King Harald received the honour from the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor David Wood at a ceremony at the Civic Centre’s Banqueting Hall on Thursday,
The city’s highest award has been given to His Majesty to mark the 40th anniversary of the official opening of Newcastle Civic Centre which was carried out by his father, King Olav V, on the 14 November 1968.
This honorary title which was also given to King Olav also marks the historic, cultural and economic links Newcastle enjoys with the people of Norway.
An illustration of this relationship is when the people of Bergen, Newcastle’s twin city, present the people of the city with a Christmas tree which is displayed in the grounds of the Civic Centre.
During Thursday’s ceremony His Majesty was invited to sign the honours register which dates back to the 1800s.
His Majesty’s name will join his father’s on a special wall in the Banqueting Hall which features other past recipients of the honour including former US President Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Sir Bobby Robson.
The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor David Wood said: “Forty years ago the people of Newcastle celebrated the opening of the Civic Centre and that wonderful occasion also marked the cultural and economic links we continue to enjoy with the people of Norway.”
Councillor Wood added: “I am delighted His Majesty has accepted the Honorary Freedom of Newcastle, a title which was also received by his father almost 40 years ago to the day, and I know the people of Newcastle will give His Majesty a warm welcome during his visit to our region which will also celebrate our long lasting friendship.”
King Harald, in his speech of thanks, said he had noted with interest that the award contained a permit for him to let his cattle graze on public land in the city. The King does in fact own a cattle farm in Oslo.
Before Thursday’s ceremony His Majesty visited University Gallery at Northumbria University where he was invited to unveil Northumbria University’s commissioned sculpture ‘Five Figures’ by the distinguished Norwegian sculptor Nicolaus Widerberg, followed by a tour of the University Gallery’s exhibition of paintings by Kjell Torriset.
His Majesty concluded his visit to the region when he visited The Sage Gateshead for a business event organised by One NorthEast and NOF Energy, highlighting the opportunities for North East firms to do business in Norway.
Simon Goon, Head of Business and Investment at One NorthEast said: “North East England has strong links with Norway and it is a real honour to have His Majesty attending the ‘Doing Business in North East England and Norway event.’