By David Walker
A PENGUIN sponsored by the King’s Guards of Norway has p-p-p-picked up a special promotion – a Knighthood.
A ceremony involving 130 Norwegian Royal Guardsmen conferred their latest honour on the newly-titled Sir Nils Olav at Edinburgh Zoo.
The world’s most celebrated bird – adopted by the troops in 1962 – waddled out to cheers from hundreds of visitors and dignitaries to accept his latest accolade.
And he went on to accept the Knighthood from retired Major Nils Egelien, Vice President of the Norwegian Royal Guard Association.
The majestic king penguin inspected the line of soldiers before receiving his decoration from Major Egelien, who attached the medal to the flightless bird’s wing.
A musical fanfare from H.M. King’s Guards Trumpet Corps, and a special Royal message from King Harold V was read out to the proud bird.
The promotion of the honorary winged member of The Royal Norwegian Guard was originally shrouded in secrecy, and was known only by Norway’s King and those closest to him.
Darren McGarry, animal collection manager at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “Nils always recognises the Norwegian Guardsmen when they come to visit him.
“We’re all very excited about his new promotion and we’ve all been wondering what it could be.”
On their last pilgrimage to the zoo, the Norwegian’s unveiled a four foot-high bronze statue in honour of Nils.
The Scandinavian country’s association with the zoo’s famous penguins stretches back to 1962 when young lieutenant Nils Egelien discovered the animals on a visit during the army’s first Tattoo appearance.
On a return visit ten years later, he persuaded his regiment to sponsor a king penguin, which they duly adopted as their mascot.
The penguin’s name comes from Mr Egelien who discovered him, and the then King Olav of Norway.
On subsequent visits to the capital, the Norwegians have promoted Nils six times.
He has risen from a lowly Lance Corporal in 1962, and was bestowed his last honour of Honorary Colonel-in-Chief in 2005.
When the original Nils died in 1993, he was replaced by a new king penguin who was immediately promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major.
Major General Euan Loudon performed the Knighthood upon Nils Olav, waving a sword over the bird’s shoulders in the appropriate fashion.
Chief executive and producer of the Edinburgh Tattoo, said: “I am honored to have been asked by the Norwegian Guard to perform the promotion ceremony for Nils.”
In her welcoming address, Lieutenant Colonel Ingrid Margrethe Gjerde joked of the similarities between penguin Nils Olav and the Guardsmen assembled before him for inspection.
She added: “The ties between Scotland and Norway are strong, particularly since the time of the Second World War.”
David Windmill, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity that owns Edinburgh Zoo, said: “We have a long-standing history with the Norwegian King’s Guard and it is something we are extremely proud of.”
He continued: “Edinburgh Zoo is famous for its king penguins and Nils Olav is definitely the most famous of them all.”
Norwegian King’s Guardsman, Captain Rune Wiik said: “We are extremely proud of Nils Olav and pleased that an enduring part of the Royal Guard is resident in Scotland helping to further strengthen ties between our two countries.”
“I understand he continues to carry out his duties as Honorary Colonel in Chief in an exemplary fashion and this latest award is clearly very much deserved.”
Norway’s finest are in town to once again appear at this year’s Edinburgh Military Tattoo.