The Norwegian military has promoted a king penguin residing in a UK zoo to the rank of Major General in its military.
The penguin, who lives at Edinburgh Zoo in the Scottish capital and goes by the name of Sir Nils Olav III, was promoted to the third-highest rank in Norway’s armed forces on August 21 as part of a tradition that goes back to the mid-20th Century.
Coinciding with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, soldiers from the Third Guards Company of the Norwegian King’s Guards visited the zoo in order to confer the rank on the Sir Nils, who had previously been instated as a Brigadier.
Arise, Sir Penguin 🐧
The highest-ranking penguin in the world, Sir Nils Olav III, has been promoted to Major General by the Norwegian King's Guard 🏅
Sir Nils now holds the third highest rank in the Norwegian Army!
— Edinburgh Zoo (@EdinburghZoo) August 21, 2023
The penguin was then allowed to inspect the Norwegian troops officially under his command as a military band played in honour of the Sphenisciforme, as the order that penguins belong to is called.
It is believed that Sir Nils is the highest-ranking penguin in the world, and his knighthood was conferred by the Norwegian king.
He also holds the title of Baron of the Bouvet Islands and boasts two bronze statues, one of which is in Edinburgh Zoo while the other resides in the King’s Guard compound in Oslo.
Congratulations to Sir Nils Olav on his promotion from Brigadier to Major General🐧
The King’s Guard Band and Drill Team Of Norway took time away from @EdinburghTattoo to greet their mascot at @EdinburghZoo pic.twitter.com/4H4IOgPvvl
— BFBS Scotland (@BFBSScotland) August 21, 2023
The king penguin did not manage to earn all of these honours in a single lifetime, with the bird having inherited the titles held by Sir Nils Olav II when that penguin died in 2016.
The trend of conferring titles on a penguin began in 1972 after the Norwegian King’s Guards adopted a bird from the zoo as a mascot, naming it Nils Olav.
Although a strange military tradition, Third Guards Company Sergeant Fredrik Kim Gresseth explained that it served as a vehicle for positive foreign relations for Norway.
“Norway has for a long time had close ties with Scotland, also in connection with the resistance struggle during the Second World War,” he said.
“This is a very honourable way to show that you are important allies. There is a friendship behind having a mascot in another country,” he added.
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— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) August 8, 2023