Flags were flying and canons were fired at noon when King Harald V celebrated his 81st birthday on Wednesday. The monarch was nowhere in sight, reportedly off on winter holiday for a private celebration, but royal watchers think King Harald’s popularity is nonetheless rising with his age.
“It’s often that the older a king becomes, the more popular he becomes as well,” Tor Bomann-Larsen, who has written a series of books about the royal family, told news bureau NTB on Wednesday.
“In that sense, it’s no downturn for a king to age and eventually get old,” Bomann-Larsen said. “It’s also true that the longer a king or queen sits, the more they demonstrate the feeling of duty they have towards the people and the role. That’s something folks value.”
He thinks the king’s position will only be strengthened in the years ahead: “Even when they take off on holiday and take time for themselves, no one is in doubt who’s king in this country.”
The king’s royal yacht Norge, berthed for the winter at Tjuvholmen in Oslo, was decked out in celebratory maritime flags on Wednesday. King Harald has been Norway’s reigning monarch for 27 years. His father, King Olav, reigned for 33 years.
The Royal Palace would only say that the monarch was celebrating his birthday privately. There were no official celebrations like last year, when both the king and Queen Sonja turned 80. They’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in August, but after all the celebrations of the past two years, when King Harald also celebrated his silver jubilee as monarch, that will also be mostly a family affair.
King Harald is known to be especially interested in sports, so he’s likely following all the action and Norwegian victories from the Winter Olympics in South Korea. His good friend and fellow royal Queen Margrethe of Denmark also became a widow last week when her husband, Prince Henrik, died after a long illness. It would also be natural for King Harald and Queen Sonja to visit Queen Margrethe in Copenhagen, after the prince’s private funeral earlier this week.
When he turned 80 last year, King Harald said that he hoped he would remain “curious and have the ability to appreciate new things and adapt to them. I mustn’t get stuck in what was my childhood and youth.”