King Harald V, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and lots of other Norwegians are among those paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday after 70 years on the throne. Norway and Great Britain have a long history of close connections, not least since King Harald and the late queen were second-cousins.
“For nearly a century, Her Majesty devoted her life to the service of the Commonwealth, following the British people through good days and bad, in times of happiness and sorrow,” wrote King Harald in a message of “our deepest condolences” sent to Queen Elizabeth’s son and Britain’s new monarch, King Charles III.
“On a personal note, I am mourning the loss of a dear relative and confidant friend,” added Norway’s king in his message signed “Harald R.”
They had the same great-grandparents, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, who were the parents of the British Princess Maud. She eventually became Norway’s first queen after the Norwegian monarchy was re-established in 1905, and she also became the grandmother of today’s King Harald. Like many of the other grandchildren of Britain’s Queen Victoria who were married into European royal families, Maud had become the wife of the Danish Prince Carl, who in turn became Norway’s first modern king, Haakon VII.
Queen Maud died in 1938 when Harald was still a toddler, but she had remained “very British,” according to historians, and embedded many British traditions into the new Norwegian royal family. She continued to speak English, spent much of her time in England and, the current king has noted, influenced everything from relations between Norway and the UK to the royals’ own menus at Christmastime.
Those relations were cemented during World War II, when King Haakon VII, his son Crown Prince Olav V at the time (King Harald’s father) and the entire Norwegian government went into exile in London. The wartime years brought the Norwegian and British royal families even closer together, to the point that the Royal Palace noted on Friday that King Haakon reportedly had been the late Queen Elizabeth’s favourite uncle as a child. She always called him “Uncle Charles” (since “Charles” is the English version of his original Danish name “Carl”) and the palace noted that she’s said to have “named her first child (now King Charles III) after King Haakon” when Charles was born in 1948. King Haakon reigned in Norway until his death in 1957.
Norway was also the first country outside the Commonwealth to secure a state visit from the still-new British queen in 1955. Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the late Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, also made state visits to Norway in 1981 during King Olav’s reign and in 2001, 10 years after King Harald had succeeded his father. Norway’s King Haakon, King Olav and King Harald have all been invited to state visits in the UK as well.
Political ties between Norway and the UK are also strong, with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre appearing on national TV Thursday to comment on what he described as “an historic epoch and a long life in service” being over. In an official statement Støre noted that Queen Elizabeth “represented continuity and solidarity” for seven decades, “also in the close relations between our two countries and our royal families.” In sending “our warmest thoughts” to those who have “lost a dear monarch,” Støre stressed respect for her lifetime of service.
On a more personal note, Støre said during an appearance on state broadcaster NRK that Queen Elizabeth had sat between himself and King Harald at a meal during the royal family’s visit to London in 2005. Norway was celebrating its centennial of its dissolution of a union with Sweden and its re-establishment of its own monarchy, and Støre said he’d been told that the queen would spend half her time speaking with King Harald and the other half with him. That’s precisely what happened, Støre said.
The British ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood, expressed thanks for the “many condolences from Norway, a country to which Her Majesty had strong ties and was glad to visit many times.” News bureau NTB reported that the embassy would be setting out a Book of Condolence at the embassy in Oslo’s Frogner district, which people would be welcome to sign between 10am and 4pm every day for the next week except on Sunday.
King Harald concluded his own message of condolences to King Charles III by stating that he and his family “wish Your Majesty and your family all the strength and comfort you need in this time of grief.” Funeral arrangements were pending, with Norwegian media reporting that changes were being made in the Norwegian royals’ schedules following the British queen’s death. Some may be made to accommodate presence at the funeral, while an official visit to Great Britain next week by Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit has been cancelled.