For the Bird: Penguin Granted Norwegian Knighthood

He's been an honorary member of Norway's elite King's Guard since 1972. And on Friday, Nils Olav, a penguin, was knighted in a special ceremony at the Edinburgh Zoo.

Nils Olav has had a number of big days in his military career. In his over 35 years of service, the three-foot-tall soldier has steadily climbed through the ranks of Norway's elite King's Guard and even became honorary colonel in chief in 2005.

But Friday's honor is certain to eclipse them all. Nils Olav became Sir Nils Olav in a morning ceremony watched by several hundred onlookers and attended by 130 guardsmen. The occasion took place at the Edinburgh Zoo -- because, as it happens, Norway's newest knight is a penguin.

"You, as a penguin, in every way qualify to receive the honor and dignity of knighthood," said a citation from King Harald V of Norway, which was read out during the ceremony. The king's statement also said that the country was "well-satisfied with the loyalty, courage and good endowments of our trusted and well-beloved Nils Olav."

Sir Olav himself seemed unflappable for most of the ceremony, waddling past the sharply turned out honor guard, occasionally stopping for a closer look at their shiny uniforms. He did, however, seem unimpressed when the sword came out to tap him on the shoulders and quickly waddled in the opposite direction.

The Norwegian guardsmen adopted an Edinburgh penguin as their mascot in 1972, because they often toured the zoo when in Scotland performing at the Military Tattoo, an annual military music festival. The first Nils Olav, named after King Olav V, Norway's regent at the time, died in the 1980s with a young penguin inheriting his name and rank.

Sir Nils Olav wore his colonel badge tied to his flipper during the Friday ceremony. He will soon receive a new one to reflect his elevated status.

cgh/ap

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