Thursday, His Majesty The King received the Honorary Freedom of Newcastle upon Tyne. The honour was bestowed on King Harald at a formal Freedom Ceremony during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Newcastle Civic Centre.
The Honorary Freedom of the City is the highest honour the City Council can bestow, and was presented by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor David Wood. This award has been conferred upon only 47 individuals and organisations since it was introduced, and one of the recipients was King Olav V of Norway, who received it in 1968. The names of all Honorary Freemen are engraved on the wall of the Civic Centre Banqueting Hall.
The award celebrates the close historic, cultural and economic ties between Newcastle and Norway. King Haralds own links to the city include the receipt of an Honorary Doctorate from Newcastle University and his role as the Patron of the Anglo-Norse Association.
Newcastle is very special. It is the twin city of Bergen, and there has been a ferry service between Newcastle and the western coast of Norway for many years. The ties between this part of Britain and Norway are still very close, His Majesty stated to the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK.
The city of Bergen sends a Christmas tree to Newcastle every year, commemorating the British effort during World War II. The tree is placed outside the Town Hall, which was opened by King Olav 14 November 1968.