King celebrates out of the country

Flags were flying all over Norway on Tuesday, King Harald’s 75th birthday, but the monarch himself wasn’t home to see them. He opted to take off on a private holiday, and celebrate his birthday outside the homeland.

King Harald's sister Princess Astrid (center) also celebrated a major birthday earlier this month, turning 80 on February 12. At left, the king's oldest sister, Princess Ragnhild, who moved to Brazil in the 1950s. PHOTO: Det kongelige hoff / Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen

Palace officials had announced last month that the king wouldn’t be home for a birthday that most Norwegians rank as a “jubilee.” King Harald’s decision to travel abroad — officials wouldn’t say exactly where he was going — also meant he won’t be attending the World Championships in ski flying at Vikersund later in the week.

“I’m going away,” King Harald told newspaper Dagbladet. “I won’t be celebrating. I’m not so interested in birthdays any longer. That’s perhaps natural.”

Nor will the king, long an active sailor, go sailing in some warmer place, he told Dagbladet. He may click, though, in to a congratulatory page (external link, in Norwegian) on the palace’s official website, where well-wishers could send birthday greetings. They could also sign a protocol book at the palace on Tuesday afternoon.

Last week, before he went traveling, the Norwegian government presented King Harald and Queen Sonja (who will also turn 75 this year, on July 4th) with their “official birthday gift.” It’s the first of six exhibits of treasures collected by the royal family over the years that until now have mostly been stowed away in storage rooms. The king and queen attended the opening of the first exhibit at Kunstindustrimuseet (Museum of Decorative Arts and Design) in Oslo and were accompanied by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

“The exhibits are also about Norway’s history,” Stoltenberg said, adding that the government was giving the royal couple something they already had, but in a new context. The king and queen claimed to appreciate the gift of exhibits, saying they brought royal history alive.

The government will also host a “people’s party” for King Harald and Queen Sonja midway between their two birthdays, on Wednesday May 31. It will include a festive church ceremony during the day and an outdoor party in the evening on the roof of the Opera House in Oslo.

Even though he claimed to not be so keen on celebrating, King Harald indicated he welcomed the idea of a party in May. “The weather is a lot better,” he said, than it normally is in February.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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