Tuesday, 21 February 2017

King Harald V of Norway at 80: 8 decades, 8 photos

King Harald of Norway if 80 on February 21st 2017
(photo Royal House of Norway)

King Harald V of Norway is 80 today. The prince born on February 21st 1937 is now one of the most respected monarchs in the world and about as popular as a royal can ever hope to be. But then Harald has always been loved and respected, as these 8 photos from 8 decades of a royal life show.

Harald, Prince of Norway was born on February 21st 1937 at Skaugum, the third child of Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha. He joined two older sisters in the royal nursery - Ragnhild (born 1930) and Astrid (born 1932). He was the only one of the siblings to have any succession rights, due to the laws of the time, and was immediately second in line to the throne. The baby born to rule was a much longed for son and his parents' joy at his arrival was clear for all to see - as portrayed in this photo of him as a baby with his mum.

Life for the royal family of Norway soon took a dangerous turn. In early 1940, their country was invaded by the Nazis and the royals were forced to flee. Crown Princess Martha took her children to Sweden - accounts tell of fraught moments at the border. By August 1940, three year old Harald was on his way to the United States with his mother and sisters while Crown Prince Olav and King Haakon VII went to London. Harald spent the next five years, some of his most formative, in Washington. With the end of the war, Harald went back to Norway - in this photo he is seen with his family as they returned home in 1945.

Harald was the first member of his royal family to attend a public school in Norway following his return home and his education continued throughout the 1950s. He studied at the University of Oslo between 1955 and 1958 and graduated from the Norway Military Academy in 1959. But this was also a decade marked by sadness. Harald was just 17 when his mother, Crown Princess Martha, died in April 1954. On September 21st 1957, Harald's life changed forever when his paternal grandfather, Haakon VII, died and his father became King Olav V. Harald, now twenty, became Crown Prince of Norway and sole heir to his country's throne. He is seen in this photo with his father and sisters soon after Olav's succession - a tight knit royal family, facing the future together.

The 1960s might have brought new responsibilities but they also saw Harald exercise personal freedoms. After a stint at Oxford, where he learned to row, he went on to represent Norway in sailing at the Olympic Games in 1964, 1968 and 1972. But while a Crown Prince in the Olympic squad made some headlines, it was his determination to marry the woman he loved - a commoner - that really caused debate. There was some opposition to a marriage to Sonja Haraldsen but Harald held firm and on August 29th 1968, they were wed in Oslo with King Olav walking the bride into the church to set her on the path to become, one day, Queen of Norway. Harald and Sonja are seen here on the balcony, after their marriage, with King Olav. 

The 1970s were family time. While Crown Prince Harald was taking on more and more royal responsibilities, and his wife was taking on the role of first lady of Norway, they were also welcoming their family into the world. Princess Martha Louise was born on September 22nd 1971 but as a girl had no right to inherit the throne. On July 20th 1973, Harald and Sonja welcomed a son, Prince Haakon Magnus, the first baby born to Norway's royals, since Harald, to have any claim on the succession. The family of four are seen together in 1975.

Harald became King of Norway on January 17th 1991 on the death of his father, King Olav. Widespread mourning for the late king was followed by celebrations for the start of his son's reign. Harald was enthroned at Trondheim Cathedral, the seat of the ancient monarchs of his country. The reign of King Harald V of Norway had begun.

As a new century began, so came new challenges. Harald was ready for them all. The King of Norway suffered two health scares but recovered well from them both. His  son, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, picked his own controversial bride when he announced his engagement to Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, a single mother. King Harald and Queen Sonja welcomed Mette-Marit and her son, Marius, into their family and the royal wedding in Oslo in August 2001 was a huge event. They saw their daughter marry Ari Behn the following year and by 2008 they had five grandchildren under the age of five. Four of them are girls and, thanks to a change in the law in 1990, all of them took their place in the line of succession. Haakon Magnus and Mette-Marit's first child, Princess Ingrid Alexandra born in 2004, was second in line to the throne from the moment of her birth. She is seen here with her parents and grandparents on Norway's National Day in 2008.

King Harald and Queen Sonja celebrated their Silver Jubilee in 2016 amidst an outpouring of public affection which, at times, saw their approval ratings hit 90%. Across three days of celebrations in January that year, huge crowds turned out to cheer them while Harald and Sonja looked overcome with emotion more than once. That summer, King Harald gave a speech urging tolerance which went viral and took his own brand of monarchy around the world. Filled with warmth and authority, the reign of Harald V has been a benchmark in modern royal living. He celebrates his 80th birthday hugely admired having consolidated the work his father had put into turning the royal family of Norway into one of the most popular in the world. Prince, king, son, father, Harald's eighty years have been packed and carried out in his own calm, cheerful way. May there be many more to come.

Photo credit: det kongelige hoff/ Wiki Commons.

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