by Scott Mehl
The Royal Palace, Oslo
Located in central Oslo, The Royal Palace is the primary official residence of King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, and the seat of the Norwegian Monarchy. It is the site of many annual events and national festivities, as well as host to many State and official visits from foreign heads-of-state.
In 1814, Norway became an independent kingdom and was ruled under a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden. Finding that the sovereigns were spending more time visiting Christiania (as Oslo was called at the time), King Carl III Johan (Carl XIV Johan of Sweden) decided that a true palace was needed. After selecting the location in 1821, and getting the Norwegian parliament to allocate funding, work began on the site and the King laid the cornerstone of the palace in 1825.
The building was initially designed to be in the shape of an ‘H’, with two wings extending from the front and back of a main block. However, due to excessive costs and several delays, the design was later changed to have just two wings off the back of the palace, and the addition of a third storey to the building. After King Carl III John’s death in 1844, it was also found that the private apartments were not sufficient for the new King Oscar I’s larger family, so the two wings were extended to accommodate them. With construction finally completed, the palace was inaugurated by King Oscar I on July 26, 1849 in the presence of the entire Royal Family.
In 1905, the personal union between Norway and Sweden came to an end, and Prince Carl of Denmark was elected as the new King of Norway, taking the name Haakon VII. The palace was quickly updated to be used as a permanent residence, and the new King Haakon VII and Queen Maud took up residence in November 1905. During the reigns of Haakon VII and his son Olav V, minor maintenance of the palace was carried out, but by the time King Harald V came to the throne in 1991, the palace was in dire need of repair. A six-year project was undertaken, which included updating the electrical and plumbing systems, as well as extensive renovation and restoration of the building itself. After completion in 1999, a separate project began to update the Royal Apartments, which would take nearly two years to complete. The most recent project has been the rehabilitation of the roof over the main block of the palace, which took place in 2011-2012.
Some of the rooms in the palace are:
The Council Chamber is the room in which The King holds a meeting of the Council of State each week. The original council chamber was part of the King’s private apartments on the second floor, but was moved to the first floor under King Haakon VII. Due to the increasing size of the council, the room was expanded by combining it with an adjacent antechamber in the 1990s.
The Bird Room is one of the best-known rooms in the palace. It is used as an antechamber for those waiting for an audience with the King and is often used for official photos at ceremonial events. The walls are painted to depict an outdoor pavilion, looking out on some famous Norwegian landscapes. Incorporated into the artwork are forty different birds, which give the room its name.
Despite its name, the Family Dining Room is used primarily for smaller, less-formal official dinners and lunches, such as the annual dinners for the Supreme Court and the Bishops.
The Great Hall is the Palace’s Ballroom and is used for luncheons and banquets. It is considered to be the grandest room in the palace, and was the site of the wedding banquet for Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit in 2001. The room encompasses two floors, with a balcony that wraps around the entire room (seen in the photo above).
The Banqueting Hall is the palace’s State Dining Room and is used for very formal functions such as State Visits and the annual banquet for members of the Norwegian government. The above photo shows the Banqueting Hall prepared for a large gala.
The Palace Chapel is built on the site of the original foundation stone for the palace (the altar is actually erected directly above the foundation stone). It is here where both King Haakon VII and King Olav V lay in state before their funerals, and it continues to be the site of religious events within the royal family. In 2004, the Chapel was restored in connection with the christening of Princess Ingrid Alexandra, and it has been used for several other christenings and confirmations. As well as being used for the Church of Norway, the Palace Chapel is often the site of concerts and musical events.
The private apartments of King Harald and Queen Sonja are located in the southern wing extending from the back of the palace, overlooking The Queen’s Park, which is part of the larger Palace Park.
The Palace is situated in the middle of a large area known as the Palace Park. The park spans more than 50 acres and encompasses both the large gardens and the Palace Square located in front of the building. The park includes three ponds and several walking trails as well as several pavilions and statues. Within the park, there is a smaller area known as The Queen’s Park, which is used primarily as a private area for the Royal Family when they are in residence.
The Palace Square is located at the front of the palace. This is considered the main parade ground in Norway and is the site of many ceremonial events, including the formal welcome ceremonies during State Visits, and the annual National Day celebrations. On National Day, the Royal Family appear on the balcony overlooking Palace Square, to watch the Children’s Parade and greet the crowds gathered to celebrate the day.
Learn more about the other Norwegian Royal Residences here!