Friday, August 15, 2008

That's SIR penguin to you, bud!

There are many people who have been knighted - Sir Paul McCartney springs to mind, Bono, Sir Michael Caine...and others. There's a lot of pomp and circumstance involved, which includes a ceremony where swords are involved. No sword play or anything dangerous - just some touching here and there.

Nils Olav who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, has already acquired medals for good conduct and years of faithful service and was even made a honorary colonel-in-chief of the elite Norwegian King's Guard in 2005. This in itself is a lifetime achievement but what makes Mr. Olav stand out in the true sense of the word, is that Nils is a - wait for it - penguin.

You read it right: a penguin as in black, white and flippery.

As expected, there's a history connected to how he achieved this honor with the original Nils Olav who 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 III, 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.

It was all very proper and royal-like with the ceremony actually starting on Friday morning with speeches and a fanfare before Nils arrival 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.

Rumor has it that fish was on the banquet menu - raw of course. At least Sir Nils never has to worry about wearing a tuxedo for formal occasions.

See a photo of SIR Nils Olav, the Edinburgh Zoo penguin and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King's Guard, here:

and here:

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