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Norway’s royal family celebrates a different National Day

Photo: Sara Svanemyr, The Royal Court

On Sunday, 17 May, Norway celebrated its national day. Although it was a completely different day than it usually is, the Royal Family played an important role in this national celebration, as well.

Norway marks 17 May as its Constitutional Day; it was on this date in 1814 that Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark and Norway proclaimed Norway’s constitution and was elected King of Norway. Apart from the United States Constitution, the Norwegian Constitution is the oldest constitution in the world that is still in use.

The National Day celebration is usually centred around the Norwegian Royal Family with the main celebrations taking place in the areas surrounding the Royal Palace in Oslo. More than 100,000 children usually march past the Royal Palace to greet their King on National Day. For most Norwegians, the celebration of 17 May is synonymous with seeing the Royal Family standing on the palace balcony in front of a sea of ​​people. Not only was the children’s parade cancelled this year because of the coronavirus, but the entire palace area was also closed to the public to prevent large crowds gathering.

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The royals surprised the people on the day itself. Even though there was no official programme, we still got a look at the royals this year, as well. It all started at 11 am when the Crown Prince and his family showed up in front of their home in Asker. There, they greeted people and received flowers. Later, they went to the local nursing home to wave to the residents at a safe distance. Just before 13:00, the King’s Life Guard marched into the Palace Square and had a show broadcast on TV. Shortly thereafter, the entire Royal Family came out onto the balcony waving to the people who could watch them on TV. Later that afternoon, the Royal Family made a long trip through Oslo with cars and waved to the people. This was a surprise and a celebration that the Norwegians will never forget.

As it is spring, the King and Queen have done as they usually do. They have switched residences from the King’s cabin in Holmenkollen to the King’s farm on Bygdøy, right on the outskirts of the Oslo city centre. The King and Queen had lunch at Bygdøy on National Day this year. Usually, they eat lunch with the entire Royal Family at the Royal Palace in downtown Oslo.

The Queen revealed on Saturday that they were to celebrate the day in “The Blue Room” on the farm. In this room, lunch for May 17 was held with a service given as a gift from the Danish people to King Haakon when he was crowned in 1906. The cutlery is from 1896, and the glasses the Queen herself has been developing a few years ago.

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The Royal Family revealed that the lunch consisted of scrambled eggs, salmon, self-grown asparagus and of course, sausages, like most other Norwegians eat on this day. “Everyone loves sausages. There cannot be any May 17 without it. Especially the King must have sausages that day, he is very much looking forward to it,” said Queen to TV2 during an interview that was broadcast on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit met several committees that work with the celebration of the National Day. Then, the Crown Princess had this message: “We hope you all have a really nice May 17th. Although it will be a little different from usual, it can still be a very nice May 17 this year, too. Moreover, maybe you get a lot of ice cream. We hope that children in Norway will have the experience that they will have a nice May 17 regardless of the virus.”

Hundreds of pupils from all over Oslo have, over the past weeks, made drawings of themes from the traditional May 17 celebrations. The King and Queen will get the whole collection of drawings as a gift from the people. It was Oslo’s mayor Marianne Borgen that had the idea of this unique gift to the royals on National Day.

She, therefore, asked the school students to draw and write poems so that the King and Queen would still receive a greeting on the national holiday. Over a thousand drawings were the result. Oslo’s Mayor said in a press release: “I am very touched by it because you see that what the children are connecting with the national day; unity, icecream, flags, and the royals. Many have also made drawings of the Royal Palace”.

The Mayor travelled to the Royal Palace on National Day and delivered all the artwork. She hoped to bring with her the leaders of the student council leaders from Vålerenga and Grünerløkka schools. The two schools both turn 125-years-old in 2020. However, neither she nor the student council leaders met in person with the King and Queen due to COVID-19. The drawings and greetings were delivered to an employee of the Royal Court who made sure that they will be presented to the royals later.

The ongoing public health emergency regarding the coronavirus has started to become stable in Norway for a few weeks. Restaurants and schools are now open. It is also permitted for crowds of up to 50 people to gather in theatres and at concerts. If you arranged a private National Day party on Sunday in Norway, you were allowed to have as many as 20 guests. In Norway as of May 15, a total of 8,219 have been diagnosed with the virus, with 232 deaths.

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.