Kings, queens, princes, princesses and at least two presidents from all over Europe were arriving in Oslo this week, to take part in Norway’s official celebration of King Harald’s and Queen Sonja’s 80th birthdays this year. The partying is due to begin at the Royal Palace Tuesday evening, and run through Wednesday.
King Harald turned 80 on February 21, while Queen Sonja will turn 80 on July 4. They decided, along with palace staff and the government, to officially celebrate midway between the two dates, on May 9 and 10th.
Festivities kick off Tuesday evening, just before the king and queen start receiving 30 to 40 of their fellow royals and heads of state from around Europe, plus more than 100 special guests at a gala banquet at the Royal Palace. The Swedish and Danish royal families are all invited, while monarchs or representatives of royal families will also be attending from countries including Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Luxembourg. Iceland and Finland, the two Nordic republics, were sending their presidents.
Palace staff have been urging ordinary Norwegians to turn out for a banquet warm-up party on the palace grounds starting at 5:30pm Tuesday, when the King’s Guards will perform in honour of the monarch’s 80th birthday. The Oslo Soul Children’s choir will also perform and ice cream cones called Krone-is (Crown Ice Cream) will be handed out to those assembled, as long as supplies last.
It’s all part of efforts to drum up a strong show of support for the royal couple and, perhaps, prove to all their foreign visitors that the monarchy remains popular in Norway. At 6:30pm, the royal couple is due to appear on the palace balcony to wave to what their staff hopes will be large crowds, and sing Norway’s own birthday song (Hurra for deg) to the couple.
Festivities are due to resume at 11am on Wednesday, when the newly repainted and decorated royal yacht Norge will be tied up at Honnørbrygga in front of Oslo City Hall, not far from the Danish royal yacht Dannebrog that will house Denmark’s Queen Margrethe and her family during their visit. King Harald and Queen Sonja have invited all their royal guests on a “mini-cruise” aboard Norge around the Oslo Fjord, during which lunch will also be served. Weather reports weren’t the best, with both rain and chilly temperatures in the forecast, so that may keep some of them from spending much time out on deck.
The celebrations will climax Wednesday evening, when the Norwegian government hosts another festive dinner for all the royals inside the lobby of the Norwegian Opera House on Oslo’s eastern waterfront. It’s still in the midst of major redevelopment, which the foreign royals will be able to see as part of the government’s effort to show off “The New Oslo” rising at Bjørvika.
Plenty of royal pomp and circumstance is expected as all the king’s and queen’s guests travel in a motorcade from the palace to the Opera Wednesday evening, led by the Royal Guards down the capital’s main boulevard, Karl Johans Gate, which will be closed to regular traffic. The motorcade is due to depart the palace at 6:15pm and again, palace staff is hoping lots of Norwegians turn out to cheer the royals along the way. The weather forecast wasn’t good, however, so it remains to be seen whether spectators and the royals alike will endure rain and maybe even sleet.
The celebrations will round off with fireworks set off near the Opera at 10:30pm Wednesday night.
Those who prefer staying at home through all the partying can follow it live on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), which will start airing the festivities both Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:20pm.