16 AUGUST 2008

There is no doubt King Harald of Norway believes in rewarding good service and this week, the monarch honoured one of his most faithful servants – a three-foot tall king penguin called Nils Olav.

In a service shrouded in secrecy and known only by the 71-year-old royal and his close advisers, Nils walked out to cheers and applause at a special ceremony held at his home in Edinburgh Zoo on Friday. He is a successor to the first penguin adopted by the guards more than 30 years ago.

On his best behaviour, the proud bird waddled out to "inspect" the 130 Royal Guardsmen on parade before being dubbed on his shoulders to confirm his knighthood. A medal was also attached to his wing.

Unable to attend the ceremony, Harald, who is known for his youthful zest for life, sent his own message of congratulations. Calling him "our trusty and well-beloved" Nils, he declared the penguin to be "in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood".

Norway gave the zoo its first king penguin in 1913, the year of its opening.

Photo: ©
Pictured with his wife Queen Sonja in October last year, King Harald sent some special words to Nils Olaf on Friday, whose knighthood came at the behest of the monarch himself Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
Nils Olaf, whose middle name was chosen in honour of King Harald's father, "inspects" the Norwegian royal guardsmen, who come to visit the penguin when they perform at Edinburgh's military tattoo Photo: © Getty Images
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