Your Majesties, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is such an enormous pleasure to return to Norway again – and this time with my darling wife, for whom this is her first official visit.
Your Majesties really could not have been kinder in extending such a warm welcome to us and in arranging this splendid dinner. This is, of course, a very special year, marking, as you say, the Diamond Jubilee of our own Queen in the United Kingdom and in the fifteen other Realms. My wife and I will be visiting four of those Realms – Canada, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand during the course of this year. But our overseas celebrations of the Jubilee begin here in Norway and then continue, over the coming days, in Sweden and Denmark, marking the incredibly close and multiple family ties we all share through our common ancestor, Queen Victoria. If I may say so, it is our great good fortune that The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee coincides with the celebrations here in Norway to mark both Your Majesties’ 75 birthdays which of course makes me feel very old. Although perhaps a little belatedly for King Harald, and a little early for Queen Sonja, I did just want to extend our most heartfelt and affectionate congratulations, as well as many, many happy returns of the occasion.
If I may say so, I have the fondest memories of my first visit to Norway in August 1969 when my sister and I came with our parents in the old Royal Yacht Britannia. It was then that I discovered three memorable and endearing things about the Norwegians – first of all that virtually every house seemed to fly the Norwegian flag; secondly, that our Anthems are exactly the same and, thirdly, that Norwegians tend to stay up all night during the Summer!
Your Majesties, it is not just ties of blood which we share. Indeed, the colloquial word we use in Britain for the people of Liverpool – “Scousers” – derives from the Norwegian word for a fish stew eaten by the Vikings – “Lapskaus”! The history of how our ties of family kinship and national friendship endured during the Second World War is a matter of great pride in both our countries. Since those dark days, I am proud to say that we have continued to stand shoulder to shoulder within N.A.T.O. In this regard, I am delighted that H.M.S. Liverpool is deployed here for Exercise Cold Response and that Your Majesty and I will be visiting her together tomorrow. I did, however, want to join Your Majesties in extending our most heartfelt condolences to the families of the five Norwegian Armed Service Personnel who so tragically lost their lives in a terrible accident connected with that Exercise a few days ago.
Our two countries have, of course, been working closely together to maintain peace and reduce conflict in Afghanistan and in Libya, as well as in joint work to reduce the threat from piracy off the coast of Somalia. And thinking of the ties between our two countries, I cannot thank you enough for ensuring my younger son did not contract frostbite – or lose any vital appendages! – while he was in Svalbard exactly a year ago, making a television programme about wounded British servicemen walking to the North Pole. You were also kind enough to deliver him back to us in time to perform his Best Man duties at my elder son’s wedding!
Your Majesties, in closing, I also wanted to pay a personal tribute to all your country does to ensure that the natural environment we bequeath to our children and grandchildren is not some fatally poisoned chalice; that our generation discharges our Stewardship to the best of our ability. If I may say so, Norway provides a remarkable – and remarkably generous – role model for the international community, as a driving force for environmentally sustainable development and as a bridge-builder between North and South, and East and West, in a vast array of international processes.
Your Majesties, we can only offer you our renewed and special thanks for your invitation, for your immense generosity, and for your many kindnesses. If I may, I would like to propose a toast to the King and Queen and the people of Norway.