Surprising link between King of Norway Harald V and Stephen Hawking

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Harald V of Norway studied together with Stephen Hawking and once rowed against him at University of Oxford.

The internationally-known physicist Stephen Hawking died on March 14th in England, at his home in Cambridge.

One of the less known anecdote about the groundbreaking physicist’s life was his involvement with rowing in his student days at University of Oxford.

This activity was also a meeting point for Hawking with Norway’s current king Harald V. Harald studied social sciences, history and economy from 1960 to 62 at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Those were the exact years when Hawking was studying at Oxford University. Beside this, they shared a common hobby at that time, rowing. Then it once brought them together, according to Brian Sheard, who is seen in the winning rowing team’s photo below (left to the person, David Dixon who is holding the cup).

Photo courtesy: Brian Sheard | A photograph of the two University College crews that rowed in the ‘Freshmen’s Eights’ tournament. Stephen Hawking is at the front with his hands in his pockets and his legs dangling over the roof of the college barge.

In the 1960 – 61 season, Hawking coxed the boat which won that year’s so-called ‘novice eights’, a race for newcomers in their first academic year, who had not rowed before going to university. One of the boats in that competition was entered by Balliol College, and among its crew was Crown Prince Harald of Norway. The Balliol Crew was disqualified for some unfortunate error long-since forgotten, but on their behalf a challenge was then issued to row off against whichever crew won the competition. This was a crew at University College.

As it turned out, the University College crew then won their race against Balliol. The cox of the winning crew was Stephen Hawking. As tradition required, Prince Harald and his comrades invited Hawking and his crew for drinks at Balliol.

Remarkably, these two crews rowed off in the final and then the winner accepted the challenge from Balliol College, and met Crown Prince Harald in the process.

Photo courtesy: Brian Sheard | A copy of a card from 1961 showing Stephen Hawking as a cox at University College inn 1961.

The story will be updated with info from Norway’s Royal Palace.

Special thank to Brian Sheard sharing the anecdote and providing the documents to The Nordic Page.

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