Queen takes a birthday break

The canons were fired from the Akershus Fortress at noon and flags were flying all over Norway on the 4th of July, to mark the 75th birthday of Queen Sonja. She and other members of the royal family were taking a break from official duties, however, after a few hectic months.

Queen Sonja was celebrating her 75th birthday on Wednesday privately. PHOTO: Det Kongelige Slottet

In the past few weeks alone, the queen has made a long list of official appearances, opened an exhibition of her own private art collection at the Henie -Onstad Center outside Oslo and traveled to London to launch another  exhibit of Edvard Munch paintings. She and King Harald have welcomed dignitaries including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and hosted most of the diplomatic corps in Oslo on board their royal yacht.

June is always a busy month in Norway, before the traditional summer holidays begin, and May was even busier. That’s when the queen also released a book featuring the royal family’s properties around the country. Called Kongens Hus, and profiling all the royal residences in Norway, it sold out after just a week and went into a second printing.

“Interest in the book was overwhelming,” Ole Rikard Høisæther of publishing firm Orfeus Forlag told newspaper Aftenposten. “It has a simple explanation. The queen wrote about every single property the royal couple has, delivering text that was knowledgeable and personal.” Extensive photos added to the attraction, he claimed.

Orfeus also published a book on the royal properties in the 1990s but Høisæther said it was shorter with fewer photos. The queen agreed to write a new book to detail, perhaps even justify, a major  project now being completed to renovate and upgrade all the royal residences. The remodeling of the Royal Palace in Oslo stirred controversy when it ran well over budget, but the criticism over its expense has since died down.

Maintenance and interior decorating of the royal properties were not a major priorities for either the late King Haakon og King Olav, both of whom lost their spouses relatively early and spent many years as widowers. When King Harald succeeded Olav in 1991, Queen Sonja oversaw a full renovation of the palace before they moved in. She then embarked on renovation of all the other residences including the historic summer home on the Bygdøy Peninsula in Oslo.

Queen Sonja claimed that home, called Bygydø Kongsgård, is her favourite among the royal residences, which also include the timber lodge Kongsseteren near Holmenkollen in Oslo, Gamlehaugen in Bergen, Stiftsgården in Trondheim, Ledaal in Stavanger and Jørstad gård in Lillehammer. In addition come the mountain lodge called Prinsehytta in Sikkilsdalen, the royal yacht Norge, the royal train carriage and the castle Oscarshall, also on Bygdøy.

But it’s the summer house at Mågerø on the island of Tjøme where the queen has usually spent most of her summer holiday, often while the king is out sailing. One of their official duties at the end of June was an official visit to the county of Vestfold, conveniently including Tjøme and where the queen said she felt like she was “coming home.”

She’s also spent birthdays there before, far from the roaring canons at Akershus. The 75th birthdays of both the king and the queen were celebrated officially in late May, and she was spending Wednesday out of the public eye and, presumably, on summer holiday. There’s currently nothing on her official program, until duties pick up again in August.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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