The King of Norway’s reign has spread to the digital world of Facebook after the 79-year-old ruler issued an unexpected and impassioned speech in support of LGBT equality, refugees, and religious tolerance. At press time, the king’s speech had been viewed more than 3.2 million times on Facebook.
Speaking at a royal garden party September 1, King Harald V delivered a powerful and poetic speech, which extolled the beauty and diversity of the Scandinavian nation. King Harald explained to the 1,500 guests at the Royal Palace in Oslo that fellow citizens hail from northern, central, and southern Norway, but also from “Afghanistan, Pakistan and Poland, from Sweden, Somalia, and Syria.”
Norwegians are also “girls who love girls, boys who love boys, and girls and boys who love each other,” the monarch said. He celebrated his 25th year on the throne earlier this year, serving as the figurehead leader of the constitutional monarchy.
Like many of its Scandinavian neighbors, Norwegian society is largely accepting of LGBT people. The nation embraced legal marriage equality in 2009, more than a decade after it first established civil unions for same-sex couples. Earlier this year, Norway's parliament enacted a law that allows transgender citizens to have full control over how their gender is listed on formal identification documents, removing any specific clinical or surgical requirements for residents to have their affirmed gender recognized by the state. Argentina was the first nation to enact such a law in 2012, followed by Denmark in 2014. Last year, Ireland and the island nation of Malta both embraced similar trans-affirming policies, and Colombia moved toward allowing its citizens to define their own gender, as well.
The Associated Press notes that the Norwegian palace has received an unprecedented number of requests for the formal English translation of the king’s speech, and the king himself was questioned about his remarks during a Tuesday state visit in Finland.
The Guardian reports that the king’s speech serves as a sharp rebuke to the right-wing, anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been building in Norway following the election of a center-right coalition government three years ago, and has intensified as the Scandinavian nation works to integrate some 30,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, many of whom are from Syria.
Watch the full speech below, with English subtitles prepared by NRK, the government-run national broadcasting company based in Oslo. Beneath the video, English text of the king’s speech is included, as culled from NRK’s translation.
Norwegian King Harald V’s speech, delivered September 1 at the Palace Gardens in Oslo:
Prime Minister, the Parliament’s vice president, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, dear all,
We have for several years traveled around most of the country. Now it is very nice to be [hosting] representatives form all over Norway. A warm welcome to al of you.
You who are gathered here represent the [breadth] of what Norway is today. So what is Norway? Norway is high mountains and deep fjords. It is plains, skerries, islands and islets. It is fertile fields and gentle hills. The sea hits the country from the north, west, and south. Norway is midnight sun and polar nights. It is both hath and mild winters. Warm and cold summers. Norway is outstretched and scattered inhabited. But Norway is above all people.
Norwegians come from the north of Norway, from the middle, from the south and from all the other regions. Norwegians have also immigrated from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Poland, Sweden, Somalia and Syria. My grandparents immigrated from Denmark and England 110 years ago.
It is not always easy to say where we come from, to which nationality we belong. Home is where the heart is. That cannot always be placed within country borders. Norwegians are young and old, tall and short, able-bodied and wheelchair users. An increasing number are more than 100 years old.
Norwegians are rich, poor, and in between. Norwegians like football and handball. They climb mountains and they sail, while others prefer the couch. Some have good self-esteem, while other struggle to believe they are good enough as they are.
Norwegians work in shops, in hospitals, on oil platforms. Norwegians work for us all to be safe. They work to keep the country clean of garbage, and search for new solutions for a green future. Norwegians cultivate the soil and are fishing. Norwegians research and teach. Norwegians are engaged youth and experienced elderly. Norwegians are single, divorced, families with children and old married couples.
Norwegians are girls who love girls, boys who love boys, and girls and boys who love each other. Norwegians believe in God, Allah, everything and nothing. Norwegians like [musical artists] Grieg, Kygo, Hellbilies, and Kari Bremnes.
In other words: You are Norway. We are Norway. When we sing “Yes we love this country,” we have to remember that we also sing about each other. It is we who constitute the country. Therefore, the national anthem is also a declaration of love to the Norwegian people.
My biggest hope for Norway is that we will manage to take care of each other. That we can build this country further on trust, [solidarity], and generosity. That we can know that we — despite our differences — are one people. That Norway is one.
Once again, a warm welcome to you all. I hope we will have a pleasant time together. Thank you.