Queen Sonja at 80: the photo album



Queen Sonja of Norway is 80 today. OK, I know she's been partying since Christmas in celebration but a) she's a queen consort b) it's a big birthday and c) everyone loves Sonja so why wouldn't she? Norway has thrown itself into marking the milestone birthdays of its monarchs this year as both Sonja and her husband, Harald V, turn eighty but while the queen has shared plenty of parties with her handsome king, today is all about her. On Queen Sonja's 80th birthday here are eight photos to mark eight decades.




Sonja Haraldsen was born on July 4th 1937 at the Red Cross Clinic in Oslo. She was the fourth child of Karl August Haraldsen and Dagny Ulrichsen and grew up in the Norwegian capital where she also went to school. As a teenager, she studied in Lausanne in Switzerland before returning home and graduating from the University of Oslo.



Sonja met her future husband for the first time in 1959. Harald was then Crown Prince of Norway and tipped to wed royalty. Their relationship caused controversy but in 1968 Harald's father, King Olav V, gave his permission for his only son to wed Sonja. Harald, who was the only person to hold succession rights in Norway at the time, had made it clear he wold give up the throne before giving up Sonja.  Their engagement was announced in March 1968.




Sonja Haraldsen became Crown Princess of Norway on August 29th 1968 when she married Harald at Oslo Cathedral. Her own father had passed away in 1959 and so it was King Olav who walked his future daughter in law to the altar for her marriage. It was a sign of acceptance and togetherness that helped cement the new young royal couple in the public imagination immediately. Sonja and Harald's wedding was attended by royalty from around Europe. After their honeymoon, the new Crown Princess began a busy life of public engagements.




Sonja and Harald experienced the sadness of a miscarriage not long after their marriage. In 2016, Queen Sonja talked openly about losing her first child, a son, about midway through her pregnancy. But happiness would follow for Sonja and Harald. Princess Martha Louise was born on September 22nd 1971 with Prince Haakon Magnus joining the family on July 20th 1973. The four of them are seen soon after Haakon's birth in this image.


As Crown Princess of Norway, Sonja took on a wide range of engagements and patronages. She was closely involved in children's charities in Norway and became the Vice President of the Norwegian Red Cross. Her time as Crown Princess also involved work abroad helping children and refugees. In the 1980s, she established an international music competition bearing her name. She also became known for her own sense of style, evident in the fabulous green hat in this archive photo from the time.




King Olav V died on January 17th 1991 and was succeeded by his son who became King Harald V. Sonja Haraldsen was now Queen of Norway.  She was her country's first queen consort in over 50 years and accompanied her husband to on January 21st as he took his oath to the Constitution. The couple were consecrated as King and Queen of Norway at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on June 23rd 1991.




As Queen of Norway, Sonja has carried out a huge number of engagements and taken on wide range of patronages as well as carrying out other official duties including State Visits. She has always been a popular royal and her time as queen consort has consolidated that. Her reign has also seen her family expand.  In 2001, she and King Harald supported their son when he chose a controversial bride of his own, Mette-Marite Tjessem Hojby - the couple are seen above at the wedding. Mette-Marit already had a son and Sonja and Harald were quick to welcome young Marius into their family. They were later joined by the two children Haakon and Mette-Marit have together (Ingrid and Sverre) and by the three girls (Maud, Leah and Emma) born to their daughter, Martha Louise and her former husband. Ari Behn.



On January 17th 2016, Harald and Sonja marked their Silver Jubilee amidst a huge swell of public support with some polls showing approval ratings of over 90%. A few months later, both gave speeches on the importance of tolerance in society which went viral on social media. The celebrations continued as they held joint festivities in May to mark their 80th birthdays this year - they are seen acknowledging the public and family applause in the photo above. As Sonja opens her presents and blows out the candles on her actual birthday, she can be sure not only of a place in Norwegian royal history but of her affection of her fellow country men and women. The little girl born in Oslo eighty years ago today has become a triumph of royalty. There is plenty to celebrate on this very Happy Birthday.

Photo credit: kongehuset.no and NRK TV still.

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