Coronations in Norway

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Coronation of Charles III John in Nidaros Cathedral 1818, by Jacob Munch Kroning 1818 s.JPG
Coronation of Charles III John in Nidaros Cathedral 1818, by Jacob Munch

Coronations in Norway were held from 1164 to 1906, mostly in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Although a crowning ceremony was formerly mandated by the nation's constitution, this requirement was eliminated in 1908. However, Norwegian kings have since chosen voluntarily to take part in a ritual of "benediction" to mark their accession to the throne, during which the crown is present, but not physically bestowed upon the sovereign. The new ceremony retains some of the religious elements of earlier rites, while eliminating other features now considered to be "undemocratic". [1]

Nidaros Cathedral Church in Trøndelag, Norway

Nidaros Cathedral is a cathedral of the Church of Norway located in the city of Trondheim in Trøndelag county. It is built over the burial site of King Olav II, who became the patron saint of the nation, and is the traditional location for the consecration of new kings of Norway. It was built over a long period of 230 years, from 1070 to 1300 when it was substantially completed. But additional work, additions and renovations continued occasionally intermittently for seven more centuries until 2001, and designated as the cathedral for the Diocese of Nidaros in 1152. After going the turmoil and controversies of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, it was taken from the Catholic Church by the newly reformed established state Church of Norway in 1537, which adopted and following the teachings and reforms of Martin Luther, Phillip Melancthon and others, becoming Evangelical Lutheran. Nidaros is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world.

Trondheim City in Norway

Trondheim, historically Kaupangen, Nidaros and Trondhjem, is a city and municipality in Trøndelag county, Norway. It has a population of 193,666, and is the third most populous municipality in Norway, although the fourth largest urban area. Trondheim lies on the south shore of Trondheim Fjord at the mouth of the River Nidelva. The city is dominated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), St. Olavs University Hospital and other technology-oriented institutions.

Coronation ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or his or her consort with regal power

A coronation is the act of placement or bestowal of a crown upon a monarch's head. The term generally also refers not only to the physical crowning but to the whole ceremony wherein the act of crowning occurs, along with the presentation of other items of regalia, marking the formal investiture of a monarch with regal power. Aside from the crowning, a coronation ceremony may comprise many other rituals such as the taking of special vows by the monarch, the investing and presentation of regalia to the monarch, and acts of homage by the new ruler's subjects and the performance of other ritual deeds of special significance to the particular nation. Western-style coronations have often included anointing the monarch with holy oil, or chrism as it is often called; the anointing ritual's religious significance follows examples found in the Bible. The monarch's consort may also be crowned, either simultaneously with the monarch or as a separate event.



Crowning of Olav I of Norway Peter Nicolai Arbo-Olav Tryggvason.jpg
Crowning of Olav I of Norway

Early coronations

The first coronation in Norway—and in all of Scandinavia—took place in Bergen in 1163 or 1164. These rites continued in the Old Cathedral there until the capital was moved to Oslo under Haakon V of Norway. While some crownings were held in Oslo thereafter, most took place at Nidaros Cathedral, in Trondheim. [2] Norwegian kings had historically been proclaimed (konungstekja in Old Norse) at the Øyrating in Trondheim, starting with Harald Fairhair or Haakon the Good in the 10th century; this continued even after the tradition of coronations began. Sometimes this led to competing claims: King Sverre, for example, was hailed as king at Øyrating in 1177, but not crowned until well after the death of King Magnus V in 1184. Ultimately, the coronation rite replaced the konungstekja ceremonies altogether until the resurrection of the latter in the modern benediction service.

Bergen City and municipality in Western Norway

Bergen, historically Bjørgvin, is a city and municipality in Hordaland on the west coast of Norway. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, the municipality's population was 280,216, and the Bergen metropolitan region has about 420,000 inhabitants. Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway. The municipality covers 465 square kilometres (180 sq mi) and is on the peninsula of Bergenshalvøyen. The city centre and northern neighbourhoods are on Byfjorden, 'the city fjord', and the city is surrounded by mountains; Bergen is known as the 'city of seven mountains'. Many of the extra-municipal suburbs are on islands. Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland, and consists of eight boroughs: Arna, Bergenhus, Fana, Fyllingsdalen, Laksevåg, Ytrebygda, Årstad, and Åsane.

Christ Church, Bergen former church in Bergen, Norway

Christ Church or the Old Cathedral on Holmen was the main church and cathedral of Bergen. Its site was at present day Bergenhus Fortress.

Oslo Place in Østlandet, Norway

Oslo is the capital and most populous city of Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040 as Ánslo, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 reduced its influence. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built closer to Akershus Fortress and named Christiania in the king's honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. The city functioned as a co-official capital during the 1814 to 1905 Union between Sweden and Norway. In 1877, the city's name was respelled Kristiania in accordance with an official spelling reform – a change that was taken over by the municipal authorities only in 1897. In 1925 the city, after incorporating the village retaining its former name, was renamed Oslo.

Under the Danish union

In the late 14th century, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were united in the Kalmar Union. During this era, monarchs were crowned in all three countries consecutively. After the federation was dissolved, Norway remained unified with Denmark under the Danish king until 1814. After the introduction of autocracy in Denmark in 1660, no further coronations took place in Norway until after the advent of the Constitution of Norway in 1814 and the Swedish Union, which took place during that same year. Throughout the Danish Union, the king of Denmark-Norway only went through one ceremony, in Denmark, in which he placed the crown upon his own head and was anointed.

Kalmar Union former country; personal union of the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway

The Kalmar Union was a personal union that from 1397 to 1523 joined under a single monarch the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, together with Norway's overseas dependencies. The union was not quite continuous; there were several short interruptions. Legally, the countries remained separate sovereign states, but with their domestic and foreign policies being directed by a common monarch.

The Constitution of Norway was first adopted on 16 May and subsequently signed and dated on 17 May 1814 by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll. It was at the time considered to be one of the most liberal or radically democratic constitutions in the world, and it is today the second oldest single-document national constitution in Europe after the Constitution of Poland and second oldest in the world still in continuous force after the United States Constitution, as the Polish 3 May Constitution survived for less than 2 years. 17 May is the National Day of Norway.

Union between Sweden and Norway Personal union between Sweden and Norway 1814–1905

Sweden and Norway or Sweden–Norway, officially the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, or as the United Kingdoms, was a personal union of the separate kingdoms of Sweden and Norway under a common monarch and common foreign policy that lasted from 1814 until its peaceful dissolution in 1905.

Under the Swedish union

The current constitution of Norway (1814) originally required the monarch to be crowned in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. [1] No coronation took place in the few months Christian Frederick was king of Norway, and Charles II, the first Swedish king of Norway under the new union, never visited the country during his reign and thus was never crowned. Once Charles III had ascended the throne, this rite resumed in accordance with the new constitution. While the Norwegian ritual closely followed the Swedish rite, the anointing of the king on the forehead and right wrist corresponded more closely to the Danish usage. [3]

Charles XIII of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway between 1809-1814

Charles XIII & II also Carl, Swedish: Karl XIII, was King of Sweden from 1809 and King of Norway from 1814 until his death. He was the second son of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great.

Charles XIV John of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway between 1818-1844. Prince of Ponte Corvo 1806-1810 and French field marshal

Charles XIV John or Carl John, was King of Sweden and King of Norway from 1818 until his death in 1844.

In September 1818, Charles III John was crowned in the first Norwegian coronation since 1660, providing a set of regalia for this purpose. His son Oscar had a Swedish coronet set upon his head and took the oath as crown prince. His wife, Désirée Clary, was in France at this time. Regalia for the queen was commissioned in 1830 for Desirée's intended coronation in Norway, but the ceremony never occurred. When Oscar and his wife, Josephine of Leuchtenberg, became king and queen, they were crowned in Sweden. Oscar's separate Norwegian coronation ceremony was delayed several times and ultimately never occurred, as the Bishop of Nidaros refused to crown the Queen unless she first abandoned her Roman Catholic faith and converted to Norway's official religion, Evangelical Lutheranism. The next coronation was that of Charles IV and Louise of the Netherlands in 1860. This was the first coronation of a Norwegian queen in several centuries. Oscar II and Sophia of Nassau were crowned in 1873.

Oscar I of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway between 1844-1859

Oscar I was King of Sweden and Norway from 8 March 1844 until his death. He was the second monarch of the House of Bernadotte.

Désirée Clary Queen of Sweden and Norway

Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, in Swedish officially Eugenia Bernhardina Desideria, was Queen of Sweden and Norway as the wife of King Charles XIV John, a former French general and founder of the House of Bernadotte. She was the mother of Oscar I, and one-time fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte. She officially changed her name there to Desideria, which she did not use herself.

Josephine of Leuchtenberg Swedish queen

Joséphine of Leuchtenberg or Joséphine de Beauharnais was Queen of Sweden and Norway as the wife of King Oscar I, as well as Princess of Bologna from birth and Duchess of Galliera from 1813. She was known as Queen Josefina, and was regarded to be politically active during the reign of her spouse. She acted as his political adviser and actively participated in state affairs. She was particularly active within the laws of religion in Sweden and Norway, and is attributed to have introduced more liberal laws regarding religion.

Independence restored

King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway in 1906. Theirs was the last Norwegian coronation, to date. Queen Maud and King Haakon VII, 1906.jpg
King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway in 1906. Theirs was the last Norwegian coronation, to date.

The Swedish union was abolished in 1905, at which time Norway elected Prince Carl of Denmark, who took the name Haakon VII, as its new king. Haakon and his wife, Maud of Wales, were crowned at Trondheim on 22 June 1906, in keeping with the constitutional mandate. However, since many Norwegian statesmen had come to regard coronation rites as "undemocratic and archaic", [1] this provision was repealed in 1908. Currently a new monarch is only required to take a formal accession oath in the Council of State, and then at the Parliament, the Storting.

Haakon VII of Norway King of Norway

Haakon VII, known as Prince Carl of Denmark until 1905, was a Danish prince who became the first king of Norway after the 1905 dissolution of the union with Sweden. He reigned from November 1905 until his death in September 1957.

Maud of Wales Queen consort of Norway and British princess

Maud of Wales, was Queen of Norway as spouse of King Haakon VII. She was the youngest daughter of the British king Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark. Maud of Wales was the first queen of Norway in over five centuries who was not also queen of Denmark or Sweden.

A Council of State is a governmental body in a country, or a subdivision of a country, with a function that varies by jurisdiction. It may be the formal name for the cabinet or it may refer to a non-executives advisory body associated with a head of state. In some countries it also has a function as a supreme administrative court and sometimes regarded as the equivalent of a privy council.

Although coronations are not expressly banned under current Norwegian legislation, [1] none have been held since 1906. Instead, the two sovereigns who followed Haakon VII have chosen to create a "benediction" ceremony to mark the beginning of their reigns. This new rite is held at Nidaros, and retains some of the religious elements of earlier coronation rituals while harking back to the old konungstekja rites held prior to the initial institution of coronations in the 12th century. [1] The crown jewels are displayed, but not bestowed, during this ceremony.

The Norwegian coronation ritual from 1818 to 1906

Entrance procession

From 1818 to 1906, the Norwegian coronation ritual commenced with the king and queen making a procession to the Nidaros Cathedral preceded by the Norwegian Regalia. Once there, they were greeted by the Bishops of Trondheim, Kristiania (now Oslo) and Bergen and their attendant clergy with the words: "The Lord bless your going out and your coming in now and forevermore". Entering the cathedral, the monarchs seated themselves upon two canopied thrones in the choir.

The ceremony begins

Haakon VII and Maud of Wales seated on their thrones during their coronation in 1906 Kroningen i Trondhjem 1906.jpg
Haakon VII and Maud of Wales seated on their thrones during their coronation in 1906

Once the king and queen were seated, the Bishop of Trondheim began the ceremony by intoning the first line of the Introit hymn, which was then sung by the choir and the people. Next, the Bishop of Kristiania recited the Nicene Creed following which the Bishop of Bergen intoned the first six verses of the Te Deum. This was followed by a sermon, given by the Bishop of Kristiania. A priest and the choir sang a verse of a hymn, each singing alternate lines in turn. The choir next sang the first part of the Anthem, while the king proceeded to a throne set up for him on a dais before the altar, with the standard being held at his right. The king removed the mantle he had worn during the procession into the church, and it was laid on the altar as the royal mantle was taken from the altar and placed over his shoulders by the Bishop of Trondheim and the Chief Justice.

Anointing and crowning the king

After receiving his royal mantle, the king knelt before the altar as the Bishop of Trondheim anointed his right forearm and forehead with holy oil using a formula unique to the Norwegian rite. Following this, the king seated himself upon his throne and the bishop of Trondheim and the prime minister conjointly crowned him. The bishop of Trondheim and the foreign minister then handed the king the scepter; this was followed by the orb, which was handed to the king by the bishop of Trondheim and a Councilor of State. The bishop of Trondheim and another Councilor of State next handed the king the royal sword. Each item of the regalia was presented using a uniquely Norwegian formula. Once all of the crown jewels had been given to the sovereign, the choir sang the second part of the Anthem and a part of another hymn, after which the bishop of Trondheim said a prayer for the newly crowned king and gave him his blessing. The king then returned to his throne in the choir wearing his crown and bearing his scepter and orb.

Anointing and crowning the queen

Now the queen left her canopied throne in the choir and proceeded to her throne before the altar, as the choir sang the third part of the Anthem and part of yet another hymn. She was robed in the royal mantle and then knelt as the bishop of Trondheim anointed her on her right forearm and forehead. She then seated herself on her throne, and was in turned crowned and given her scepter and orb by the bishop using formulas appropriately modified from those used for the king. Afterwards, the fourth part of the anthem was sung by the choir, together with portions of another hymn. The bishop of Trondheim said a prayer for the queen and blessed her, using a form similar to those used for the king. The queen then returned to her throne in the choir bearing her regalia.


After the crowning of the queen, the President of the Storting stood up and proclaimed the coronation act to have been duly performed. Following this, two verses of the hymn "God bless our dear Fatherland" [4] were sung, and then the fifth part of the Anthem was sung by the choir while the bishops and clergy left the sanctuary. The king and queen then proceeded out of the cathedral wearing their coronation mantles and regalia, thus concluding the ceremony.

The modern "blessing" rite (after 1906)

Olav V

When Olav V ascended the throne in 1957, he felt the need for a religious ceremony not only to commence his reign, but also to enter upon his duties as the new head of the Church of Norway. Understanding why a coronation ceremony was no longer mandated, Olav proposed the creation instead of a ritual of royal consecration, to be known as Signing til kongsgjerning (i.e., 'Blessing the King for his Reign'), to be held on 22 June 1958. Although the government of Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen was initially cool to this idea, several ministers and members of the Storting ultimately chose to attend what became a major national event. Carried by radio throughout the kingdom, the ceremony saw the king seat himself upon the 1818 coronation throne in Nidaros Cathedral, where he listened to a sermon. Following this, he knelt before the high altar, where Bishop Arne Fjellbu laid his hand on the king's head and recited a special prayer of consecration and blessing which formed the climax of the ritual:

Eternal, Almighty God, Heavenly Father, we thank thee whose grace in need has always gone over our land in woeful and good times to this day. Hear, today, our king's and our prayer. We pray thee, send thy grace to King Olav the Fifth, assist him by thy Spirit and give him wisdom and peace from thee that his reign be a benefit and a blessing on Norway's land and people. Deceitful and burdensome days will come; may truth and goodness from thee be his power and gladness. Eternal, powerful God, bless our king, be thou always his Lord and his King and grant his House all good days in time and eternity. Amen. [5]

Olav would later refer to this event as the high point of his life. [6] A video of a portion of Olav V's benediction ceremony may be viewed here.

Harald V

Upon Olav's death in 1991, his successor Harald V and his wife Sonja expressed their wish to be consecrated as Olav had been. Accordingly, on 23 June 1991, they attended a service of consecration at Nidaros Cathedral, presided over by Bishop Finn Wagle, assisted by the Bishop of Oslo, Andreas Aarflot. The Crown Jewels of Norway had been placed inside the cathedral prior to the ceremony, with the king's and queen's crowns arranged each on their respective side of the high altar. [7]

On entering the cathedral the king and queen were met by bishops Wagle and Aarflot and Bishop Wagle greeted them with the words: "May the Lord bless your going in and your coming out now and for evermore." The king and queen proceeded through the nave and seated themselves on the 1818 coronation thrones. After scriptural readings and a sermon, King Harald came forward and knelt before the high altar, where Bishop Wagle put his right hand on his head and said the consecration prayer, including the petition, "Bless King Harald the Fifth, strengthen him and in the exercise of his solemn responsibilities." Queen Sonja then came forward and knelt beside the king and Bishop Wagle lay his right hand on her head and said a prayer asking God to help her use her talents to benefit the Norwegian people and land. The bishop then said a prayer over both the kneeling king and queen and turned and knelt at the high altar as the Royal Anthem was sung. He then rose and turned to pronounce a concluding blessing on the kneeling monarchs: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you. Amen." The Lord Chamberlain then came forward, as the king and queen rose and turned, and conducted them back to their coronation thrones. [7] Images of King Harald's benediction may be viewed here.

Historical list of coronations

The following is a list of royal coronations in Norway from the 12th century through the modern era. For kings reigning before the independent Norway of 1905 the modern Norwegian name forms are given in parenthesis where relevant.

Christ Church (Old Cathedral), Bergen

The first coronation in Norway, and Scandinavia, took place in Bergen in 1163 or 1164. The Christ Church (Old Cathedral) in Bergen remained the place of coronations in Norway until the capital was moved to Oslo with King Haakon V.

CoronationPictureNameReignOther regnal titles
1163/1164 Magnus Erlingssons saga-Tittelfrise-G. Munthe.jpg Magnus V 1161 - June 15, 1184
June 29, 1194 Sverre Sigurdsson (Nidaros Cathedral).jpg Sverre Sigurdsson 1184 - March 9, 1202
July 29, 1247 HakonTheOldAndSkule-Flateyjarbok.jpg Haakon IV
with Margrét Skúladóttir
1217 - December 16, 1263
September 14, 1261 Magnusgirlovene.jpg Magnus VI (Magnus VI Lagabøte)
with Ingeborg of Denmark
December 16, 1263 - May 9, 1280
1280 Eirik Magnusson (Stavanger cathedral).jpg Eric II May 9, 1280 – 1299
1281 Margaret of Scotland
(consort of Eric II Magnusson)


When King Haakon V succeeded his brother, the capital of Norway was moved from Bergen to Oslo, where it has remained. The other coronations in Oslo took place during the Kalmar Union (note the overlap with Trondheim).

CoronationPictureNameReignOther regnal titles
1299 Haakon Magnussens segl-013.jpg Haakon V
with Euphemia of Rügen
November 1, 1299 - May 8, 1319
July 2, 1442 Christopher of Bavaria.jpg Christopher of Bavaria 1442 - January 5, 1448 King of Denmark
King of Sweden
July 29, 1514 Portraet af Christian II.jpg Christian II July 22, 1513 - January 20, 1523 King of Denmark
King of Sweden

Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

With King Charles I in 1449 the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim became the place of coronations in Norway, and, with the exception of King Christian II, has remained so. The first three took place during the Kalmar Union, and later the tradition was re-established with the Constitution of Norway of 1814 and the Union between Sweden and Norway. In the intermediate period, during the time of the double monarchy of Denmark–Norway, a joint coronation was held in Copenhagen with both a Norwegian and a Danish bishop present.

CoronationPictureNameReignOther regnal titles
November 20, 1449 Karl Knutsson Bonde.jpg Charles I November 20, 1449 - June, 1450 King of Sweden
August 2, 1450 Christian 1 of Denmark.jpg Christian I 1450 - May 21, 1481 King of Denmark
King of Sweden
July 20, 1483 John of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.jpg John 1483 - July 22, 1513 King of Denmark
King of Sweden
September 7, 1818 Jean Baptiste Bernadotte.jpg Charles III John February 5, 1818 - March 8, 1844 King of Sweden
August 5, 1860 Karl XV 1865 fotograferad av Mathias Hansen.jpg Charles IV
with Louise of the Netherlands
July 8, 1859 - September 18, 1872 King of Sweden
July 18, 1873 600 Norwegian Lion King Oscar II.jpg Oscar II
with Sofia of Nassau
September 18, 1872 - October 26, 1905 King of Sweden
June 22, 1906 Haakon and Maud 1906.jpg Haakon VII
with Maud of Wales
November 18, 1905 - September 21, 1957

List of Benedictions

At the beginning of the 20th century the act of coronation had become widely viewed as an anachronism by Norwegian politicians, and two years after King Haakon VII and Queen Maud were crowned in 1908, the provision requiring a coronation was removed from the Constitution with only two votes against in the Parliament. When Olav V became king in 1957 he introduced a new tradition of benediction in the Nidaros Cathedral. He was followed in this by his son, Harald V, in 1991.

BenedictionPictureNameReignOther regnal titles
June 22, 1958 Olav V of Norway.jpg Olav V September 21, 1957 - January 17, 1991
June 23, 1991 Harald V Norway-Agencia Brasil.jpg Harald V with Sonja Haraldsen January 17, 1991–present

See also

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Monarchy of Norway head of state of Norway

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Crown of Norway crown of the King of Norway; made in Stockholm in 1818 by Olof Wihlborg; consists of a ring carrying 8 gold hoops, with a blue enamel globe and an amethyst cross on top; adorned with amethysts, chrysoprases, a topaz, an alexandrite, and a tourmaline

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Consecration, from the Official Website of the Norwegian Royal Family. Retrieved on 2009-09-16.
  2. Hoffman, Erich (1990). "Coronation and Coronation Ordines in Medieval Scandinavia". In Bak, János M (ed.). Coronations: Medieval and Early Modern Monarchic Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  3. Bak, János M., editor (1990). Coronations: Medieval and Early Modern Monarchic Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  4. 1. God bless our dear Fatherland and let it like a garden blossom. Let the light of thy peace shine from mountain to beach and the intelligent fire the coming spring sun. Let people live together as brothers, as Christians who could be themselves.
    2. Our homeland long laid in darkness and ignorance hid the light. But God, thou in mercy to us sang, thy love for us was not forgotten. Thou sent thy word to Norway's mountains and light streamed over the land.
  5. This was immediately followed by the assembled congregation's singing of the Royal Anthem.
    1. God bless our good king. Bless him with strength and courage, bless home and castle. Enlighten him with thy Spirit, Tie with thy strong hand the holy bond of fidelity between people and sovereign.
    2. Loudly swears the man of Norway, each in his calling, his station, faithfulness to his sovereign. Faithful in life and death, brave in war and need, Norway's lot was always, God and his sovereign.
  6. The Consecration of King Olav V, from the Official Website of the Norwegian Royal Family. Retrieved on 2009-09-15.
  7. 1 2 The Consecration of King Harald and Queen Sonya, from the Official Website of the Norwegian Royal Family. Retrieved on 2009-09-15.