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From Home Rule to Independence

Iceland gained home rule on February 1, 1904. The King of Denmark appointed a single Minister to govern Iceland, who had the support of a majority of Alþingi. Thus parliamentary government was introduced in Iceland.

Hannes Hafstein served as first Minister of Iceland from 1904 until 1909, when he had to step down after a vote of no confidence in Alþingi. In 1917 the numbers of Minister Posts were increased from one to three Ministers.

Iceland was recognised as a sovereign state, in a personal union with the King of Denmark, on December 1, 1918. Legislation passed by Alþingi required royal assent in order to take effect. The King retained the power of veto under the Constitution although he respected the principle of parliamentary government. The veto was never applied. Alþingi held all legislative powers in national affairs, while foreign affairs remained in the hands of the Danish government.

Iceland gained independence from Denmark on June 17, 1944. When Denmark was occupied by German forces in 1940 it cut Iceland off from the government in Copenhagen. Thus, Alþingi announced that royal powers would be transferred to the Icelandic government and that Iceland would take over its own foreign affairs. On June 17, 1941, Alþingi elected a Viceroy to serve as a proxy for the King. This arrangement continued until the Act of Union was repealed and the modern Republic of Iceland was founded at a session of Alþingi at Þingvellir on June 17 1944. At the same session, Iceland’s first President was chosen.

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