It was probably one of the most direct and news-related royal holiday addresses ever: King Harald V used his annual speech to the nation on New Year’s Eve to console and support Norwegians after the country’s worst year since the Nazi German occupation during World War II.
The monarch wasted no time in addressing the new catastrophe that stunned the country this week: a nearly kilometer-long landslide that destroyed homes, killed at least one resident and forced the evacuation of more than a thousand residents of Gjerdrum, northeast of Oslo.
“This evening I want to first and foremost send a greeting to all of you who are affected by the landslide in Gjerdrum,” King Harald stated at the outset of the address that traditionally is viewed by millions of Norwegians at the beginning of New Year’s Eve gatherings. Most were vastly scaled down this year because of the Corona pandemic.
“This terrible event has made a deep impression on all of us,” King Harald continued. “I feel for you who go into the New Year with sorrow and uncertainty, for you who have lost your homes and who, right now, are in such despair that you can’t see the way forward.”
At the same time, the monarch hailed state authorities, emergency services and civil society for the rapid and enormous reponse that’s been mounted since the landslide first hit at around 4am on Wednesday in the midst of a snowstorm. Search and rescue crews have been working around the clock since, through the New Year’s holiday. The mobilization “to help our fellow citizens in need,” said the king, “makes me both proud and touched.”
A year that’s been ‘difficult for us all’
King Harald went on to stress how “this catastrophe that has hit so many people comes at the end of a year that’s been difficult for us all.” He noted how the Corona pandemic and all the ensuing infection-control measures have dramatically changed everyday life, disrupted travel and limited social contact.
“To all of you who feel alone this New Year’s Eve, you are not alone in feeling like that,” King Harald said. “To all of you who are exhausted and uneasy about the future, I understand you so well. It’s been a year full of disappointments, cancellations and postponements.”
He reminded Norwegians that “we are together when it comes to living in a pandemic, but it has affected us so differently. For some, this has been a year when “dreams were crushed, jobs were lost and for those already struggling, things went from bad to worse.” Others, noted the king, have seen their families come closer together and learned to appreciate things earlier taken for granted.
Expressions of gratitude
King Harald then thanked “everyone” who’ve had to give up birthday celebrations, weddings, the hard-partying russ season for graduating high school students and lots of traditions on various holidays through the year. He also thanked those “who have sung from their balconies, shopped for elderly parents and kept their distance, out of sheer consideration for their health.”
King Harald, who was due to celebrate 30 years on the throne in January, stressed that “we are in a serious situation, both in Norway and the world,” but he lauded the public’s willingness, creativity and ability to “think new” and operate in Corona-friendly ways. Norwegian practicality and an ability to build up a huge sovereign wealth fund has helped avert economic disaster.
“We must be prepared for a new year with more uncertainty and difficulties but also reason for optimism,” King Harald said. Corona vaccines “give us hope for the whole world.”
“The queen and I, like all other grandparents, miss being able to hug our children and grandchildren,” the king said in his speech broadcast on national TV stations TV2 and NRK, “but we hope from the heart that we will be able to do so next year.”