LONDON – Nils Olav already has medals for good conduct and long service. He made honorary colonel-in-chief of the elite Norwegian King's Guard in 2005. And on Friday he was knighted.
Not bad for a 3-foot tall penguin — actually, three of them.
A resident of Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, the original Nils Olav was made an honorary member of the King's Guard in 1972 after being picked out as the guard's mascot by lieutenant Nils Egelien. The guards adopted him because they often toured the zoo during their visits to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual military music festival, according to zoo spokeswoman Maxine Finlay.
The king penguin was named after Egelien and Norway's then-King Olav V. When the penguin died — Finlay said no one at the zoo knew exactly when — he was replaced by a second penguin, who inherited Nils Olav's name and rank.
The current Nils Olav, the third penguin to serve as the guards' mascot, was promoted from honorable regimental sergeant major to honorary colonel-in-chief in 2005, Finlay said.
The knighthood ceremony began Friday morning with speeches and a fanfare before Nils arrived, under escort with the King's Guard Color Detachment. Nils then reviewed the troops lined up outside the penguin enclosure at the zoo, waddling down the row of uniformed soldiers, occasionally stopping to crane his neck and peer inquisitively at their crisp uniforms before being guided forward by his handler.
Nils was then knighted by British Maj. Gen. Euan Loudon on behalf of Norway's King Harald V. Loudon dropped the king's sword on both sides of Nils's black-and-white frame, and the penguin's colonel-in-chief badge, tied to his flipper, was swapped for one symbolizing his knighthood.
"He'll be a "sir" now," Finlay said.