New security role for King’s Guards

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Norway’s King’s Guards were set to become tin soldiers, guarding the palace and the royal residences in their decorative plumed bowler hats and appearing at special official events. Instead, the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011 have given them new and tougher roles.

Norway's royal guards now have a variety of functions and responsibilities, but are still best known for their precision marching and music, and honour duty at official events. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Norway’s royal guards now have a variety of functions and responsibilities, but are still best known for their precision marching and music, and honour duty at official events. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Torbjørn Kjosvold

When the terrorist bomb exploded in 2011, 700 King’s Guards were called on to provide armed protection for the palace, the government’s main quarters and other key buildings in the capital.

Now, as a direct consequence of the attacks, their duties have been expanded and they’ve been given the additional role of helping to protect the city. They go through a tough military education, to be fit for task.

In addition to protecting the country’s monarch and royal family, they’ll assist police in crises such as natural catastrophes, large-scale disasters, and terrorist attacks. They’ll intervene if necessary in any criminal activity on royal property and will be more visible during rounds on the sprawling grounds of the palace park. They’ve also been issued new equipment, and are soon to get armoured vehicles.

Read more: Royal guards apologize to king

It’s a big change from 2010, when the plan was to scale down their activities, reduce compulsory military service and military training, and reduce them to a small band of decorative soldiers and competitors in military parades and tattoos. Instead Parliament gave approval last year for the King’s Guard to be in a state of emergency preparedness for both the Royal Family and the whole of the capital.

His Majesty the King's Guards, at a demonstration of new armoured vehicles at Akershus Fortress. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Vetle Hallås

His Majesty the King’s Guards, at a demonstration of new armoured vehicles at Akershus Fortress. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Vetle Hallås

Evidence of this new role came recently when they started to provide a more active guard of the park that surrounds the Royal Palace in downtown Oslo (Slottsparken). There have been a number of violent attacks and incidents of rape in this park, and when Oslo residents were recently asked about where they felt unsafe, this was one of the places many named. It is poorly lit at night, and many have to cut through it on their way home.

“To have several guardsmen on patrol in the Slottsparken has a definitive preventive effect on both criminal activities and possible threats against the palace,” the communications adviser for the Guards, Lars Magne Hovtun, told newspaper Aftenposten. “No guardsman will fail to intervene if they see an attack happening.”

They are also no longer going to be given “meaningless duties” that are unsuited to their level of training and expertise. “Norwegian soldiers will no longer be made to carry out tasks that can be done by civilians, just because arrangers want to save money,” the military leadership of the Norwegian Armed Forces (Forsvaret) told Aftenposten. For the last few decades, royal guards have helped out with jobs like raking the snow and holding up signs for the public at the World Cup  and other winter sports events at Holmenkollen in Oslo. These duties date back to a time when there were three times as many recruits in compulsory military service as there are today.

The King’s Guards (called Garden in Norwegian) make up the biggest unit in the army, with over 1,000 soldiers on compulsory military service, and have provided protection to the King of Norway  since 1905. In the course of their service they take a traditional oath of allegiance: “In the hour of danger he shall, when it is demanded, willingly offer up his life and blood for the King and the Fatherland.” They provide round-the-clock protection of the King’s Palace, Akershus Fortress and the royal residences at Skaugum and Bygdøy. Their motto is Alt for kongen: “Everything for the King.”

See more photos of the King’s Guards by clicking here.

newsinenglish.no/Elizabeth Lindsay