The Crown Prince of Norway has stood in for King Harald at one of the most important traditional events in the year.
The country’s royal family has invited parliamentarians to a gala dinner at the Royal Palace since the early 20th century when King Harald’s grandfather, Haakon VII, was beginning his reign. Only World War Two and the coronavirus pandemic stopped it from taking place.
In 2023, it was Crown Prince Haakon who led the event as King Harald continues to recover from Covid.
The Crown Prince is currently acting as regent while his father recuperates.
Crown Prince Haakon walked into the dinner with his mother, Queen Sonja, while his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit followed with Princess Astrid, sister of King Harald.
However, although The King couldn’t be there physically, he made his presence felt. The speech delivered by his son and heir was one he had already written for the event.
Crown Prince Haakon joked at the start ”the speech was written. The King has therefore asked me to read the speech to you. His speech, that is. So we’ll see how that goes.”
The address is one of the most important given by the Norwegian monarch every year and focuses on the work of politicians across the country.
Crown Prince Haakon delivered King Harald’s thoughts on the current situation as he read ”We can easily become somewhat pessimistic if we look around. We live in a troubled world. There is war in Europe, and the human suffering in the Middle East is difficult to comprehend. The climate crisis is becoming more and more visible all over the world as well as in this country.
”At the same time, democracy as a form of government is being weakened in an increasing number of countries. Our fundamental principles — such as separation of powers, the rule of law, free elections, human rights and an independent press — are in many places on the wane.
”We are fortunate in this country, which has a vibrant democracy – where the systems work and where the democratic rights are in place. Much of this is due to you, our national elected officials. The great work you do, on behalf of all of us, is more important than ever.”
And he added ”When we in the Royal Family visit small and large places in our country, we are often struck by the enthusiasm and love local politicians show for their city or village. We need to take good care of this very basic, often voluntary work that elected officials across the country put in for the community. It is the bedrock of our people’s government.”
But as well as a focus on the work of parliamentarians, there were some personal moments which led to more jokes from the Crown Prince. As he came to the end of his speech, he told his audience very clearly ”now you have to keep in mind that it’s my dad talking” before beginning ”Well over 64 years ago, I fell in love with the Queen sitting here tonight….’ which drew laughter from the room.
Crown Prince Haakon, in the words of King Harald, went on ‘‘It took a few years before we were allowed to get married. Many people have, since then, fought for important rights that in the rearview mirror may seem obvious. Some rights take unexpected detours, and one of the rarer ones comes in the form of a beautiful chair: The Queen and I would like to thank Parliament for the valuable work that has been done to refurbish the so-called consort chair — more than 200 years after It was put to use. The chair is a recognition from our National Assembly of the Queen’s role, and the action means a lot to us in the Royal Family.”
The Crown Prince ended by raising a toast to parliament and to Norway.
The speech was well received by the hundreds of parliamentarians at the gala event.
Queen Sonja appeared on good form and had chosen the most symbolic tiara in the royal collection for the event. She wore the pearl and diamond tiara named after Queen Maud, wife of King Haakon VII, who helped him establish the modern Norwegian royal family. The version that Queen Sonja, who was all in white, wears is a replica after the original was lost during a repair.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit wore a gold gown and paid tribute to Queen Sonja with her own jewellery choices. For the event, the Crown Princess wore an amethyst tiara that was a gift from King Harald to his wife.
King Harald has been on sick leave with Covid for several days and is expected to return to duties at the end of October.