After weeks of announcements that the royal family wouldn’t be waving to the masses as usual on the 17th of May, King Harald V and some of his closest family members made an appearance anyway. Then they set off on a surprise drive around Oslo in open vintage cars, including a swing through the grounds of the Oslo University Hospital at Ullevål, where the most seriously ill Covid-19 patients have been treated.
The royal surprises began Sunday morning, when Crown Prince Haakon’s family walked down the long driveway of their estate in suburban Asker and met representatives of local schools and the community.
The family usually oversees the local children’s parade, but with all parades cancelled by the Corona crisis this year, they wanted to make up for it.
From there they headed, also in an open car, to local nursing homes. Health care personnel had clearly been tipped to the visit and managed to wheel some of the residents outdoors to receive royal greetings.
Then it was on to the Royal Palace, where King Harald and Queen Sonja were waiting despite having told a national TV audience on Saturday that they’d be spending the 17th of May at their summer home on Oslo’s Bygdøy peninsula and simply hosting a family luncheon. That proved to be a royal deception of sorts, but it all added up to a carefully orchestrated PR coup that also kept the royals from violating Corona containment measures.
At 1pm, they all came out on the palace balcony despite all the warnings that wouldn’t happen this year. The area in front of the balcony had indeed been cleared of the public, but to make room for a choir, musicians and (another surprise) young representatives from 74 of the more than 100 Oslo schools that otherwise would have marched in the Norwegian capital’s huge annual parade that had been cancelled along with all others. Health Minister Bent Høie had earlier declared that the area would be closed to the public on the 17th of May.
Related video: Earlier cheers on the 17th of May
The royal family then joined in an effort to get Norwegians all over the country to sing the national anthem Ja vi elsker together. It was clearly more successful than efforts elsewhere such as on Oslo’s City Hall Plaza, where canons roared from the Akershus Fortress on schedule at 1pm but few managed to mount a coordinated songfest.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) could then report the last big royal surprise of the day, when King Harald and Queen Sonja were driven out of the palace in a convertible roadster from 1939, followed by Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit in the palace’s vintage Lincoln Continental convertible. That’s the same car that carried them as newlyweds from the Oslo Cathedral to the palace in 2001, and Haakon’s newlywed parents in 1968.
They drove in a police-escorted convoy from the palace through downtown Oslo. Grønland, Kampen and the popular Grünerløkka area, past Sofienberg Park and then to Oslo University Hospital Ullevål. It’s been on the frontline of the battle against the Corona virus, and where the most seriously ill Covid-19 patients have been treated.
The royals clearly wanted to acknowledge the recent heroic contributions of health care workers, and the King’s Guards’ music corps was in place to add to the festivities. Many nurses and doctors were also liberated from the hospital wards to line the streets within the sprawling hospital complex and wave back at the royal visitors.
Then the royal family finally headed to the king’s summer home on Bygdøy, where the table was set for a 17th of May luncheon with traditional fare including two types of smoked salmon and potato pancakes to wrap around sausages.