Norway's King Harald V knights a penguin

Norway's King Harald V has honoured a penguin named Sir Nils Olav - who enjoys a unique relationship with the Norwegian Army's Royal Guardsmen.

During the ceremony, held at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland where Sir Nils lives, the penguin even inspected the Guard....

Penguin on parade: The day they knighted a very special bird

By Daily Mail Reporter
15th August 2008
Daily Mail

Norway's King Harald V honoured Sir Nils Olav, a penguin resident at Edinburgh Zoo

They stood ramrod-straight on parade, desperate to impress the VIP.

After all it's not every day you're inspected by a penguin with a knighthood.

Sir Nils Olav, a resident of Edinburgh Zoo, was given his honour on behalf of King Harald of Norway in today's ceremony attended by 130 Norwegian Royal Guardsmen.

Attention: King penguin Nils Olav 'inspects' Norwegian King's Guard after he was given a knighthood at Edinburgh zoo

It was gently clipped to his wing.

Olav, a king penguin, is the third generation of his kind to enjoy a unique relationship with the Guards, who adopted his predecessor in 1962.

The bird waddled out to the cheers of hundreds of visitors and dignitaries to receive the accolade.

It was quite a step up for him – even though he is already a colonel.

He ‘accepted’ the Knighthood from retired Major Nils Egelien, Vice President of the Norwegian Royal Guard Association.

The majestic bird inspected the line of soldiers before the medal was attached to his wing.

Major General Euan Loudon, chief executive and producer of the Edinburgh Tattoo, performed the Knighthood ceremony upon Nils Olav by waving a sword over the bird’s shoulders in the appropriate manner.

The officer said: ‘I am honoured to have been asked by the Norwegian Guard to perform the promotion ceremony for Nils.’

Major General Euan Loudon, chief executive and producer of the Edinburgh Tattoo, performed the knighthood ceremony upon Nils Olav by waving a sword over the bird’s shoulders

A musical fanfare from HM King’s Guards Trumpet Corps and a special Royal message from King Harald V were read out to the crowd.

The promotion of the honorary member of The Royal Norwegian Guard was shrouded in secrecy, known only to Norway’s monarch and his closest advisers.

Darren McGarry, Animal Collection Manager at Edinburgh Zoo, said: ‘Nils always recognises the Norwegian Guardsmen when they come.

‘We're excited about his new promotion.’

Big moment: Nils Olav the penguin strolls past the military band he 'commands'

Gong show: The king penguin's Norwegian awards

The King’s Guard, who take part annually in the Edinburgh Tattoo, always make the pilgrimage to the zoo to visit their most unusual comrade.

Last year, they unveiled a 4ft bronze statue in his honour.

The Scandinavians’ association with the zoo’s famous penguins dates back to when Major Egelien was a young lieutenant.

On a return visit, the officer persuaded his regiment to sponsor a king penguin, which they adopted as their mascot.

The penguin’s name combines his Christian name with that of the then king, Olav.

On subsequent visits to the capital, the Norwegians have promoted Nils Olav no fewer than six times.

He has risen from a lowly Lance Corporal in 1962, to Honorary Colonel-in-Chief in 2005.

When the original Nils died in 1993, he was replaced by a new king penguin who was immediately promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major.

Attention to detail: Nils makes sure all his troops are up to scratch

In her welcoming address, Lieutenant Colonel Ingrid Margrethe Gjerde joked of the similarities between penguin Nils Olav and the Guardsmen assembled before him for inspection.

She said: ‘The ties between Scotland and Norway are strong, particularly since the time of the Second World War.’

David Windmill, chief executive of the Royal Society of Scotland, the charity that owns Edinburgh Zoo, said: ‘We have a long-standing history with the Norwegian King’s Guard and it is something we are extremely proud of.

‘Edinburgh Zoo is famous for its king penguins and Nils Olav is definitely the most famous of them all.’

Norwegian King’s Guardsman, Captain Rune Wiik added: ‘We are extremely proud of Nils Olav and pleased that an enduring part of the Royal Guard is resident in Scotland helping to further strengthen ties between our two countries.

‘I understand he continues to carry out his duties as Honorary Colonel in Chief in an exemplary fashion and this latest award is clearly very much deserved.’
L Gilbert
A monarch knighting an emperor.

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