Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja were joined by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon on Tuesday as they performed the State Opening of the Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget, in the country’s capital, Oslo. This was King Harald’s 29th State Opening that he has presided over as King of Norway and was the 163 time that the Norwegian parliament was officially opened.
Military forces from the Navy, Air Forces and ground defence, as well as the King’s Guard, took their places at the parade street of Karl Johan, which runs between the Royal Palace and the Parliament, in good time before the opening took place. The roads were also decorated with Norwegian flags and thousands of spectators.
The ceremony began once His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon arrived at the Parliament where he was received by the Parliament’s representatives. After just a few minutes, the King and Queen’s motorcade came out of the Royal Palace. The motorcade went slowly down the street of Karl Johan before reaching the Stortinget shortly after. All along the street, you could hear people cheer and applaud the King and Queen. Many brought with them Norwegian flags as Their Majesties waved cheerily to the people.
You could see a clear difference between the cars used by the Norwegian royals. The Crown Prince’s car is decorated with the Crown Prince’s flag, which is the King’s flag with a split. While the King’s car is decorated with a completely rectangular royal-flag, portraying a crown lion, standing on two feet with an axe in his hands.
The King and Queen were also welcomed by parliamentary representatives before they entered the parliament building. Here they went through all the halls and into the Eidsvold’s Gallery before they arriving in the “7th of June Room”. In the Eidsvold’s Gallery, there are portraits of all members of the Eidsvold Assembly, which wrote Norway’s constitution – the second oldest constitution in the world that is still in use. This room is often described as the most beautiful room in the entire Parliament.
The “7th of June Room” is named after the date that Norway declared themselves as an independent kingdom from Sweden in 1905. It is also the day that King Haakon VII returned to Norway in 1945 after five years of exile in Britain as a result of World War II.
It is common practice that the King and Queen go side by side for official occasions. This does not apply during the State Opening of Parliament. Here, all focus is on the King and his power to open the Stortinget. That is why the King goes alone after the welcome committee from the parliament, while Queen Sonja goes side by side with her son, the Crown Prince. After Crown Prince Haakon and Queen Sonja, the Royal Family’s military adjutants and the leadership of the Royal Court followed.
The main hall of Parliament changes significantly when the King opens it; At other times in the year, the hall consists of 169 chairs for the representatives in a semicircle around a large podium, a smaller podium and two debate chairs. This is removed when the King attends Parliament and is replaced with the Norwegian throne, as well as two smaller chairs for the Queen and the Crown Prince. The Parliament’s president and the secretary have a separate desk in front of the King so that all chairs are facing His Majesty. Parliament’s president Tone Trøen arrived at the Chamber together with the secretary and declared that the meeting was legal. After this, a large delegation with officials who served as representatives of the police and the various departments arrived.
The royals then arrived in the main hall of the Stortinget. What one could clearly see was that many of the parliamentary representatives were not dressed in black dress. Many of the representatives used their bunad, their traditional Norwegian celebration dress, from the district they represent. The last to arrive in the hall after the King, Queen and Crown Prince was the Norwegian government. When they arrived, the Norwegian Royal Anthem was sung.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg then went to His Majesty King and gave him “The Speech of the Throne”. This is written by the Norwegian government, which contains briefly what the government wants to do in the year to come. After the King has read the speech, it is common tradition that the youngest member of the Norwegian government reads a brief statement and the state’s affairs. The President concluded the speech with the same words that have concluded the Presidents’ speeches the last 163 years. All the representatives said the same in chorus with the President:
“God save The King and the fatherland.”
These words were followed by the first verse of Norway’s national anthem, “Yes We Love This Country.” The King, the Queen and the Crown Prince then departed the hall followed by the government. When the King exited the Stortinget, this was announced with the royal fanfare. All members of parliament are required to sit in the main chamber until His Majesty is no longer in the building. This is a custom that stretches back for more than 100 years.
The State Opening of Parliament begins a process of many important political decisions for Norway. On Monday of next week, the Minister of Finance presents the new national budget. Last week, it was also known that the Christian-Democratic Party will consider co-operating with the Labour Party. This will be determined in November, and if this happens, there is an opportunity that the conservative government must leave.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit does not attend the State Opening. Nor does Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who will one day become Norway’s Queen. This is a practice that has been changing over the years. King Olav was a widower for many years, and only participated with his son when Parliament was opened. When King Olav died in 1991, King Harald wanted the Queen to attend the ceremony. In the future when Crown Prince Haakon becomes Norway’s King, then it is likely that Mette-Marit will also attend the ceremony, as will Princess Ingrid Alexandra.