With the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a delegation from the Supreme Court seated in the Supreme Court’s box in the Storting Chamber, all three branches of the government will be represented at the same event. A variety of civilian and military officials as well as the Royal Court and invited guests also attend the ceremony.
A ceremony based in the Constitution
The King or whoever is acting as regent formally opens the Storting each autumn in accordance with procedures that have been enshrined in Article 74 of the Constitution since 1814:
“As soon as the Storting is constituted, the King, or whoever he appoints for the purpose, shall open its proceedings with a speech, in which he shall inform it of the state of the Realm and of the issues to which he particularly desires to call the attention of the Storting. No deliberations may take place in the presence of the King.”
The Storting used to be formally prorogued by the King each spring as well, but this arrangement ended when Article 80 of the Constitution was amended on 29 May 1990. Since then the Storting has remained formally in session throughout the summer.
The procedures surrounding the State Opening of the Storting can be traced to the election of the King at Eidsvoll in 1814. There, the King had the escort of trusted senior officials, and to carry on this tradition the Government today invites a number of civilian and military officials to participate in a procession of senior officials. As in 1814, the King’s adjutants continue to take their position alongside the King on the podium.
The Queen and the Crown Prince also participate in the opening of the Storting. When the King and his entourage arrive at the Storting, they are welcomed by a deputation comprising seven members of the Storting. The deputation’s members are appointed at the sitting in which the Storting constitutes itself; the choices are made on the basis of a county-by-county list of representatives and representative numbers. The deputation receives the King and his entourage on the Lion Hill and then accompanies them for the duration of the time they are in the building.
When the King and the government leave the Storting Chamber, the procession of senior officials flanks the red carpet in the Central Hall.
A rearranged Storting Chamber
On the occasion of the formal State Opening, the Storting Chamber is rearranged and the throne positioned where the President of the Storting and the rostrum of the Storting normally stand. A table for the President of the Storting and the Secretary to the Presidium are placed down in the chamber, in the semicircle in front of the seats of the Storting members.
The tradition of bringing out the throne and the chairs of the Queen and the Crown Prince on the occasion of the formal opening is so old that we have no firm sources as to its origin.
The Speech from the Throne
During the State Opening the King holds the Speech from the Throne, as prescribed in the Constitution. These days the speech is written by the Government, not the King himself, and the King is handed the speech by the Prime Minister during the ceremony. In the Speech from the Throne the king reads out the plans for the Government’s policies in the coming year.
After this the State of the Realm Address is read out by the responsible Minister. Traditionally, this speech is held in Nynorsk.
During the period of Norway’s union with Sweden, the King’s speech was usually held by the governor-general or a government member appointed by the King. Since 1845, the speech has been held in Norwegian. The Storting was formally opened by the King of the union himself on only 23 occasions, and King Karl Johan held the Speech from the Throne twice – in French, which was his native language. Since the union’s dissolution in 1905, the Storting has been opened either by the King or the Crown Prince Regent.
As the Constitution states that no deliberation or debate may take place in the presence of the King, the Storting session may not continue until the King has left the premises. Only then may the Storting decide to submit for deliberation the Speech from the Throne and the State of the Realm Address, and adjourn the sitting.
Debate on the Speech from the Throne and the Government’s political platform
In most years, the Storting discusses the Speech from the Throne the day after the State Opening of the Storting. In election years, when the government has given notice that it will resign due to electoral defeat, the debate is usually postponed until the new government has prepared its political platform. On these occasions the Speech from the Throne and the government political platform may be debated jointly in the Storting.