Laughter and tears at royal party

Norway’s Queen Sonja burst into laughter but also seemed moved to tears during the government-hosted party marking the 75th birthdays of both the queen and King Harald on Thursday evening. Despite chilly weather and threatening skies, thousands turned out to extend a resounding “thank you” for their years of royal service.

Queen Sonja shares a laugh with her son, Crown Prince Haakon (far left) and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg during the royal birthday performance on Thursday. The queen, seated next to King Harald, holds granddaughter Leah Isadora Behn on her lap. At right, the president of the Norwegian Parliament, Dag Terje Andersen, and Princess Martha Louise. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

The couple also had been honoured earlier in the day with a performance in front of the Royal Palace by the King’s Guards and around 3,000 children singing Norway’s traditional birthday song Hurra for deg, while members of the royal family sang along from the palace balcony.

Festivities continued through the afternoon with courtesy calls and the presentation of official gifts from top government officials, along with a special church service at the Oslo Cathedral.

The main so-called “people’s gift,” however, was the government-sponsored outdoor party and concert that evening on the roof of Oslo’s waterfront Opera House, a gala event carried live on national TV by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The royal family arrived in style, aboard the launch that serves the monarch’s yacht Norge. It attracted a congratulatory salute with the firing of canons as it rounded the historic Akershus Fortress and Caste and sailed into the bay at Bjørvika where the Opera House is located.

The King’s Guards were lined up to receive them, along with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was the official host for the evening’s program. His message was clear: Norway was officially wishing the royal couple well and extending a nation’s gratitude.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg expressed a nation's gratitude as he also congratulated King Harald and Queen Sonja at the outdoor party on the roof of the Opera House. The king turned 75 on February 21, while the queen turns 75 on July 4. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

“In good and difficult days, the royal couple stands with us,” Stoltenberg said in his welcoming remarks. “Confident when the sun shines. Anchors when it’s stormy.” Referring to their long, nine-year romance at a time when it was radical for an heir to the throne to marry a commoner, Stoltenberg said the couple “opened an historic door” when they finally were allowed to marry in 1968. “The times said ‘no,’ hearts said ‘yes,’” Stoltenberg noted. “The young couple listened to their hearts, chose each other and set out on their life-long journey of renewal and understanding.”

Stoltenberg’s remarks were followed by a program of music, song and more speeches, by sports heroes who thanked the royals for always cheering on Norwegian athletes at the finish line, by performers who appreciated the royals’ interest in the arts, and even by Norwegian folk singer Ole Paus, not known for being a royalist but who claimed they won his respect and admiration through their response to last summer terrorist attacks. The king and queen and other members of the family interrupted summer holiday to quickly return to Oslo, spend hours with mourning families and survivors and then attend a long string of memorials and special events as the nation grieved for weeks. Paus performed a song portraying his own gratitude, as Queen Sonja fought back tears.

Otherwise the evening was a joyful tribute to the couple, with another rendition of Hurra for deg and the national anthem. Stoltenberg said he spoke on behalf of 5 million Norwegians when he claimed “we are so fond of you, and proud of you. May you live happily all your days.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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