This month, King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. The then Crown Prince of Norway married Sonja Haraldsen on 29 August 1968 at Oslo Cathedral. Their wedding, attended by royalty from around Europe, came five months after the announcement of their engagement which was marked by Harald presenting his bride with a diamond and ruby ring with a very personal meaning.
Sonja and Harald announced their engagement on 19 March 1968. The couple had met in 1959 but soon ran into opposition. Sonja was the daughter of a businessman while Harald, a future King of Norway, was expected to wed a fellow royal. When Harald made it clear that the only person he would ever marry was Sonja, their royal wedding became a reality. And to seal their betrothal, he presented his wife to be with a ring that had once belonged to his late mother, Princess Märtha.
The ruby and diamond arrangement held substantial sentimental value for Harald and for his father, King Olav, who had married Princess Märtha of Sweden in 1929 in what was widely seen as a love match. They became a much loved royal couple, and people across Norway shared Olav’s grief when he lost his wife in 1954. Just three years later, he became King of Norway. The decision to use Märtha’s ring for the royal engagement provided a link with a much-missed princess but also underlined the acceptance of Sonja as a member of Norway’s ruling house.
The ring itself features a scroll of small diamonds at its centre, flanked on either side by crescent-shaped rubies. There are more clusters of diamonds at either end of the arrangement. It was an unusual design, small by modern royal standards but filled with personal meaning that continues to have special resonance. Queen Sonja later passed the ring on to her son, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, who gave it to his bride, Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby in 2001.
The ring retains a special place in Norwegian regal history, linking three of the country’s most famous royal women and their love stories. And this month, as Queen Sonja and King Harald celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, its role in a very renowned royal romance is being remembered all over again.