued quietly.

The King and his entourage moved around from one place to the other for the next two weeks in an effort to escape the Germans. 

On April 21, he had been living on a farm sheltering from the elements. 

A window was placed next to the King, and someone suggested moving. Haakon answered, “We are where we are.”

The couple had to leave Molde to escape the cold for six days.

They boarded HMS Glasgow, which was anchored at the bottom of the sea due to its secret cargo of large amounts of national gold reserves on the way to Bank of England.

However, the King wasn’t ready to depart Norway just yet.

A small fishing boat took the warship to Tromso, in the Arctic.

Although his arrival was meant to be secret, German intelligence discovered whereabouts and aircraft began following him.

So, for the next month the royal party hid in the snow-covered mountains — the King and Prince Olav sleeping in one small chalet and using another as an office and audience chamber.

The King returned to Norway on June 7th, just before the Germans overtook the country. He presided over the Tromso Cabinet meeting, which could have been his last visit to Norway. His voice broke as he said, ‘God Bless Norway,’ to his ministers.

Olav, him, and other members of Government boarded HMS Devonshire destroyer and set sail towards the Scottish port Gourock. 

They then travelled to London by train, Euston station. King George VI met them and drove them to Buckingham Palace.

London was exiled.

They felt betrayed when the King of Norway left Oslo. The King did not run away from the country out of cowardice, but only over the next few months. 

As the most valuable of cargoes, he was carrying their notion of themselves as nations with him.

He reminded them of their values through broadcasts from Britain and his moral courage cheered them just like he was encouraged by the resistance of the majority of the Norwegian population.

Instead of saying “when we win war”, he talked about the day when he would “come home”. Norwegian resistance was centered on loyalty to the constitutional monarch.

The pro-German Quisling administration’s thuggish underlings were assigned the task of ripping flowers from button holes or hats worn by King George VI.

Haakon, on the other hand, was instructed by King of Sweden not to surrender.

He maintained his unbroken stubbornness and declared that the government in Norway would continue in England.

King Haakon passed the tree on to Londoners and it was first erected in Trafalgar Square in the middle of the war (pictured in 1948) with no electric lights, but evergreen with defiant hope

King Haakon handed the tree over to Londoners. The first time it was erected at Trafalgar Square, in middle of war.

In addition to regular meetings with ministers, the King also presided over state councils held at the Norwegian Embassy, which is a lovely building located in Kensington.

He maintained close contact with all the service personnel, both land and sea.

The Allies had nearly 1000 merchant vessels available and over 30,000 Norwegian merchant seamen. They played a crucial role in keeping Britain fed.

Their work was praised by Philip Noel-Baker, parliamentary-secretary in the Ministry of Transport: ‘If Norway had done as stronger nations did, and said: ‘What’s the use?’ 

“I can’t imagine we could have held out during the worst. Great Britain will never forget the Norway’s actions.

The Norwegian army cannot retake their country through conquest by the Wehrmacht. However, they can plan to live in exile and make it difficult for German invaders. Sometimes with British intelligence.

History would not have looked so different if it weren’t for one operation like the February 1943.

High explosive charges were used to transport a raiding party consisting of nine Norwegians. They used these to blow up an industrial plant in Southern Norway. 

This was the only location in the world that produced heavy water, the same material the Nazis intended to use when developing the German Atom Bomb.

A seemingly minor event in previous years was another success that shone light on the dark.

Mons Urangsvag (a courageous Norwegian resistance fighter) was part of a commando raid at Hisoy island, just two miles west Norway’s coast.

Urangsvag sawed down a Norwegian tree in an arboretum to present it to the King Haakon, who was exiled. It was transported by tanker to King Haakon’s temporary residence at Foliejon, which is his exile in Windsor.

George VI was one of its many admirers. He wished that his Auntie Maud would have been able to witness the beautiful tree. It seems strangely, however, to be a symbol for all our hopes and dreams in these difficult days.

King Haakon, therefore, decided to give the tree to Londoners.

It was built in Trafalgar Square during the conflict. No electric lights — there was still a blackout! — but evergreen with defiant hope.

After the King had returned from Norway in the year that followed, Oslo’s people recollected the gift and began to carry on the tradition.

Today, LED lights make it easy to save energy. These lights will remain beacons of immeasurable light and remind us all how important it is to have the rare gift that we can bring moral courage.

The King and The Christmas Tree by A.N. Wilson is published by Manilla Press, £9.99.© A.N.Wilson 2021. 

To order a copy for £8.99, go to or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. This offer is valid through 11/12/21