Queen Sonja of Norway turns 85. For more than 30 years, the former commoner has supported King Harald V as king’s wife.

The third big birthday of the year is celebrated in Norway on July 4th: After King Harald V’s 85th birthday on February 21st and the celebrations for Princess Ingrid Alexandra’s 18th birthday, Queen Sonja is now celebrating her 85th anniversary Row. The once commoner Sonja Haraldsen is the Scandinavian country’s first queen since Queen Maud (1869-1938).

Harald and Sonja had to fight for their love

For more than three decades, Sonja has supported her husband as the king’s consort and has gained great popularity and recognition among the Norwegian people. But it almost didn’t come to that: Because the entrepreneur’s daughter, who was born in Oslo in 1937, had to wait nine years after they met in 1959 until the then Crown Prince Harald received the consent of his father Olav V. (1903-1991) for marriage to a commoner. Apart from her non-noble origins, however, there could be no objection to the queen: she came from a wealthy family and had studied English, French and history in Oslo.

Harald threatened his father that he would remain single forever if he wasn’t allowed to marry his Sonja. Since he was the only male heir to the throne, this would have seriously jeopardized the succession to the throne. After consultations with the government, the engagement was finally celebrated in March 1968. On August 29 of the same year, the wedding took place in Oslo Cathedral.

No longer a problem: both children married civilly

The marriage has two children: Princess Märtha Louise (50) and Crown Prince Haakon (48), who will one day succeed his father to the throne. The love for commoners has long since ceased to be an obstacle in the Norwegian family: Märtha Louise married the writer Ari Behn (1972-2019) in 2002, with whom she has three children. Although she lost her title of “Royal Highness” through marriage, she retained the title of princess. She has been in a relationship with the American shaman Durek Verrett (47) since 2018 and has also been engaged to him for a few weeks.

Crown Prince Haakon also fell in love with a commoner: in 2001 he married Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby (48), who brought her son Marius (25) into the marriage. The crown prince couple gave Queen Sonja two more grandchildren: Princess Ingrid Alexandra and Prince Sverre Magnus (16).

First Queen in Antarctica

After the death of his father, Harald V ascended the Norwegian throne on January 17, 1991. Because his mother had already died when Olav V became king in 1957, the Norwegian people saw Sonja as a queen at the side of the reigning monarch for the first time since 1938. Queen Sonja performs representative duties and is involved in various humanitarian organizations.

Sonja has been an art enthusiast and collector since she was young. For example, she was involved in the total renovation and conversion of the Royal Palace in Oslo. She is held in high esteem by Norwegians, particularly because of her closeness to the people and nature. In 2005 she was the first Queen ever to visit Antarctica to open a Norwegian research station in Queen Maud Land.

Sonja and Harald score with tolerance

Queen Sonja and King Harald V also score with the people with their modern attitude and cosmopolitanism. Especially in difficult times, the royal family is an important support for Norwegians. Just a few hours after the devastating attack by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik on the island of Ütoya in the summer of 2011, the royal couple encouraged their compatriots to stick to their social model.

Even after the recent attack on an LGBTQ bar in Oslo, the royal family stood by the people. Already in his speech on the 25th anniversary of the throne, Harald V. asserted: “The Norwegians are girls who love girls, boys who love boys and boys and girls who love each other. Norwegians believe in God, Allah, that universe and nothing at all.”

Retirement is far from in sight

Queen Sonja and Harald V. are far from thinking about retirement: “If I had known how fun this celebration would be, I would have turned 80 a long time ago,” said Sonja in 2017 at their joint birthday gala. “But to be honest, like my husband, I don’t feel 80 at all.”

The humble royal couple’s 85th birthday celebrations will be a little quieter. Harald celebrated his birthday abroad in February, while Queen Sonja is hosting a small private party in the village of Sandnessjoen on the island of Helgeland.