Visit of the King of Norway

From Floreat Domus Issue: 
13
Issue year: 
2007

The King with some Boat Club members
The King with some Boat Club members on the Hall steps, laughing at a joke he had
addressed to Nick Bevan, who is out of shot left. The Vicegerent is in the foreground.

Thursday 16 November 2006 was a great day for the whole College, and in particular for the Balliol College Boat Club. On that day, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway (1960) came to Oxford to receive the Degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma at a special Congregation in the Sheldonian Theatre. It was a splendid occasion, with the King and many of us colourfully garbed in academic tribal costume and in ebullient spirits.

Nick Bevan talking to the King
Nick Bevan talking to the King on his arrival at Balliol with the Chancellor, Lord Patten, walking behind them.

The Public Orator, RHA Jenkyns, (1967) read the Diploma, and the King was admitted to the degree by the Chancellor, CF Patten (1962). It was a very Balliol occasion, for those of the great sixties vintage especially, and the Chancellor’s none too subtle allusion in his speech to “our College” was music to Balliol ears. The King in his reply recalled that his distinguished father King Olav (1924) had been at Balliol before him “and treasured the memories from Oxford throughout his lifetime”, and that he King Harald too had “enjoyed every day on campus.” His full speech can be read in the Oxford University Gazette for 23 November 2006, which is available online at www.ox.ac.uk/gazette.

The 1st VIII
The 1st VIII, 1962 wearing Norwegian-style sweaters. The then Crown Prince is rowing at number 4 (far right). Nick Bevan is at number 6 (far left).

After the ceremony there was a reception, and after that a grand lunch in Balliol. The lunch was a University entertainment, so the Chancellor presided, but Balliol was invited to nominate many guests. The Hall was filled and the Balliol representatives included not only Fellows and Emeriti but also NV Bevan (1960) and WGD Sykes (1960), both of whom, recently retired, live locally, and knew King Harald at Balliol.

It was particularly nice to be able to engineer Nick Bevan’s high profile presence, as he was Captain of Boats in the King’s time, and it is well remembered that rowing was the King’s special pleasure. Nick and I met the King at the gate and walked him over to lunch, via a small display of relevant archive photographs, and on the Hall steps – quite by chance, of course – was a gathering of Boat Club members in their blazers. He stopped and joked for several minutes – the photograph captures the mood well. As we entered the Hall there was enthusiastic applause. Bertrand, the Chef, excelled himself. A memorable day in the history of the College; it could not have been a greater success.

John Jones was Vicegerent when the King came.