Nils Olav

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

Nils Olav
Nils Olav wide.jpg
Species King penguin
Sex Male
Military career
Allegiance  Norway
Service/branch Norwegian army coat of arms.svg Norwegian Army
Years of service 1972–1987 (first)
1987–after 2008 (second)
before 2016-present (third)[1]
Rank Army-NOR-OF-06.svg Brigadier, Colonel-in-Chief and mascot
Unit Hans 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 is Nils Olav III.[1][5]

Role in the military[edit]

Norway – whose explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911 – presented the 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 called Nils Egelien became interested in Edinburgh Zoo's penguin colony. When the Guards once again returned to Edinburgh in 1972, he arranged for the unit to adopt a penguin. This penguin was named Nils Olav in honour of Nils Egelien, and King Olav V of Norway.

Sir Nils inspects troops of the King's Guard, of which he is Colonel-in-Chief, following his knighthood ceremony in 2008

Sir Nils Olav was given the rank of visekorporal (lance corporal) and has been promoted each time the King's Guard has returned to the zoo. In 1982 he was made corporal, and promoted to sergeant in 1987. Nils Olav died shortly after his promotion to sergeant, and his place of honour was taken by Nils Olav II, his two-year-old near-double. He was promoted in 1993 to the rank of regimental sergeant major. On 18 August 2005, he was appointed as Colonel-in-Chief.[8] Nils was visited by soldiers from the Norwegian King's Guard on 15 August 2008 and awarded a knighthood.[9] The honour 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 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 2008 visit a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) bronze statue of Nils Olav was presented to Edinburgh Zoo. The statue's inscription recognises the King's Guard and the Military Tattoo. A statue also stands at the King's Guard compound at Huseby, Oslo. In Norway he is consistently referred to only as the mascot of the King's Guard, although the plaque on his statue refers to his appointment as Colonel-in-Chief.

A third penguin, Nils Olav III, took over 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][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "King penguin made a Brigadier in Edinburgh". BBC News. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016. 
  2. ^ "Sir Nils Olav". Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ Panganiban, Roma (April 4, 2013). "Sir Nils Olav, Norway's Penguin Knight". Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Military penguin becomes a 'sir'". August 15, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 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". ABC News. Sydney. 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[edit]