Today the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg began a three-day state visit to Norway, where they were welcomed by the King and Queen at the usual ceremony in the Palace Square. Grand Duke Henri later laid a wreath at the National Monument at Akershus Fortress and called on the Prime Minister at the Government Building as well as the Speaker of Parliament. Tonight there is a state banquet at the Royal Palace.
During the day the Queen has also accompanied the Grand Duchess on visits to Oscarshall Palace and the nearby Queen’s Chalet (Sæterhytten) at Bygdøy, which was inaugurated in the presence of three mutual ancestors of the King and the Grand Duke in 1862 (Queen Lovisa, her daughter Princess Lovisa and her mother Princess Louise of the Netherlands) and has recently reopened after restoration works. On Wednesday the grand ducal couple, accompanied by the King and Queen, will travel to Trondheim, where Nidaros Cathedral is among the sites to be visited. However, the Grand Duchess may cut short the visit as her brother is reported to be in a coma in a hospital in Florida.
The Grand Duke has been awarded the Collar of the Grand Cross of the Order of St Olav (he already had the Grand Cross), while Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Princess Märtha Louise have been given the Grand Cross of the Order of Adolphe of Nassau.
The Norwegian and Luxembourgian royal families are closely related and the ties between the two families have long been close. Grand Duke Adolphe, the first monarch of Luxembourg following the secession from the union with the Netherlands, was the older half-brother of Queen Sophia and something of a father figure to her.
Furthermore, the current Grand Duke’s mother, the Belgian-born Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, was a first cousin of King Harald. This means that Grand Duke Henri is the European monarch most closely related to King Harald except for the King of the Belgians, who is King Harald’s first cousin and Grand Duke Henri’s uncle.
Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, who lost her mother, Queen Astrid of the Belgians, when she was only eight years old and had a rather traumatic childhood during World War II, was always close to her Scandinavian relatives and rarely missed a family event. The death of this regal, yet charming lady in 2005 was much regretted by the Norwegian royals.
Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa have themselves paid a number of visits to Norway following their accession to the throne in 2000, attending several family occasions and also a skiing event some years ago.
There have on the other hand been rather few state visits between the two countries and, coincidentally, none of them has ever been returned. King Olav made a state visit to Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Félix in 1964, shortly before her abdication. In 1990 Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte became the last to pay a state visit to King Olav, who was taken seriously ill later that spring and never resumed the reins of government before his death in January 1991. In 1996 King Harald and Queen Sonja paid a state visit to Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, which they again did not return before Grand Duke Jean’s abdication in favour of his son Henri in October 2000.
This week’s state visit will by the way be the last to Norway by a reigning European monarch for the foreseeable future. The Queen of Denmark was here in 1992, the King of Sweden in 1993, the King of the Belgians in 1997, the Queen of Britain in 2001, the King of Spain in 2006 and the Queen of the Netherlands in 2010, while the sovereign princes of Liechtenstein and Monaco do not habitually pay state visits. As it is customary for monarchs to pay only one state visit to each country per reign the next state visit from a reigning European monarch will probably not be until a new reign has begun in at least one of the European monarchies.