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The failed attack on King Harald and Queen Sonja

The 7th of June is a special day in Norwegian history. On that day, the Norwegians celebrated both the end of the Union with Sweden in 1905 and the return of King Haakon in 1945 following the Second World War. This year, there was no celebration because of the coronavirus, despite the jubilees. During the grand celebration in 2005, the Norwegians also celebrated that it was King Harald’s first day back at work following heart-surgery. That day turned out to be very different than usual when the King and Queen were attacked by protesters on their return to the Royal Palace.

The Royal Family had attended a ceremony in the Norwegian Parliament, and King Harald and Queen Sonja drove in front of a large cortege. The two were in an open limousine, while Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit followed in a regular car.

Suddenly six young people with masks came running into the road. They kneeled in front of the King’s car and shouted slogans aimed at the US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. Donald Rumsfeld had arrived in Norway that day on an unofficial visit, and this was met with great resistance among Norway’s left-radical groups and peace activists.

It took only seconds for the activists to be removed by the military. The King’s car did not stop, and the King’s driver drove around the activists while they were being removed. The incident provoked disgust among the tens of thousands of people watching and resulted in cheering and applause for the King as activists were dragged away by police and soldiers.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Norwegian Minister of Defense Kristin Krohn Devold in Stavanger, Norway, 2005. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

There was some doubt if this was an action aimed at the royals. The King’s driver later said that he drove back as fast as he could to the palace after the incident and the police along with the royal guard put extra guards around the Royal Palace until the activists were questioned.

After a few hours of high tension in the capital, it was announced that the activists belonged to a left-wing group of students from the University of Oslo. They objected to the US Secretary of Defence’s visit and not the King. They chose the King as a target because they thought this would generate the most attention. Police investigated the incident and commented that: “If we had felt that the safety of King Harald and Queen Sonja had been directly threatened, the protesters would have been run down or shot.”

As no one was injured in the incident, the activists were fined and released by police after the US Secretary of Defence left Norway two days later.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.