Monday, 29 August 2016

Royal Weddings: Harald and Sonja of Norway, August 29th 1968

Harald and Sonja of Norway on their wedding day
August 29th 1968, Oslo

She walked into a church a commoner and stepped out as the first lady of Norway. Sonja Haraldsen was a ground breaking new bride. She had waited nine years to wed her handsome prince and her marriage caused debate and controversy. But it put her on a path that would make her Queen of Norway and today she celebrates 48 years of marriage.

Sonja married the then Crown Prince of Norway, Harald, on August 29th 1968 in a ceremony followed around the world. But her path to royalty had begun in 1959 when the two had been introduced at a party. Harald was the heir to the Norwegian throne, Sonja was the daughter of a businessman who had studied fashion. Their relationship wasn't the royal romance that some had hoped for with Harald's name linked to some of the most eligible princesses in Europe. But once they'd met, this Crown Prince made his mind up and eventually told his widowed father, King Olav V, that if he couldn't marry Sonja then he just wouldn't marry at all. The king relented, the couple got engaged and when Sonja, whose father had died just before she met Harald, arrived at Oslo Cathedral for her wedding it was King Olav who walked her down the aisle towards her royal destiny.

King Olav of Norway accompanied Sonja Haraldsen as she prepared to marry his son and heir

The dress chosen by this royal bride is a pretty famous wedding gown. She helped design it herself and it is notable for its simplicity. The white silk gown had a long skirt that spread into a bell shape and a high collar. The three quarter length sleeves are also bell shaped while her long train was attached at her shoulders. A long tulle veil covered the train and the simplicity of the outfit extended to the adornments - just very subtle rows of pearls at the sleeve ends. 

The new Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway leave Oslo Cathedral on their wedding day
August 29th 1968

But the most striking element of this royal wedding outfit is the lack of sparkle. For instead of a traditional tiara, Sonja chose to keep her long veil in place with just a band of white flowers. They matched her striking bouquet and complemented the dress to perfection but most of all it showed she was a very modern royal bride.

A closer look at the flowers that held Sonja of Norway's wedding veil in place

Her marriage brought her a very traditional role. King Olav had lost his wife, Crown Princess Martha Louise, before taking the throne and first lady until then had been his daughter, Princess Astrid so from the moment of her marriage Sonja became the first lady of the Norwegian court. She embraced her new role with energy and soon became known for her work with charities, particularly those supporting children.  

Sonja and Harald of Norway begin a royal life together that would take them to the throne of Norway

Almost five decades on, Sonja Haraldson is Queen of Norway with a family of her own. The jubilee celebrations for her and her husband, King Harald V, earlier this year showed just how popular this royal couple are. And it all began with a very romantic and very modern marriage 48 years ago today.

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