Nils Olav

Coordinates: 55°56′40″N 3°16′20″W / 55.94444°N 3.27222°W / 55.94444; -3.27222

Sir Nils Olav III
Nils Olav wide.jpg
Speciesking penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
BreedKing Penguin
BornSir Nils Olav III
Hatchedc. 2008 (age 10–11)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Military career
Allegiance Norway
Service/branchNorwegian army coat of arms.svg Norwegian Army
Years of service1972–1987 (first)
1987–after 2008 (second)
before 2016–present (third)[1]
RankArmy-NOR-OF-06.svg Brigadier, colonel-in-chief and mascot
UnitHans Majestet Kongens Garde

Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin who resides in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland. He is the mascot[2][3][4] and colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King's Guard. The name 'Nils Olav' and associated ranks have been passed down through three king penguins since 1972 – the current holder being Nils Olav III.[1][5]

Role in the military

Norway – whose explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911 – presented Edinburgh Zoo with its first king penguin at its opening in 1913.[6]

When the Norwegian King's Guard visited the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1961 for a drill display,[7] a lieutenant named Nils Egelien became interested in the zoo's penguin colony. When the Guards once again returned to Edinburgh in 1972, he arranged for the regiment to adopt a penguin. This penguin was named Nils Olav in honour of Nils Egelien and King Olav V of Norway.[2]

Sir Nils inspects troops of the King's Guard, of which he is colonel-in-chief, following his knighthood ceremony in 2008. Military insignia is attached to his right flipper.

Nils Olav I was given the rank of visekorporal (lance corporal) in the regiment. He has been promoted each time the King's Guard has returned to the zoo. In 1982 he was made a corporal, and promoted to sergeant in 1987.[2] Nils Olav I died shortly after his promotion to sergeant in 1987, and his place was taken by Nils Olav II, a two-year-old near-double. He was promoted in 1993 to the rank of regimental sergeant major and in 2001 promoted to 'honourable regimental sergeant major'.[2] On 18 August 2005, he was appointed as colonel-in-chief of the same regiment.[2][8] The next honour was a knighthood, awarded during a visit by soldiers from the Norwegian King's Guard on 15 August 2008.[9] The knighthood was approved by King Harald V and Nils was the first penguin to receive such an honour in the Norwegian Army.[10] During the ceremony a crowd of several hundred people joined the 130 guardsmen on parade at the zoo, to hear a citation from the King read out, which described Nils as a penguin "in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood".[6]

The bronze statue of Nils Olav

During the 2005 visit, a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) bronze statue of Nils Olav was presented to Edinburgh Zoo.[2] The statue's inscription includes references to both the King's Guard and to the Military Tattoo. A statue also stands at the King's Guard compound at Huseby, Oslo.

A third penguin, Nils Olav III, took over at some point between 2008 and 2016.[1] On 22 August 2016 he was promoted to brigadier in a ceremony attended by over 50 members of the King's Guard.[1][2][11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "King penguin made a Brigadier in Edinburgh". BBC News. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Sir Nils Olav". Edinburgh Zoo. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  3. ^ Panganiban, Roma (4 April 2013). "Sir Nils Olav, Norway's Penguin Knight". Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Military penguin becomes a 'sir'". BBC. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Norwegian Knight". Scandinavian Press. 15 (4). Fall 2008. p. 9.
  6. ^ a b "Military penguin becomes a 'Sir'". BBC News. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  7. ^ The Edinburgh Military Tattoo Programme 1961
  8. ^ Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh.
  9. ^ "King penguin receives Norwegian knighthood". 15 August 2008. MSNBC. Retrieved 13 June 2010. (Archived on 13 June 2010)
  10. ^ "Penguin power: Norwegian regiment honours pint-sized chief". Sydney: ABC News. 16 August 2008.
  11. ^ "Nils Olav the most famous king penguin in the world, parades his way to a new honour". Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.

External links