Queen Sonja of Norway celebrated her 80th birthday on 4 July at the Royal Palace in Oslo with opening an art gallery and unveiling a statue of herself in hiking gear.

Queen Sonja during the assembly of the first exhibition at the Queen Sonja Art Stable. Photo: Sven Gj. Gjeruldsen, Det kongelige hoff.

She opened the Queen Sonja’s Art Stable, eight months after King Harald surprised her with this amazing birthday present.

All 164 graphic prints in the gift to the Queen are on display in the opening exhibition. Photo: Liv Osmundsen, Det kongelige hoff.

The Norwegian Government’s gift was a photo album containing photographs of Queen Maud, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

Queen Maud. Photo: Karl Anderson, 1909, The Royal Collections

Queen Maud, who was one of Britain’s Edward VII’s daughters and Queen Elizabeth’s great-aunt, married King Harald’s grandfather, King Haakon VII, on 22 July 1896.

She was a keen equestrian as well as an enthusiastic photographer, an interest which Queen Maud shares with Queen Sonja.

Interior from the centre before rehabilitation in 2017. Photo: Jan Haug, Det kongelige hoff

Queen Maud had taken an active role in upgrading the Royal Stables between 1908 and 1911. They were modelled on the stables at Buckingham Palace.

Part of the opening exhibition includes an extensive collection of 164 graphic prints which had been donated, comprising a wide-ranging, diverse collection of printmaking techniques and graphic art.

All 164 graphic prints in the gift to the Queen are on display in the opening exhibition. Photo: Liv Osmundsen, Det kongelige hoff.

The Queen Sonja Art Stable is open to the public from the 5th of July, with a new exhibition coming in October.

Her five grandchildren helped unveil a new statue of Queen Sonja which was a birthday present from the Norwegian Trekking Association (Den Norske Turistforening).

It shows Queen Sonja wearing hiking gear, with a backpack, taking a break sitting on a stone from Hedalen in Valdres, showing her great love for travelling and nature.

Queen Sonja has been the patron of DNT for many years.

Crown Prince Haakon gave a speech thanking the Norwegian Trekking Association, saying there is hardly a mountaintop in Norway that his mother has not climbed.

Listen to our 7 July 2017 Podcast for more details.

Festivities continued with private celebrations later that evening for family and friends at Bygdø Royal Estate, the Norwegian Royal Family’s official summer residence.

Joint celebrations were held in King Harald and Queen Sonja’s 80th birthday on 9 and 10 May.

However, King Harald celebrated his birthday in private earlier this year on 21 February.

A Short Biography

Sonja Haraldsen was born at the Red Cross Clinic in Oslo on 4 July 1937. she was the youngest child of clothing merchant and department store manager Karl August Haraldsen and his wife Dagny Ulrichsen. She had two older brothers and a sister.

She received a diploma in dressmaking and tailoring at the Oslo Vocational School, before continuing her studies at the École Professionale des Jeunes Filles in Switzerland, with a diploma in social science, accounting and fashion design.

Sonja returned home to Norway for further studies at the University of Oslo with a degree in French, English and Art History.

She first met Crown Prince Harald in 1959, but the relationship was considered highly controversial and kept secret, because Sonja was a commoner.

The Crown Prince was considered one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. He was supposed to marry one of the several princesses available during the 1950s and 1060s, including Princess Sophia of Greece who later married King Juan Carlos of Spain.

They met at a dinner party in 1959 hosted by mutual friends, which was said to be “love at first sight”.

King Olav made it quite clear, when he discovered the relationship, that the marriage was “out of the question” as he believed it would put the monarchy at risk.

Harald left to study at Oxford whilst Sonja went abroad to study and work in France and Switzerland. They found having a long-distance romance was difficult, tried to break up several times and both felt miserable.

The Crown Prince eventually summoned up the courage to tell his father if he couldn’t marry Sonja Haraldsen, he would remain single, and that would cause a constitutional crisis in Norway.

Finally, King Olav gave his consent in March 1968, after the government gave the green light.

Embed from Getty Images

Sonja became the Crown Princess when she married Harald in a magnificent ceremony at Oslo Cathedral on 29 August 1968.

They have two children, Princess Märtha Louise (born 22 September 1971) and Crown Prince Haakon (born 20 July 1973), and six grandchildren including Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who is second-in-line to the throne.

King Harald acceded to the Norwegian throne when his father, Olav V, died on 18 January 1991. They were consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral on 23 June 1991, before undertaking a ten-day tour of Southern Norway.

She has also become a graphic artist and ceramicist. Queen Sonja’s works have been on display at various exhibitions in Norway and overseas, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

She also established the Queen Sonja Print Award to generate interest and promote the development of graphic art.

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