Royals head for Chile in March

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King Harald V and Queen Sonja had claimed they’d cut back on their state visits when both turned 80 two years ago. Now, just before the monarch turns 82 on Thursday, Norway’s foreign ministry has confirmed they’ll be making another exception with a state visit to Chile at the end of next month.

Queen Sonja and King Harald celebrated their 80th birthdays in 2017 but are still going strong, now with a state visit planned to Chile at the end of March. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

The ministry announced on Tuesday that the king and queen have accepted an invitation from Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, to mark the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Norway and Chile. The five-day visit, lengthy for a state visit, will take place from March 26-31, with the royal couple accompanied by Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Fisheries Minister Harald Tom Nesvik.

The visit will begin in the capital, Santiago de Chile, with welcome ceremonies, meetings and dinner with the president. The royals will also meet other top officials and dignitaries and take part in the Oslo-based Kon-Tiki Museum’s initiative to return archaeological items and photographs taken during Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition to Easter Island on the papyrus raft Kon-Tiki.

King Harald and Queen Sonja have already visited Easter Island, which is under Chile’s jurisdiction. PHOTO: Det Kongelige Hoff

King Harald and Queen Sonja made a private visit to Easter Island during, appropriately enough, Norway’s Easter holidays in 2014. From Santiago this time around, they’ll travel on to Chile’s famous and scenic southern region of Patagonia, and visit Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams.

The foreign ministry noted that Chile is an important market for Norwegian businesses, with another business delegation traveling along with the royals who often function as “door-openers” on such trips. King Harald will speak at the opening of a Norwegian-Chilean business event that will feature aquaculture (fish farming), renewable energy and how to make cities technologically “smart.”

It’s the royals’ second state visit to South America in the past year, following a trip to Argentina late last winter. King Harald has personal ties to South America: Princess Ragnhild, the monarch’s late older sister, lived in Rio de Janeiro and raised her family there after marrying businessman Erling Lorentzen in the early 1950s.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund