23 January 2012

Royal Splendor 101: King Harald's Accession

Crown Prince Harald of Norway became King Harald V of Norway when his father King Olav V died on January 17, 1991. Harald was 53 years old; his father had reigned for 33 years.

Harald and Sonja at the Storting
On January 21, King Harald went to the Storting (Norway's parliament). Dressed in the uniform of a general in the Norwegian Army with the collar of Norway's highest order, the Order of St. Olav, around his shoulders and the sash of the Order of Merit across his chest, he swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and gave a short speech.

He was accompanied by Queen Sonja, dressed in full mourning with the sash of the Order of St. Olav. Norway hadn't had a queen since Queen Maud died in 1938, and Sonja had been serving as first lady for her father-in-law since her marriage to Harald in 1968.

In June of 1991, allowing some months for the end of the mourning period and for the required planning, a consecration ceremony was held for the new king and queen. The ceremony has historic roots, but has undergone some changes since Norway's independent monarchy was revived.

From 1814 to 1905, Norway and Sweden were united under one monarch. When Norway dissolved the union they went on the hunt for their own monarch, and Prince Carl of Denmark was the man for the job. The Norwegian constitution at the time required that the monarch be crowned in a coronation ceremony. So in 1906, Carl and his wife Maud (daughter of Britain's King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) were crowned King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway.
King Haakon and Queen Maud in their coronation finery
By the time their son Olav became king in 1957, times had changed and the requirement for a coronation had been stricken from the constitution. Olav opted for a consecration ceremony instead - something that dated back more than 1,000 years and had previously been included as a part of the coronation ceremony. It was a religious blessing for the new reign, but was simpler than a full coronation.
Harald and Sonja at the consecration ceremony
King Harald opted to continue the tradition his father started and was consecrated on June 23, 1991 at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The king and queen sat on gold coronation thrones dating from 1818 during the religious ceremony. At the moment of consecration, the king came forward and knelt before the Bishop of Nidaros, who recited the consecration prayer. Queen Sonja then joined him and the bishop recited a prayer to help her use her abilities for the country. Norway's royal regalia, including crowns for the king and queen, were displayed at the altar but were not used; there was no actual crowning of the king.
Queen Sonja wore a white dress with a train and a dramatic overlay. Instead of a tiara, she wore a kokoshnik-style headdress. Harald and Sonja's children, Märtha Louise and Haakon, participated in the ceremony as well. Märtha Louise was 19 and dressed in the same style as her mother; Haakon was just 17 and did not wear a uniform as he hadn't entered the military yet. The event was designed to be all about Norway, so the only foreign representatives were diplomats - no foreign royalty. Harald hasn't held any large jubilee celebrations yet in his reign. (Video from the consecration can be found here.)
Crown Prince Haakon is next in line to the throne. Thanks to a constitution reform which ensures equal rights for girls in the line of succession, his daughter Princess Ingrid Alexandra comes after him.