The King of Norway has told the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge he hopes the UK and his nation can maintain their close ties when Britain leaves the European Union.
Speaking at an Oslo dinner staged in honour of William and Kate, King Harald also paid an affectionate tribute to the visiting royals describing them as “family” and praising the way their carried out their duties and supported the Queen.
William also celebrated the relationship between the UK and the Nordic nation in his address at the royal palace dinner saying: “Norway has been, and will continue to be, enormously important to Britain both as a friend and a partner.”
The Duchess of Cambridge is escorted into dinner by King Harald V of Norway and the Duke of Cambridge is escorted by Queen Sonja of Norway (Chris Jackson/PA).
The Norwegian sovereign processed into the banquet arm in arm with the pregnant duchess, who wore a stunning Alexander McQueen gown, and their close gesture was mirrored by his wife Queen Sonja and William who walked behind them.
Harald spoke first and described how the UK was the number one study destination for Norwegians who returned with a positive impression of their time away, strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.
He said: “I hope we will be able to maintain our close and extensive co-operation when the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union (EU).”
King Harald V of Norway makes a speech at the dinner in Oslo (Chris Jackson/PA)
Norway is not a member of the EU but is closely associated through its membership of the European Economic Area.
William and Kate, like other senior royals, have undertaken a series of Europe focused overseas visits during 2017 – which have been dubbed Brexit diplomacy visits – and seen as attempt to strengthen ties and bolster relationships with European states as the UK leaves the EU.
The King added: “Dear William, dear Kate, I admire the way you carry out your duties and the way you support he majesty Queen Elizabeth.
“The Queen and I know from our own experience how valuable it is to work together with the younger generation and how important it is to support one another on this rather unusual profession of ours.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with (left to right) Princess Martha Louise, Harald V, Queen Sonja, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette Marit and Princess Astrid (Chris Jackson/PA)
King Harald had welcomed William and Kate to Norway with a celebratory lunch attend by his family which included Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
The Cambridges later went on a walkabout in a central Oslo park meeting hundreds of well-wishers and speaking positively of the snowing conditions that greeted their arrival.
When the duke and duchess visited a workspace for tech companies and digital entrepreneurs they were transported back to their university days in Scotland – thanks to a hi-tech exercise bike that featured the streets of St Andrews, the university town where the couple studied and fell in love.
In his banquet speech, attended by leading business people politicians and prime minister Erna Solberg, William said: “Defending freedom is a core value for both Norwegians and Britons.
The Duke of Cambridge makes his speech (Chris Jackson/PA)
“The cherished symbols of our freedom and friendship are the Christmas trees sent from Norwegian communities to Britain each December.
“These remain as warmly appreciated today, as they were 70 years ago when the generous tradition began.
“The war years and their immediate aftermath convinced both our countries that we must maintain strong national defences.
“Britain and Norway were among the founding members of Nato in 1949. And in the 21st century, we continue to be in the Nato vanguard, adapting our alliance to the threats of today.”