Hannes the first minister

Hannes Hafstein became Iceland’s first minister in 1904, when a special ministerial office in the Danish government for Icelandic affairs was created. A statue of Hannes together with Kristján IX, the Danish king, stands in front of the Government House at Lækjartorg. There were three offices that opperated under the minister of Iceland, the first which dealt with the country’s judicial and church affairs. The second took care of employment and transportation, and the third took care of the country’s finances, and taxes due to the Danish Kingdom.

Hannes, who was born in 1861 at Möðruvellir in Hörgárdalur in Eyjafjörður was the son of Pétur Amtmann Havsteen who had no less than 10 children with his wife, Ragnheiður Stefánsdóttir. Hannes Hafstein was considered a good poet, Sprettur is perhaps his most famous poem, which appeared in Verðandi in 1882, and begins like this;

Ég berst á fáki fráum
fram um veg.
Mót fjallahlíðum háum
hleypi ég.
Og golan kyssir kinn.
Og á harða, harða spretti
hendist áfram klárinn minn.

Hannes Hafstein outside of the Government House


Hannes Hafstein outside of the Government House, Harpan in the far right and the National Bank to the far left

Hannes Hafstein’s portrait on a 500 kr bill

Hannes Hafstein the minister of Iceland

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson
28/02/2023 : A7RIII : FE 1.4/85mm GM