HM The King received the honour from the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, councillor David Wood, at a ceremony at the Civic Centre’s Banqueting Hall. The city’s highest award was given to His Majesty to mark the 40th anniversary of the official opening of Newcastle Civic Centre which was carried out by his father, King Olav V, on the 14 November 1968.
This honorary title, which was also given to King Olav, marks the historic, cultural and economic links Newcastle enjoys with the people of Norway. An illustration of this relationship is when the people of Bergen, Newcastle’s twin city, present the people of the city with a Christmas tree which is displayed in the grounds of the Civic Centre.
During Thursday’s ceremony His Majesty was invited to sign the honours register which dates back to the 1800s. King Harald’s name will join his father’s on a special wall in the Banqueting Hall which features other past recipients of the honour including former US President Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Sir Bobby Robson.
The Lord Mayor of Newcastle said “Forty years ago the people of Newcastle celebrated the opening of the Civic Centre and that wonderful occasion also marked the cultural and economic links we continue to enjoy with the people of Norway.
“I am delighted His Majesty has accepted the Honorary Freedom of Newcastle, a title which was also received by his father almost 40 years ago to the day, and I know the people of Newcastle will give His Majesty a warm welcome during his visit to our region which will also celebrate our long lasting friendship.”
Before the ceremony The King visited University Gallery at Northumbria University where he unveiled the commissioned sculpture ‘Five Figures’ by distinguished Norwegian sculptor Nicolaus Widerberg, which was followed by a tour of the University Gallery’s exhibition of paintings by Kjell Torriset.
His Majesty concluded his visit to the region at the Sage Gateshead for a business event organised by One NorthEast and NOF Energy, highlighting the opportunities for North East firms to do business in Norway.
Simon Goon, head of business and investment at One NorthEast said: “North East England has strong links with Norway and it is a real honour to have His Majesty attending the event. The region’s established a world-class reputation in the offshore engineering sector and North East firms are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities available in Norway’s oil and gas industry.”
HM The King of Norway spent a day in Newcastle. Here with Andrew Sowerby from Hardy and Greys and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle Councillor David Wood. Photo: Steve Brock