King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway were joined by Crown Prince Haakon on Monday as they performed the State Opening of the Norwegian Parliament, Storting, 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 166th time that the Norwegian parliament has officially opened.
Military forces from the Navy, Air Force and ground defence, as well as the King’s Guard, took their place on the parade street, which runs between the Royal Palace and the Parliament in plenty of time before the opening took place. The roads were also decorated with Norwegian flags and thousands of spectators.
The ceremony began once Crown Prince Haakon arrived at the Storting, where the parliament’s representatives received him. After just a few minutes, the King and Queen’s motorcade came out of the Royal Palace. The motorcade went slowly down Karl Johan Street before reaching the Storting shortly after. All along the street, people could be heard cheering and applauding the King and Queen, and many brought with them Norwegian flags as Their Majesties cheerfully waved to the people.
There was 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 like the King’s flag but with a split. The King’s car is decorated with a completely rectangular flag.
The King and Queen were also welcomed by parliamentary representatives before they entered the parliament building. There, they went through all the halls and into the Eidsvold’s Gallery before they ended 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 still in use. This room is often described as the most beautiful room in all of the Storting. 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 walk side by side on 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 parliament. That is why the King walks alone, after the welcome committee from the parliament, while Queen Sonja walks 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 follow.
The main hall of the Storting changes significantly when the King opens the parliament. 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 the Storting and is replaced by the Norwegian throne, as well as two smaller chairs for the Queen and the Crown Prince. In addition, the Storting’s President and the Secretary have a separate desk in front of the King so that all chairs are facing His Majesty. The Storting’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 Storting. Many of the parliamentary representatives were not dressed in black dress. Instead, many representatives used their bunad, their traditional Norwegian celebration dress, from the district they come from. 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 the King and gave him “the Speech of the Throne.” This is written by the Norwegian government, which contains a brief summary of what the government wants to do in the year to come. After the King has read the speech, it is the common tradition that the youngest member of the Norwegian government reads a brief statement, as well as the country’s state of affairs. The President then concludes the speech with the same words that have finished presidents’ speeches over the last 166 years, and all the representatives joined in the words:
“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 left Parliament, it was announced with royal fanfare, and all members of the Storting are required to sit in the main chamber until His Majesty is no longer in the building. This is a custom that stretches back more than 100 years.
The State Opening of Parliament begins a process of many important political decisions for Norway. It is common that the Minister of Finance presents the new national budget within one week after the King has declared that Norway’s Parliament has a mandate to govern the country.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit does not attend the State Opening, nor does Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who will become Norway’s Queen one day. 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 the Storting 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.
Last year’s opening of parliament was a historic day for the Norwegian people. For the first time in 30 years, the solemn and traditional opening of the Norwegian parliament was then made by a crown prince and not the king of the nation. In a shortened ceremony, due to the pandemic, Crown Prince Haakon opened the 156th session of the Storting. Queen Sonja was also present during the ceremony. King Harald was then prevented from participating due to illness as His Majesty was hospitalised with difficulty breathing. The last time a crown prince opened the Storting was in 1990. Then, it was King Harald who opened the parliament as Crown Prince. His father, King Olav V, was then seriously ill and died only a few months later.