Her Majesty Queen Sonja
Her Majesty Queen Sonja was born in Oslo on 4 July 1937 as the daughter of Dagny (1898-1994) and Karl August Haraldsen (1889-1959). When King Harald ascended to the Throne upon the death of King Olav, Queen Sonja became Norway's first queen in 53 years.
Queen Sonja grew up in the district of Vinderen in Oslo, and completed her lower secondary schooling in 1954.
She received a diploma in dressmaking and tailoring at the Oslo Vocational School, and went on to receive a diploma from École Professionelle des Jeunes Filles in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her studies there included social science, accounting and fashion design. She returned to Norway for further studies and received an undergraduate degree (French, English and Art History) from the University of Oslo.
Miss Sonja Haraldsen first met Crown Prince Harald in 1959. It was not until nine years later, however, that she and the Crown Prince were given permission to marry. In March 1968 it was announced that King Olav had given his consent for the Crown Prince to marry a commoner.
The engagement between Miss Haraldsen and Crown Prince Harald triggered a debate regarding the future of the monarchy in Norway. There was far less resistance to the idea of the Crown Prince choosing a commoner to be his wife than many had feared. The Norwegian people immediately accepted Crown Princess Sonja as a member of the Royal Family. The wedding was held in Oslo Cathedral on 29 August 1968, and Miss Sonja Haraldsen became the Crown Princess of Norway. King Harald and Queen Sonja have two children, Princess Märtha Louise, born on 22 September 1971, and Crown Prince Haakon, born on 20 July 1973.
Queen Sonja accompanied King Harald when he swore his oath to uphold the Constitution in the Storting on 21 January 1991. This marked the first time in 69 years that a Norwegian Queen had been present in the Storting. Subsequently, the Queen, frequently together with Crown Prince Haakon, has accompanied the King to the formal opening of the fall session of the Storting and the reading of the Speech from the Throne.
In accordance with their own wishes, King Harald and Queen Sonja were consecrated in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 23 June 1991. In connection with the consecration ceremony, the King and Queen conducted a 10-day tour of Southern Norway. The following year, the entire Royal Family conducted a 22-day tour of Norways four northernmost counties.
Official duties as Queen
The Queen accompanies the King on official state visits abroad, and she participates when foreign heads of state pay official visits to Norway.
Every year the King and Queen pay a visit to a county in Norway. Their stay lasts 2-3 days, during which time they pay visits to several municipalities. The King and Queen often use the Royal Yacht Norge to travel along the Norwegian coast.
The Queen carries out a multitude of different tasks including travelling, official visits, participation at events all over the country, audiences, receptions and meetings at the Royal Palace. In addition to her many official duties the Queen also takes active part in following up internal activities relating to the Palace and the other Royal Residences.
Queen Sonja has a strong sense of social engagement. She has been patron of and has played an active role in a variety of large-scale fundraising initiatives. Queen Sonja was a member of the committee for the first nationwide humanitarian telethon campaign in 1974, which raised funds for refugees. More recently, in 2010, the Queen was patron for the 2010 telethon campaign in support of the Norwegian Refugee Council's work to help and protect people fleeing from war. In connection with the 2010 telethon, the Queen visited the worlds largest refugee camp in Dadaab in Kenya, on the border with Somalia. Queen Sonja was awarded the Nansen Medal by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for her efforts. She donated the prize money USD 50,000 in its entirety to the building of schools for refugees in Tanzania.
Queen Sonja has also been involved in the work of the Norwegian Red Cross, and served as Vice President of the organisation from 1987 to 1990.
The Queen seeks to follow up her interest in social issues to the greatest extent possible, attending conferences and key events for organisations dealing with relevant issues. Every year before Christmas Queen Sonja pays visits to institutions for various social groups such as children, vulnerable women, elderly people, the homeless and substance abusers. The Queen is also concerned with conditions for immigrant women in Norway. She has met with representatives of women with minority backgrounds on many occasions, in connection with conferences, seminars and receptions at the Palace as well as through visits to private homes.
Cultural interests and outdoor recreational activities
Queen Sonja has many interests that she combines with her duties as Norways First Lady.
The Queen is particularly interested in art and culture. During the course of the year Queen Sonja receives numerous invitations to art exhibitions and cultural events both in Norway and abroad, and tries, as far as her programme will allow, to be present.
The Queen is greatly interested in the visual arts. In 2001, parts of her private art collection were exhibited at the Henie Onstad Art Centre at Høvikodden, near Oslo. In 2011 the Queen established Her Majesty Queen Sonja's Art Award. The award was founded in cooperation with artists Kjell Nupen, Ørnulf Opdahl and Ole Larsen and will be awarded to Nordic artists working in a paper-based format.
The award was presented for the first time 14 June 2012, to he Finish artist Tiina Kivinen. The ceremony took place at Henie Onstad Art Centre at the opening of the exhibition "Landscapes and Spaces" that presented Her Majesty's own work as well as art from The Queen's private collection.
Another of the Queens major interests is music. She is patron of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Oslo Chamber Music Festival and the Norwegian Traditional Music and Dance Association (FolkOrg). She is also actively involved in the Queen Sonja International Music Competition. This competiton is held every other year and attracts outstanding singers from all over the world. Her Majesty follows the competition and presents the prizes to the winners.
Queen Sonja is trained as a skiing instructor. Every year she takes the opportunity to enjoy long ski treks or hikes in the Norwegian mountains. The Queen has attended the Olympics on many occasions together with the rest of the Royal Family, and she was an enthusiastic spectator during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo in 2011.
The Queen is a keen photographer, and often takes photographs of her trips in Norway. On several occasions, in Norway and abroad, Queen Sonja has given lectures and talks on Norway as a tourist destination at which she has shown her private photographs.