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European RoyalsNorway

Crown Prince Haakon steps in for King Harald to welcome Italian President Mattarella on State Visit

Crown Prince Haakon of Norway perfectly stepped in his father’s shoes to host a State Visit from the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, who arrived in Oslo accompanied by his daughter Laura. 

The Italian President, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and the rest of the delegation landed on Wednesday, 10 May, and were welcomed, among others, by the Italian Ambassador to Norway and Iceland. 

His Excellency then had some time to rest before the official programme of the visit began on Thursday, 11 May, when President Mattarella and his daughter were welcomed in front of the Royal Palace by Crown Prince Regent Haakon and Queen Sonja. 

The square in front of the Royal Palace was decorated with both Italian and Norwegian flags, and the Regent escorted President Mattarella as the two reviewed troops after having stood to listen to the two national anthems. 

Members of the public who gathered to watch the welcome ceremony included children of Gamblebyen school, as well as members of the Italian community in Norway.

The four entered the Royal Palace, where they were joined by Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Princess Astrid, who, despite her advanced age (she’s 91), was present for a good portion of the events of the day. 

Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court

It was then time for President Mattarella and Crown Prince Regent Haakon to pay the traditional homage to the fallen, with the President laying a wreath at the monument that commemorates Norwegian soldiers fallen during World War II. 

He then carried out the institutional part of this State Visit by holding talks with the President of the Storting (Parliament), Masud Gharahkhani, and Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre at the Government Palace. 

Meanwhile, Ms Laura Mattarella was led by Queen Sonja on tours of the Munch Museum and the new National Museum, both of whom hold particularly tight collaborations with museums in Italy. The Director of the Munch Museum, Tone Hansen, announced plans for an exhibition in Italy before offering a tour of the facility. 

The two ladies also watched the quartet Ensemble Solvind perform some opera pieces by Italian composer Saverio Mercadante, with lyrics by Pietro Metastasio. 

For the visit to the National Museum, Queen Sonja and Laura Mattarella were joined by Crown Prince Regent Haakon and President Mattarella. The museum reopened in 2022 following renovation works, and one of the first exhibitions was dedicated to Giovanni Piranesi, an artist and architect from Italy. 

The four of them then got an exclusive preview of the “Oltre terra” exhibition, designed by Italian studio Formafantasma, which will open on 26 May, as well as walking through the show “Two Queens Meet,” which tells the story of the two queens, Queen Maud and Queen Sonja, which Norway has had since its independence from the union in 1905. 

Before the traditional State Dinner, President and Ms Mattarella, accompanied by the Crown Prince Regent, were offered a boat tour of Oslo, with the city’s Mayor, Marianne Borgen, as the guide. 

The tour was focused on the many changes that the city has undergone in recent years, and the Italian influence displayed in some of its architecture, as well as the green development that led the city to opt for electric ferries, just one of the changes that the administration made in order to reach their goal of having the entire public transport system on the Oslo fjord be emission-free by 2028. 

The royals and the presidential delegation then met at Oslo’s Royal Palace for the traditional State Dinner. President Mattarella arrived with Queen Sonja, Laura Mattarella followed with Crown Prince Regent Haakon, and then Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Princess Astrid. 

Queen Sonja was wearing a cream gown with a crystals-embellished top and the tiara from Queen Josefina; Ms Mattarella was wearing a black, sleeveless gown, Crown Princess Mette-Marit was in the tiara, necklace and bracelets from Queen Sonja’s amethyst parure, and Princess Astrid was wearing Queen Sofia’s Bandeau. 

The Norwegians were sporting Italy’s green sashes from the Order of Merit, while President Mattarella was in the red and navy sash from Norway’s Order of St Olav. 

During the dinner, both the Crown Prince Regent and the President offered speeches, highlighting links between the two countries. The Crown Prince Regent opened his speech by mentioning his father’s disappointment at missing this occasion, as well as saying that he is “on the road to recovery.”

After detailing historic links, like the Arctic expedition, current geopolitical challenges, like the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the immense role sports and food played in shaping the two countries’ relationship, Crown Prince Haakon concluded in part: “So tonight we can toast to everything that our national friendship represents, and to all the positive things that the community between our countries will bring in the time to come.”

After him, President Mattarella opened his speech by formulating speedy recovery wishes for King Harald. He then talked about cultural links, especially when it comes to art and literature, as well as defence cooperation, and joint work towards a green transition, concluding his speech by saying: “It is with this same spirit that, I am certain, our countries will proceed united in their joint journey, thanks to the stability of our mutual support, and to the precious cooperation that defines our relationship.”

On Friday, the Crown Prince Couple accompanied the President and Ms Mattarella in Trondheim, to visit the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and learned about Italian and Norwegian cooperation on green energy technologies, had lunch at the Archbishop’s garden, and listened to a concerted offered in Nidaros Cathedral. 

This State Visit comes as a reciprocal trip to the State Visit that King Harald and Queen Sonja made to Italy in 2016, 14 months after President Mattarella’s first election as Head of State.