Norway’s King Harald V used his annual New Year’s Eve address to the nation to commend youthful impatience with leaders who are not “doing enough to take care of nature and our earth.” The elderly monarch wasn’t commenting, however, on his Danish counterpart’s surprise decision to abdicate, even though she’s younger than he is.
Queen Margrethe of Denmark, one of King Harald’s many royal relatives, had shocked her own nation earlier in the evening by announcing that she intends to abdicate and turn over the throne to her eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik. She’s 83 and has had various health problems for several years. Like King Harald, however, she had earlier dismissed any prospect of abdication.
Both have claimed that the monarch’s role lasts a lifetime. King Harald, who will turn 87 next month, has also had a series of health and mobility problems in recent years, but has earlier said that “when you’ve made a vow to the Parliament, it lasts the rest of your life. So it’s simple for me: We hold out to the bitter end.”
Queen Margrethe changed her mind, though, and on January 14, the Danish prime minister will proclaim a troneskiftet (literally, a throne shift) after a formal meeting with her government. The Danish crown prince will become King Frederik X and his Australian-born wife will become Queen Mary.
The Danish queen’s announcement came after the Norwegian monarch’s address had been prerecorded, and there was no mention of it in King Harald’s speech. Officials at the Royal Palace declined requests for comment after the Danish queen’s abdication was made public, telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), for example, that it simply had no comment. It remained unclear whether Queen Margrethe had spoken with King Harald about her change of heart in advance. The two are good friends, as are Queen Margrethe and Norway’s Queen Sonja, so it’s likely they were briefed.
King Harald, meanwhile, had other things on his mind while preparing his New Year’s speech, which always airs nationwide at 7:30pm on New Year’s Eve and is watched at millions of households around the country before traditional celebratory dinners begin. Among his topics was climate change, which he witnessed the effects of first-hand in Norway last summer after more extreme weather sparked landslides and flooding. King Harald said he shares young climate advocates’ concern and impatience.
“The young are about to give up on adults who aren’t making strong-enough efforts (to take care of nature and the planet), and not quickly enough,” King Harald said. “The hope is that the new goals set by the world’s leaders must be followed up with action. We now need everyone’s impatience before time runs out for us. I can’t express that strongly enough.”
He also spoke firmly again about earlier injustices towards Norway’s indigenous people, including the Sami and Kvenner, who were long subjected to what he called “the brutal fornorsknings policy” that attempted to force Norwegian culture on them from around 1850 until “right up to our time.” King Harald hailed a state commission’s report released last summer that shared the “disturbing stories” of many people who were denied to speak their own language or celebrate their own culture, and who were stripped of their own self-confidence and identity.
“All of that went on in the name of nation-building, in a Norway that needed to built up its own self-confidence after 400 years with Danish rule,” King Harald said. Forcing the language and culture on indigenous groups, however, “became a loss for us all,” he said.
The monarch urged, as he has before, more efforts at understanding others, listening to others and stressing shared values of “living in freedom and peace with on another.” He stressed the collective “we” in Norway, instead of “us and them,” and urged ongoing efforts to strengthen a sense of fellowship among all residents of Norway “where we stand up for one another in the faith that it’s for the best for all.”