A king penguin received a big honor on August 22, 2016 when he was promoted to Brigadier.

  • He’s an honorary member of the King of Norway’s Guard who was adopted by the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.
  • The penguin was promoted in a ceremony there where he got to inspect the more than 50 Norwegian soldiers who came to visit Scotland for the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo event.
  • The ancient bonds between Scotland and Norway run deep.
  • Northern Scotland was under Norwegian rule for centuries, and about half of people on the Shetland islands have Viking ancestry according to recent research. 
  • So, in addition to trendy whisky bars in Oslo, the bonds between the two countries are being rekindled by this adorable tradition in Edinburgh.

The chief executive of the tattoo event, Brigadier David Allfrey, said the promotion of the penguin is “a simply fantastic example of the great relations between our two countries and it couldn’t be a more charming tradition. At the tattoo we, of course, have many inspecting officers but this is by far my favourite. Congratulations, Brigadier Olav.”

Who is this penguin?

  • When he was adopted, he started as their mascot, and has moved up the ranks over the years since. He was knighted already in 2008, with the approval of the King of Norway, King Harald V, and he now bears the full title of Brigadier Sir Nils Olaf.
  • He was named after Major Nils Egelien, who was responsible for the zoo adopting him in 1972, and the former King of Norway, King Olav V.
  • The Norwegian guardsmen visit him every few years, and he has received many medals and honors for his service and conduct in the military.
  • The zoo also has a bronze statue of him, and he is well-loved by the zoo and its visitors.

The chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Barbara Smith, said, “We are honoured to host His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard as they bestow a prestigious new title upon our king penguin, Sir Nils Olav. It is a very proud moment and represents the close collaboration between our two countries, Scotland and Norway.

The Brigadier penguin inspected the guardsmen during the ceremony, and it was caught on tape. You can watch the adorable ceremony below:


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Photo credit: Crown copyright 2008