Royal consecration remembered

Thirty years since king and queen consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral

King Harald's consecration at Nidaros Cathedral. King Harald kneels with a bishop placing a hand on his had. Queen Sonja stands in the background.

Photo: Bjørn Sigurdsøn/NTB
King Harald and Queen Sonja were consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral, June 23, 1991, by Bishop Finn Wagle.

MARIUS HELGE LARSEN
NTB

It was both a celebration and a folk festival in Trondheim when the royal couple was consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral in June 1991. June 23, 2021, marked 30 years since the ceremony.

With the consecration in the cathedral, the royal couple continued a tradition introduced by King Olav in 1958.

During the ceremony, King Harald was consecrated as a “king of the will of the people,” which differs from the custom of crowning the king, a tradition that was removed from the Norwegian Constitution in 1908.

Folk festival

The consecration ceremony was described as a great folk festival. Thousands of people showed up in the center of Trondheim when the royal couple drove through the streets in an open car. Nearly 2,000 people had been present inside Nidaros Cathedral.

“Strengthen and lead him”

With his right hand on the kneeling King Harald’s head, Bishop of Nidaros Finn Wagle read the consecration prayer:

“Bless King Harald V, strengthen and guide him in his work as King of Norway. Let his service to the people and the church be a blessing,” he said.

Then the bishop turned to the queen:

“Let her work be in support of the king’s deed. Help her to use her abilities and power for the joy and benefit of Norway’s country and people,” he said.

In attendance were the entire government and all the country’s bishops, who were dressed in stately robes for the occasion.

The Norwegian Armed Forces also left their mark on Trondheim during the ceremony, with 700 – 800 soldiers lining the streets, royal salutes from the cannons at Kristiansten Fortress, 19 naval vessels on the Trondheim Fjord, and 20 fighter jets in formation over the city.

Coronation abolished

The consecration of King Harald and Queen Sonja had many similarities with the coronation of kings and queens in earlier times.

An important difference was that the wording of the prayer was changed. At the coronation in 1906, the king’s grandfather, King Haakon, became a “king by the grace of God,” and thus not a “king by the will of the people,” a new tradition, which abolished much of the impact of the constitutional amendment. King Olav was consecrated in 1958 at his own request, and without any special legal basis in Norwegian law. The close connection between the church and the royal house was restored.

Official reception

Prime Minister Christian Michelsen played an important role at the coronation in Nidaros Cathedral in 1906. Together with Bishop Vilhelm Wexelsen, he put the royal crown on King Haakon’s head and the queen’s crown on Queen Maud’s head.

Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland had no such duties during the coronation of King Harald and Queen Sonja in 1991. In Nidaros Cathedral, she was a spectator, in the same way as Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen was in 1958.

But Brundtland’s government hosted a reception for the royal couple with over 700 guests. Einar Gerhardsen had seen the blessing as a purely ecclesiastical event, so his government held no reception for the king.

During the  consecration of King Harald and Queen Sonja in 1991, the royal and queen’s crowns were in place in the church, but they each stood on their own pillar by the high altar and were thus not put on their heads.

Consecration tour

After the blessing ceremony, the royal couple went on a 10-day tour of southern Norway to greet the Norwegian people. A journey back to Oslo along the coast with the royal ship Norway followed.

The following year, the royal couple also went on a 22-day journey in Norway’s northernmost counties.

The custom of going on a tour of the country in connection with a royal consecration goes back to the kings of the Middle Ages, who allowed themselves to be praised for the various duties and accomplishments around the country.

This article originally appeared in the July 9, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

NTB

NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway

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