King Harald has been present during the opening of 56 of the 164 parliaments throughout Norway’s history. On Friday, he passes the duty to his son.
Every autumn for the past 30 years, the King traveled from the Palace to the Norwegian parliament (Storting).
There, he would give a speech that the government wrote for him every year, marking the start of a new parliamentary year.
Before the King led his first parliamentary opening in 1990, he also stood by his father’s side for years as the Crown Prince.
King Harald has been present during the annual Parliament opening a total of 56 times, which is over a third of all the Parliament opening ceremonies in all of Norway’s history (in the beginning, after 1814, the Parliament didn’t meet annually).
Almost a fifth (18%) of all of Norway’s parliamentary openings were marked by a speech from King Harald himself.
On sick leave
On Friday last week, the King was admitted to Rikshospitalet due to heavy breathing.
He was discharged on Monday, but he’s still on sick leave and unable to attend Friday’s opening of Parliament.
Thus, a 30-year-long continuous series of the King’s speeches will be broken.
King Harald also gave his first parliamentary opening speech as a Crown Prince (in 1990), when his father, King Olav, was on sick leave.
Before that time, King Olav held the speech every year from 1956, the first two years as a Crown Prince.
When Crown Prince Haakon will lead the opening ceremony on Friday, and he knows what to do – he has been at his father’s side at the opening for several years.
In fact, he was there as an 18-year-old when his father gave his first speech as King in 1991.
Critical of the Queen
The King usually also brings the Queen to the Parliament opening, but this has not always been the case.
Before King Harald took over, the custom was that the Queen was usually present only when newly elected representatives came together for the first time after parliamentary elections.
Thus, there were some reactions when King Harald wanted to bring Queen Sonja to his first parliamentary opening as King in 1991.
One of those who were critical was the Labor Party’s parliamentary leader Gunnar Berge.
“The Queen has no place in our constitutional system which naturally indicates that she participates in Parliament on this occasion,” he told newspaper VG.
Afterward, however, most agreed that it was nice to have the Queen by the King’s side.
“This gives the opening of Parliament a completely different dimension,” Parliament President Jo Benkow (H), who had allegedly been opposed to the Queen participating, said.
EU struggle and Oil Fund
A lot has happened since those times, as evidenced by the speeches King Harald has given over the years.
The speech is a kind of political program statement that points out the direction of the government’s policy in the next parliamentary term.
Inside the Parliamentary hall, it is solemnly presented by the Prime Minister to the King, who then reads it out on behalf of the Government.
After the speech, the Parliament’s first parliamentary debate begins.
“Norwegian EU membership will open up new opportunities and make it easier to achieve a number of important goals nationally and internationally.” That was one of the main messages in 1994 when the EU debate.
“Oil revenues must not be consumed”, was one of the messages in the speech of 1996, the year when the very first krone was transferred to the Oil Fund.
“It is a particular challenge to ensure that the strong increase in petroleum revenues we now see is not consumed, but goes into building up reserves in the state petroleum fund,” the King said in that speech.
Since then, the fund has grown to more than NOK 10,000 billion.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today