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Happy Birthday, King Harald!

His Majesty King Harald of Norway is 82-years-old today. To mark the King’s birthday, a 21-gun salute was fired today at noon from the cannons at Akershus Fortress in Oslo.

Many people had turned up to watch the tribute in honour of the King. It is tradition in Norway to have a gun salute from 11 fortresses in Norway for the birthdays of King Harald, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.

King Harald was the first King of Norway born on Norwegian soil in 567 years. He was born at the Skaugum Estate on 21 February 1937 and is the son of King Olav of Norway and his wife, Märtha, who was Crown Princess of Norway and was born a Princess of Sweden.

King Harald and Queen Sonja on their way to the opening of Parliament. Photo: Oskar Aanmoen

The last few years have been very special when it came to the celebrations of King Harald’s birthday. On his birthday in 2017, King Harald celebrated with his family on a private holiday in South Africa. Since the King and Queen were born in the same year, it has been a practice that the two mark their birthdays in one joint celebration. This celebration took place in May 2017 when most of Europe’s royals gathered in Oslo to celebrate the King and Queen.

King Harald and Queen Sonja celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last year. As there were two anniversaries in a row, the 80th anniversaries in 2017 and the 25th anniversary of King Harald’s reign as monarch in 2016, the Royal Family decided not to have another new anniversary celebration in 2018.

King Harald looks at gifts he received on the occasion of his birthday. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, Det kongelige hoff

King Harald grew up at the Skaugum estate just outside the capital Oslo with his two older sisters, Princess Astrid and Princess Ragnhild. When King Harald was three-years-old, the Germans invaded Norway during the Second World War. This forced the Royal Family to flee the country where they ultimately took up residence in the United States. When the war was over, King Harald returned to Norway.

King Harald’s grandfather, King Haakon VII, died in 1957. After that, he became Crown Prince and received a number of official and ceremonial duties. After King Harald returned from his education in London, he showed great interest in international diplomacy and the Norwegian business community. The King married Sonja Haraldsen in 1968, and together they have two children, Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Märtha Louise. When King Olav died in 1991, King Harald was enthroned as King of Norway.

The King and the Queen wave to the people as they leave Gjøvik and head north towards Lillehammer, during their anniversary trip in 2017. Photo: Oskar Aanmoen.

King Harald loves nature experiences, which he combines with hunting and fishing. He is concerned about environmental issues, and he was President of the World Wildlife Fund for 20 years. During the Alpine Skiing World Cup in 1982, His Majesty was the chairman of the main committee.

In January 2011, he was awarded the Honorary Award of Sport during the Norwegian Sports Gala. The King remains an active competitive sailor and participates each year in national and international regattas.

In the summer of 2016, the King held a speech who gained international attention. You can see the address at the bottom of this article with English subtitles.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.