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Eight Coronation and Coronation Ordines in Medieval Scandinavia
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Coronation and Coronation Ordines in Medieval Scandinavia

Erich Hoffmann

The Christianization of Scandinavia in the tenth and eleventh centuries helped stabilize royal power in the European North.[1] The king "by the Grace of God"[2] could now regard his office as granted from above; he acquired a legal status that allowed him to become more independent of the popular thingar dominated by the great men of the realm. It is not surprising that in all three Nordic kingdoms the Western European practices of anointing and crowning were introduced in addition to traditional and newly developed secular acts of accession. Henceforth only one who had undergone the sacred rites of legitimation was regarded a true king, just as in the rest of Europe.

However, in contrast to the countries to the south, no medieval coronation ordo has come down to us from any of the Scandinavian kingdoms. The present study is an attempt to reconstruct the medieval inaugural rites from scattered pieces of evidence plus the first Protestant coronation ordines in each of the Scandinavian kingdoms.


The earliest Christian royal consecration in Northern Europe was celebrated in Norway.[3] Victorious at the end of a long period of succession struggles, the jarl Erling wished to secure the throne for his minor son through sacral legitimation, for Magnus (1162–1184) was related to the royal dynasty only on the female line, not sufficient in the traditional Nordic view. In alliance with the reform-minded archibishop of Trondheim, Eystein,[4] Erling arranged for an ecclesiastical consecration that would raise his son above all other claimants. Magnus was crowned in Bergen in 1163 (or 1164). We know nothing about the procedure or the insignia, only that a law was passed on this occasion, which reserved the right of succession essentially to the oldest


legitimate son of Magnus's line and secured considerable influence to the bishops in testing the suitability of each candidate to the throne. Snorri Sturlusson,[5] the chronicler of Norwegian kings, was more interested in the details of the banquet than in the coronation about which he records only that the king was "consecrated" by Archbishop Eystein and five of his suffragans and that the papal legate, who came to negotiate about Norway's obedience to Pope Alexander III, was also present. It is fair to assume that "consecration" implied crowning, anointing, and investiture with other regalia.

However, we know the text of the coronation oath sworn by Magnus,[6] and this is of great value for the reconstruction of medieval coronations. The king promised to be obediens and fidelis to the Roman Church, acknowledged the papacy of Alexander, and confirmed the arrangements negotiated a few years before with the papal legate Nicholas Breakspeare (later Pope Adrian IV) about the liberties of the church in Norway and the payment of Peter's Pence.[7] After the usual obligations about doing justice to church, clergy, high and low, rich and poor, and above all widows and orphans, a rather unusual clause was added that all this was to be done secundum patrias leges and also according to Canon Law. Finally, the king bound himself to demand nothing from the realm of Norway and the church of Trondheim that contradicted divine and human justice or was against the canons of the church.[8] This oath was typical of such professions and specific obligations to the Church which Archbishop Eystein was able to impose on the king in return for political support, but there is also a nod to the traditional laws of the land. The obedience to Rome meant, in the given situation, Magnus's adherence to Alexander III as the legitimate pope and cannot be construed, as Holtzmann argued, as a feudal oath "since no fief is named or implied in the promise."[9] These features lend the oath a certain "singularity": it was clearly formulated for this very occasion. Thus it cannot be used for speculating about the possible ordo used at Magnus's coronation and its probable models. Yet, certain well-known formulations can be recognized in it, including definite hints at the type of professio which German kings spoke during their coronations from the twelfth century on.[10]

Either immediately at the coronation in Bergen or, according to other scholars a few years later, Magnus issued a charter for the cathedral church of Trondheim, where St. Olaf was buried, in which he commended his realm to the saint, the ancestor of the royal dynasty, and received it from him as a fief.[11] The connection to the dynastic saint was an additional means for strengthening Magnus's hold on the throne. However, Magnus fell in battle against the pretender Sverre, who followed him on the throne (1177/1184–1202). He, in turn, was anxious to maintain the honor of the king vis-à-vis the Church and the papacy[12] and intended to recover the legal advantages acquired by the Church at the foundation of the metropolitan see of Trondheim


in 1153 on the prodding of Cardinal Breakspeare and then at the coronation of Magnus. This attempt at reducing ecclesiastical rights led to an open conflict with Archbishop Eirik, whereupon the latter left the country. Yet Sverre, whose royal descent was not beyond doubt, needed sacral legitimation. Since the archbishop refused to crown him, he had to ask the bishop of Oslo to take his place. This coronation in 1194 was also held in Bergen.[13] The Sverre-Saga only records that the king was consecrated and that the main actor was Bishop Nicholas. "Consecration" probably also included anointing, just as in Magnus's case.

The conflict between Sverre and the party of the bishops, which elected its own kings, continued even after the king's death. None of the kings of the two competing parties was ever crowned. Only Sverre's grandson, Haakon Haakonson (1217–1264), succeeded in restoring peace in the realm. His coronation was also intended to enhance his right to the throne, since his birth was illegitimate. In order to win the king's alliance against Emperor Frederick II, Pope Innocent IV granted him dispensation in 1246 and sent William, Cardinal of Sabina, to crown Haakon and have him swear the oath of Magnus.[14] But the king refused to do so. He wanted to promise only that the Church and her servants shall enjoy such rights as they do in countries "in which both holy Church and crown have their freedom and honour," but he did not want to diminish his rights and those of his successors. Finally the cardinal accepted the compromise. At this point one wonders whether the promises Haakon gave were identical with those contained in the professio of German kings. If that was so—as suggested by the strong textual resemblances between the oath recorded for Erik Magnusson[15] and the professio of German coronations—then the coronation ordo used at this occasion might have been liturgically dependent on the German one. Haakon's coronation[16] was held on St. Olaf's Day (28 July) 1247 at the largest settlement of the country and the center of the kingship, in Bergen. Unfortunately, Sturla Thórdarson, author of the Haakons-Saga, was mainly interested in the pomp and circumstance and not in liturgical details. Yet we learn from him about the coronation procession and the Norwegian royal insignia. The festive procession included the king's bodyguard (i.e., the immediate retinue), the syssemenn (royal servitors), skutelsveiner (table knaves), and those magnates whom the Norwegians regarded as "barons" (lendmenn). Three of the lendmenn carried a table top on which the dress and personal jewels of the king were laid out. The insignia proper were carried by members of the royal family and other high officeholders. Haakon's illegitimate son Sigurd, who according to the new perceptions of the age was not eligible to inherit the throne, and Munan Biskupsson carried royal scepters of silver. The one had a golden cross, the other a golden eagle on its top. Haakon's legitimate son, Haakon, already chosen as coregent, carried the crown, and a nephew of one of King Haakon's predecessors, the sword. The archibishop and two of his


suffragans accompanied the king, followed by the other bishops, abbots, and clergy. With the response Ecce mitto angelum the procession entered the church. The cardinal legate and two bishops received the king and led him to the altar "whereupon Mass was sung and the coronation performed in the usual way" writes the author of the saga. The "usual way" is thus the only reference to the form and procedure of the crowning. It was obviously the ordo used at the preceding coronations of Magnus and Sverre, about which as noted, we also have no detailed knowledge.

Still, we have a good description of the insignia, and it is worth discussing them at some length. Before their conversion Norwegian kings did not have crowns but golden helmets[17] just as indicated by the Edgar-ordo for Anglo-Saxon England. In his last days the first Christian king, Haakon the Good, still wore such a helmet in the battle of Fitjar (ca. 961).[18] However, the crown might have been introduced to Norway even before the coronation of Magnus Erlingsson. A contemporary stone sculpture of King Eystein Magnusson (1103–1123) from Munkeliv Abbey shows him clearly with a crown on his head, a wide ring-diadem adorned with four crosses.[19] The custom of wearing a crown seems to have prevailed in the Scandinavian kingdoms, just as in the Eastern Frankish-German realm[20] even before the introduction of Christian coronations. Two scepters and a sword are mentioned in the royal procession. The latter is part of the regalia in all Western and Central European kingdoms. The two scepters are reminiscent of the two rods of kingship mentioned by Widukind of Corvey at the 936 coronation of Otto I:[21]sceptrum and baculus or virga . The former may have been derived from Roman, the latter from Germanic traditions, but both symbolized the king's function as judge. Although Sturla Thóradarson does not describe the two scepters, a charter of 1340 containing the inventory of the royal treasures at Castle Bohus gives a hint: unum ceptrum cum uno rikiswand in quinque partibus .[22] I agree with Kallström[23] who reads this as a reference to both scepters: a (s)ceptrum and a "wand of the realm" which could be taken into five parts, hence a longish rod, a baculus . The two signs on the two scepters, cross and eagle, were, of course widespread symbols of rulership all across Europe.

To secure the smooth succession, Haakon had his son, Magnus Lagaböter (1263–1280), elected as coregent and also crowned (on 14 September 1261).[24] Sturla mentions only royal garments and crown and sword as insignia, but it is unlikely that scepter and staff (baculus), as mentioned in the charter quoted above, would not have belonged to them. For Magnus's son, Erik (1280–1299), we have once again the text of the coronation oath,[25] which he swore on 25 July 1280 with his hands on a Gospel-book, at his coronation in Bergen. Of the ceremonies we know only that they included coronation and anointing. The charter containing the oath was the result of a quarrel between the king and the archbishop who seemed to have tried to


reintroduce the oath of Magnus Erlingsson; the conflict ended in a compromise formulation, put down in writing for future occasions.

The text of the royal oath contains significant, partially verbatim, parallels to the professio of the German ordo of the twelfth century.[26] However, it is shorter, omitting some parts and thus leaving space for an addition in which the king promises to abolish evil laws and adverse customs, particularly against the freedom of the church (malas leges et consuetudines perversas precipue contra ecclesie libertatem) and to issue, with the counsel of his fideles new and good laws. Clearly, these were matters the archbishop wanted to have included in order to secure rights to clerical jurisdiction acquired from Magnus Lagaböter in 1277. The strong dependency of the oath on the German ordo's professio suggests that other parts of the ordo may have also been modeled on German precedent. If this was so, it is possible that parts of the German ordo had already been used both in 1247 and 1261, perhaps with an oath that was quite similar to the continental one.

Erik's oath of 1280 did not, however, become a model. A law about succession and wardship, issued by his brother and successor, King Haakon V (1299–1319), refers to an oath that does not seem to be that of his predecessor. King Haakon wrote that he had promised God at his consecration to hold the laws that were established by St. Olaf and observed by his legitimate successors. These words suggest, instead, an oath that was influenced by the secular oath of Haakon Haakonson's law on succession of 1260[27] and not the German ordo's professio.

Although the sources on the twelfth- and thirteenth-century coronations prove to be laconic, they still contain more than those for the later Middle Ages, which merely record that a king was crowned, occasionally adding the name of the coronator and the place of the event. Under Haakon V, who as "duke" had been virtual coregent with his brother, the center of royal power shifted to the south. His coronation may even have been held in Oslo.[28] With him the royal dynasty died out in the male line. His successor, the grandson of Haakon, Magnus Eriksson (1319–1374) was also King of Sweden. Magnus was crowned in 1336 in Stockholm, apparently for both realms; he seems to have worn the Norwegian crown for the first time at a diet in Oslo[29] in 1377. A Swedish source names the archbishop of Uppsala as coronator,[30] but the Lübeck Council's Chronicle (Ratschronik) reports that the king was crowned by the bishop of Dorpat.[31] If that is correct, it is possible that the choice of a "third party" was intended to avoid offending the Norwegians, even if Magnus's main interest remained Sweden. For his son, Haakon VI of Norway (also of Sweden as coregent in 1343 and 1355 and king from 1374–1380) no reports survive about a coronation. This silence may be due to the dearth of sources during the great plague after 1349. Haakon's son, Olaf (1380–1386), died uncrowned, still as a youth. His mother, the great Mar-


garet (regent 1376/1387–1412), who had governed Norway and Denmark for him, now became regent of both countries and acquired Sweden as well.[32] She secured the throne of all three kingdoms for her great-nephew Eric of Pomerania and for a while served as governor in his name. Finally she succeeded in uniting the three northern kingdoms and established a joint coronation ceremony in Kalmar.[33] The king of the Union was crowned conjointly by the Swedish and Danish archbishop, while the Norwegian bishops were absent, with the exception of that of the Faroe Islands. Whether they stayed home because the trip over sea was too dangerous in waters infested by pirates or because they believed that a Norwegian king, an heir to St. Olaf, had to be crowned on Norwegian soil cannot be decided.

No separate Norwegian king was crowned from the time of Eric of Pomerania until the early twentieth century.[34] Christopher III, king of the Union, was crowned in Oslo in 1442 by the archbishop.[35] After his death a struggle broke out between the kings of Sweden and of Denmark for the throne of Norway: both were crowned in Trondheim, Karl Knutsson in 1449, his adversary Christian, who finally won, in 1450.[36] The coronation of Christian's son, Hans, was also in Trondheim (1483), but that of Christian II was moved back to Oslo in 1514.[37] The coronator was always the incumbent metropolitan of Trondheim, and each of the rival kings may have chosen his church in order to win this influential magnate, Archbishop Aslak Bolt, for his cause. Also, both embattled rulers may have found it useful to be consecrated over the grave of St. Olaf, rex perpetuus Norvegiae .[38]

In summary then, while the medieval coronation ordo most likely used in Norway resembled the German ordo as developed in the twelfth century, the insignia point to other sources. Besides the most widespread signs of rulership, the sword and the crown, the king was invested as in France and England with two staffs. The absence of an orb parallels French usage. Seals and coins display the kings of Norway with the insignia of their consecration: crown, sword, scepter. But these images are not reliable witnesses, for they usually follow foreign models or pictorial conventions and stylistic fashions.[39] "Correct" insignia, special objects that were to be used at every coronation, were not established in Norway. The regalia were either made for each occasion or older ones used. Neither did a "correct" place for coronations exist, even though it would have been logical for Christ Church in Trondheim, cathedral of the archdiocese and burial site of St. Olaf, to become such a place. In most cases Bergen and later Oslo, centers of royal power and preferential residences of the kings, were chosen for coronations. In three exceptional cases particular reasons suggested the choice of Trondheim. However, the position of the archbishop of Trondheim as coronator in Norway was virtually unchallenged throughout history.

As for the queens, we know only about the wives of Haakon Haakonson


and Magnus Lagaböter, who were crowned simultaneously with their husbands.[40] Sverre, Christian I, Karl Knutsson, and Hans were also married at the time of their coronations. Thus their wives may have been crowned together with them. All the other kings married only after their consecrations. There is, unfortunately, no evidence available on the form of the queen's coronation in Norway.


In Denmark[41] King Waldemar I (1154/1157–1182) replaced the kinship-based claims of all male members of the royal house with the rights of the firstborn legitimate son of the Waldemarian line. Following Western and Central European custom, he designated his son Knut (VI) as coregent in order to avoid future succession struggles. The electors had been until the fourteenth century the members of the Danehof, all nobles of the realm as the king's vassals. Then the royal council, representative of the high aristrocracy, took their place and the approval of the original electoral bodies, the landesthingar , was reduced to mere acclamation. In this process the sacral legitimation of the Waldemarian line, expressed in the simultaneous canonization of Waldemar's father, Knut Lavard, and the crowning[42] and anointing[43] of his seven-year-old son and coregent, Knut VI, on 25 June 1170, played a decisive role. This first Danish coronation was, just like the earliest Norwegian one, the result of a compromise,[44] in this case between ARchbishop Eskil of Lund and the king, who in return for his son's coronation declared his obedience to Pope Alexander III. The right to crown a king in Denmark remained till the end of the Middle Ages with the archbishops of Lund,[45] though there were a few exceptions.[46]

A definite site for coronation did not develop in medieval Denmark. Despite the impressive festivities at Ringsted no king was again crowned there even though the cult of Knut Lavard remained important for the dynasty. The cathedral of Lund was chosen for the coronation of Waldemar II (1202)[47] and of Erik Menved (1286).[48] Perhaps it was also here that Erik Ploughpenny (1231) and Abel (1250), for whom no coronation place is recorded, were crowned.[49] Waldemar III (1218) was crowned in Schleswig,[50] Erik Glipping (1259) in Viborg,[51] Christopher II, together with his son and coregent Erik (1324), in Vordingborg,[52] and Christopher III (1443) in Ripen.[53] The late medieval rulers from the Oldenburg dynasty (Christian I in 1448; Hans in 1483; Christian II in 1512; Frederik I in 1524) all chose Copenhagen, the residence of the kings of Denmark[54] since the times of Eric of Pomerania. Thus, as far as one can judge, the coronation took place wherever the king happened to be, but—with the sole exception of the important castle of Vordingborg—always at an episcopal see. The later medieval practice of


holding the coronation at the main residence parallels the Norwegian practice of earlier centuries. The coronation of the Union king, Eric of Pomerania, in Kalmar in 1397[55] was a special case for Denmark as well.

From 1170 all kings of Denmark were crowned with the exception of four: Waldemar III, the king placed on the throne by the count of Holstein; Gerhard III, who resigned after three years; Waldemar IV (1340–1375), who decided to forego the ecclesiastical consecration probably because of opposition to the tradition;[56] and his grandson Olaf, who died in 1387, before coming of age.[57] By that time it was considered necessary in Scandinavia for the king to be of age for his coronation. Earlier in the mid-thirteenth century several kings were crowned as minors since only the coronation secured their accession in a time of unsettled inheritance patterns.[58] We may assume that the spouses of the kings were crowned with their husbands, even though explicit reference is made only to the coronations of Queen Mechtild, the wife of Abel in 1250; Margarethe Sambiria the wife of Christopher I in 1252; and Christina, the wife of Hans in 1481.[59] Just as for Norway, we may assume that Danish kings already had some royal insignia, probably a golden helmet, before the coronation of 1170.[60]

No medieval coronation ordo is known from Denmark. The earliest references to details can be found in a festive song (Carmen )[61] and a notarial instrument[62] on the coronation of King Christopher III on New Year's Day 1443 in the cathedral church of Ripen. In contrast to his predecessor and uncle on the mother's side (Eric of Pomerania), he was inaugurated by secular acts and ecclesiastically consecrated in every one of his three kingdoms even though he was styled archirex by Archbishop Hans Laxman at his Danish one.[63] The two surviving sources on the events of 1443 record a fair number of details of a late medieval Danish coronation.

The complete order for the first Protestant coronation, that of Christian III and his wife Dorothea on 12 August 1537 in St. Mary's in Copenhagen, is so detailed that it can be used to reconstruct medieval ceremonies for which the records are lost.[64] In this ordo new and old ideas and rituals are fused. Large parts of the text, written by the reformer Bugenhagen, reflect the new Lutheran spirit. They include appropriate sermons and prayers and reflect clearly the intended transformation of the mass. On the other hand, the anointing, crowning, and the presentation of the regalia seem to follow longstanding traditions. These two coronation reports, complementing each other, offer sufficient basis for the reconstruction of a late medieval Danish coronation.

In the procession and during the ceremonies the insignia were carried by high dignitaries and displayed for the public. In 1443 these offices were performed by Duke Adolf VIII of Schleswig and three visiting German princes, Dukes William of Brunswick, Waltmar of Silesia, and Frederick of Bavaria.[65] The rule, however, was, as reflected in the reports of 1537 and later, that the


main officers of the royal council, the chamberlain, marshall, and chancellor, carried the regalia.[66] In both cases crown, scepter, orb, and sword are listed.[67] In 1537 the queen was invested only with crown and scepter.[68] These, too, were carried by members of the council. In 1443 King Christopher was still unmarried; he did not wear a royal mantle for the oath but only dalmatic and pluvial. In 1537 the king and queen entered St. Mary's Church in Copenhagen not in royal, but in "princely" or "knightly" attire and were received by Bugenhagen who wore alba and pallium . The royal couple was followed by the councillors who deposited the insignia on the altar. The ordo prescribed the sequence that followed as sermon, prayer, epistle, and the Lord's Prayer. The theological contents of these liturgical elements were purely Lutheran, hence they are of no interest for the reconstruction of the pre-Reformation ordo.

After the Pater noster the councillors[69] led the king to a chair in front of the altar, while Veni sancte spiritus was sung. The councillors, as "representatives of the realm"—a position they had claimed after the death of Waldemar IV in 1375 and solidified after the fall of Eric of Pomerania in 1438—asked the ordinator Bugenhagen to consecrate Christian III. The pastor appealed to the king to lead a good government and to care for peace and prosperity, to protect the church and the new Lutheran faith, to support schools, and to aid the poor. The king swore an oath to perform these duties. Parts of this oath, the protection of church and the poor and the promise to preserve the rights of his fideles , that is, the nobility, are reminiscent of medieval formulations. The oath was taken on the New Testament, as could be expected in a Lutheran ceremony. The place of the oath in the ordo, before anointing and coronation, was apparently an innovation. In 1443 Christopher III swore the oath, as was usual at medieval coronations, after the consecration and the reception of the insignia.[70] This change in the sequence can be easily explained. In the German ordo of 1273,[71] even in the older Mainz ordo of 961,[72] this spot was occupied by the scrutinium , questions addressed to the king about his intentions to reign justly, protect churches, widows, and orphans, and so on, to which the king replied repeatedly: volo . The second explicit and more significant oath, the professio, was introduced in the German ordo of 1273 at the end of all the festive acts, after coronation and anointing. According to the notarial record of 1443,[73] this was also the practice at medieval Danish coronations. In 1537, however, the two sets of promises, scrutinium and professio, were united[74] and placed at the head of the ceremonies, where in the Middle Ages the questions and answers of the scrutinium had been.[75]

The king's oath was followed by that of the queen after the councillors had asked the ordinator to crown and anoint her. This step may have also been inherited from the medieval order. In contrast to the German ordo of 1273, in 1537 only an additional collect and the litany were included at this point. The two prostrations of the king before the altar and the appropriate benedictio


were left out of the Lutheran ceremony. The anointing,[76] naturally before the coronation, was done with the thumb of the right hand on the lower right arm and between the shoulders of the kneeling king. He was not anointed on the head, no more than was the queen of Christian II in 1515—before the Reformation! Since kings and queens were usually anointed in the same fashion, we may assume that this manner of anointing was the practice in medieval Denmark. Thus the anointing differed from that of the German kings, but resembled that of the emperor in Rome, in which the papacy was anxious to differentiate between clerical unction and imperial anointing.[77] If this feature was borrowed in Denmark from the imperial ordo and the Pontificale Romanum , it is likely that medieval kings were also anointed with the oil of catechumenes and not with chrism, just as in Rome. The queen was anointed in 1537 in the same way as her husband, just as in 1515.

After the sacring, king and queen retired to a tent prepared for this purpose where they were dressed in royal attire. The mantle was, therefore, not used in the ceremony of investment with the insignia. Returning to the church, the royal couple listened to the first of the main sermons. The ordinator donned the chasuble before the mass, and Kyrie and Gloria were sung. After another collect and the reading of the Epistle the investiture with regalia began.

The king, kneeling before the altar, received the naked sword from the ordinator into his right hand, with words that resemble the appropriate prayer in the German ordo. He then handed the weapon to the marshal, who sheathed it and returned it to the ordinator. Thereupon he girded the king with the sword. This ritual was different from the German one in which the king girded himself. Now the king drew the sword from its sheath and swung it in the four cardinal directions. The coronation followed, in 1537 apparently of a still kneeling king. The royal councillors helped to place the crown on the king's head, as had been usual at least since the coronation of King Hans in 1483.[78] It was also recorded for 1514,[79] 1537,[80] and several subsequent early modern coronations.[81] The magnates either actually touched the crown while it was being placed on the king's head or at least symbolically extended their hands towards it. The reception of this practice from late medieval England and France suggests the rising constitutional importance of the royal council, which thus demonstrated a status similar to that of the peers of the realm. Since 1376 the council had claimed the right to elect the king, and at least since the fall of Eric of Pomerania this right was taken for granted.

Still kneeling, the king now received the scepter and the orb, which he passed on to the councillors in charge of each of them. This was the place for the royal oath in the medieval German[82] and most likely also in the Danish ceremony. The notary of 1443 records the oath at this point, stating that the archbishop handed the crowned king the text of an oath which he then repeated word for word and swore on, while placing his hand on "a book," a


Bible or a Gospel-book, held by the archbishop. King Christopher's oath follows verbatim the professio contained in late medieval German ordines.[83] According to Eichmann and Schramm, this mid-twelfth century text goes back to late Carolingian models and became part of the ordo of 961 under Lothair III or Conrad III.[84] It is most likely that this oath was part of the Danish ordo from 1170 because it had long before been incorporated into its German model. If this was not so (and we have no proof for either assumption), it may have found its way into the Danish coronation during the decline of the kingship under Eric Glipping (1259–1286) or during the minority of his son Erik Menved (1286–1319), or even as late as the invitation of Christopher III to the throne of Denmark.[85]

After the king's coronation the queen was anointed, crowned, and handed a scepter which she too passed on to the councillor in charge of it, just as in 1515. After the choir's singing of Exaudiat te and Et exaudi Deus deprecationem , the ordinator preached the second main sermon about the meaning of the coronation, and the ceremonies ended with Te Deum and the reading of the Gospel.[86]

The king's participation in the Gospel-reading is noted already in the Carmen for 1443, but there it is placed before his coronation and this must have had a reason.[87] On the other hand, all early modern coronation ordines place the reading at the very end.[88] Even though the notarial record does not mention this episode for 1443, we may trust the Carmen since all the coronations that followed 1537 include this act. Nevertheless, I assume that it was not part of the medieval coronation, but was introduced at the 1443 coronation by Christopher III. References to the king's reading of the Gospel are relatively late in the German Empire as well.[89] We have evidence for Charles IV and his son, Sigismund, having done so, while holding swords in their right hands. This "royal Christmas service" is recorded for several matutina of Christmas Day, when the Gospel is Luke 2:1, the passage about the Edict of the Emperor Augustus. The Luxemburg kings-emperors may have been concerned with documenting their Augustus-like imperial position by performing this particular service. It may have reached Denmark through her prelates who attended the Councils of Constance and Basle, especially through Archbishop Hans Laxman, the coronator of 1443, who was present at the latter.[90] Another explanation for this rare innovation, which has its only parallel in Sweden would be to credit it to King Christopher III, a ruler whose political abilities are now recognized, in contrast to earlier negative judgments,[91] and who may very well have ordered the inclusion of the royal Gospel-reading in the ordo.[92] There is good evidence that Rupert of the Palatinate and Sigismund of Luxemburg, kings of the Romans,[93] read the Gospel at their coronations in 1407 and 1414 respectively, "during the Coronation Mass of which the coronation was a part," and not just—as was by then normal—at the Christmas service. Rupert was Christopher III's grandfather


through his son John, Palatine of the Oberpfalz, who was married to Katherina, the sister of King Eric of Pomerania. Christopher III could very well have insisted that this act, introduced into the coronation of the king of the Romans by his grandfather should also be included in the Danish and, as we shall see, in the Swedish consecration of the archirex of the north. Christopher's intention may have been to demonstrate that the king of the Nordic Union was by no means of lesser estate than the king of the Romans, the future emperor. The dates of the coronations of Rupert (at Epiphany) and Christopher (on New Year's Day) permitted the easy transfer of the Christmas practice into the coronation ordo. To my mind, this was the way in which the Gospel reading was added to the medieval ordo as late as 1443. The concluding liturgy of the Lutheran ordo of 1537 reflects the closing acts of the medieval royal mass: Creed, Praefatio of the Trinity, Sanctus , another collect, blessing, communion, Agnus Dei , another prayer, and the closing blessing.[94]

In summary, then, based on the records of 1443 and 1537, and the considerations presented here, the medieval Danish ordo may be reconstructed as follows:

1. Placing the insignia on the altar.
2. Scrutinium.
3. Anointing the king (kneeling) on the right arm and shoulders.
4. Anointing the queen in the same manner.
5. Handing over the sword.
6. Coronation of the kneeling king.
7. Investiture with scepter.
8. Investiture with orb.
9. Professio of the king.
10. Coronation of the kneeling queen.
11. Handing over the scepter to the queen.
12. The king's reading the Gospel (at least in the late Middle Ages).

We do not know for certain whether there was a regular "enthronement." The 1443 notarial record hints at one, while in 1537 the king merely resumed his seat after the coronation.

The office of the coronator was unchallenged from the first coronation in 1170. It belonged to the archbishop of Lund who was replaced only in extraordinary circumstances. As we have seen, there was no "correct" site for medieval Danish coronations even though the archseat of Lund and later, until 1648, the royal residence in Copenhagen were preferred. If the king was married at his coronation, his queen was crowned with him. The insignia were limited in number—crown, sword, scepter, and orb—resembling more the German and English practice than the French, which did not contain an


orb.[95] "Correct" insignia that would have been passed down from ruler to ruler do not seem to have existed in Denmark.[96]

The sequence of acts (unctio, gladius, coronatio, sceptrum, pomum) displays similarities to coronations in England and France.[97] It was the practice there to place the crown on the king's head after the investiture with ring and sword, while scepter and orb followed the crown. Even when some changes were made in England around 1100, the coronation remained in the middle of the ceremony. In contrast, German usage placed the coronation at the climax of the ceremony, the very end. The assistance of royal councillors at the coronation points to Western European models.[98] It is, however, unclear whether this "constitutional" practice originated earlier than the end of the Waldemarian age, during the rise of the parlamentum (Danehof), or even as late as 1443, if not 1448, the ascension of the Oldenburg dynasty, the age when the royal council acquired a strong position in the affairs of the realm.

Although a Western European influence can be detected in the sequence of the insignia, the order of the coronation mass seems to have been closer to German practice. Particularly important are the borrowing of scrutinium and professio and their place in the ordo. The adoption of royal Gospelreading which occasionally appeared in German coronations is an interesting episode; it remained in use from 1443 to 1648, but in the later sixteenth century the chancellor did the reading, while the king stood by with the sword of the realm. The medieval Danish ordo seems, therefore, to have profited from both English and French models on the one hand and the practice of the German Empire on the other.


Christianity arrived in Sweden[99] later than in the other Scandinavian realms. Succession struggles characterized here, too, the century between 1150 and 1250, fought out mainly among the families of the Sverker and the Erik-clan. Similar to Jarl Erling in Norway, Birger Jarl succeeded in placing his son Waldemar on the throne as an heir, albeit on his mother's side, of the Erik-line and thereby founded the (erroneously) so-called Folkunger dynasty. Just as for the Erik-dynasty before them, the establishment of a cult for the ancestor of the family, St. Erik.[100] was of paramount importance in this process. St. Erik's grandson, Erik Knutsson (1208–1216) was the first King of Sweden to be crowned by the archbishop of Uppsala.[101] The existence of royal insignia, above all, crowns, before the first Christian coronation can be assumed for Sweden as well.[102]

It is most likely that the pre-Christian acts of royal acclamation on the Mora-field near Old Uppsala included some kind of investiture with insignia and, from the twelfth century onwards, probably with a crown. However,


Olivecrona and Thordeman may go too far when they try to deduce a formal Germanic "coronation ceremony" from the Uppland Law of the thirteenth century, which contains a description of the old secular acts of royal inauguration.[103] The crown mentioned here is surely a later interpolation, as Hans Kuhn suggested. The division between secular inauguration on the Mora-field, the subsequent Eriksgata , comparable to the German Königsumritt[ 104] as acknowledgment of the new king by the tribes and the final ecclesiastical coronation, is not particularly Swedish, as Thordemann wants to claim. There was a royal circuit to the landsthinger also in Denmark, and German kings were often elected in one place and crowned in another, but these are not sufficient grounds to assume a specific secular act of coronation in connection with the nonecclesiastical inauguration.

After 1210 all Swedish kings were crowned. Only for the two sons and coregents of Magnus Eriksson, Erik and Haakon VI (of Norway), do we lack explicit records of their coronation.[105] Apparently the coronator was usually the archbishop of Uppsala[106] even though we have no specific evidence for this between 1210[107] and the coronations of the Union kings Christopher III (1441)[108] and Christian II (1520).[109] However, considering the general dearth of reliable sources for high medieval Sweden, this is by no means a particularly poor record. The assumed prerogative of the see of Uppsala was occasionally overridden, and we have sources for the exceptional cases. As already mentioned, one source credits the bishop of Dorpat wit the role of coronator in 1336 at the crowning of Magnus Eriksson.[110] Since this act was meant to be for both Sweden and Norway, the choice of a prelate outside either realm may have been motivated by an attempt to avoid any conflict between Uppsala and Trondheim. In 1448 Karl Knutsson was crowned by the bishop of Linköping,[111] merely an emergency solution, for the archbishop-elect was not yet consecrated. Karl's opponent, Christian I, was crowned by the bishop of Strengnäs in 1457, even though the archbishop was his ally.[112]

Although, like the two other Scandinavian countries, Sweden did not have a definite site for coronation, Uppsala enjoyed a certain preeminence, comparable to Lund in Denmark. Uppsala's position was logical for the early coronations since it counted as the sacral and political centre in pre-Christian Sweden. It was also "practical" since the secular ascension on the Mora-field at the Mora stone (super lapidem) was quite close to Old Uppsala where the Christian consecration could take place.[113] After the coronation of Magnus Eriksson in Stockholm (1336)[114] the royal residence frequently also came to be the place for coronations; the Union kings Hans in 1497[115] and Christian II in 1520[116] were crowned there. For the sake of completeness the coronation of the king of the Union in Kalmar (1397)[117] should also be mentioned. As in the rest of Scandinavia, the crowning of the queen seems to have been typical in Sweden as well.[118]


While no medieval coronation ordines survive from Sweden, we have good evidence about the insignia from a charter of King Birger from 1311.[119] The king entrusted a number of signs of rulership and relics to the cathedral chapter of Uppsala and listed the insignia as well the other ornamenta regalia : crown, scepter, dalmatica, mantle, tunic, linen garments, sandals, a golden eagle, a silver garter (for the sword), and a liber de coronacione regis . Thus we have the "official" list of royal insignia for early fourteenth-century Sweden. It contains, besides the well-known major insignia and the coronation dress, an imperial symbol, the eagle, but lacks the otherwise ever-present royal sword. Most important, the treasure includes a book on the king's coronation which must have contained the coronation ordo, as was usual for other kingdoms in Europe.[120]

Unfortunately no other written source exists about medieval Swedish coronations. The oldest report containing some details concerns the coronation of Christian II in 1520, in the City Church of Stockholm.[121] It informs us that in the course of the consecration the king swore an oath and after the coronation mass partook of the sacrament. The coronation of Gustavus Wasa on 1 December 1528 in the Cathedral of Uppsala should, to my mind, still be seen as a medieval one, and not as the first Protestant ordination. That distinction belongs to the coronation of Christian III in 1537 in Copenhagen, as discussed above. Wasa never unequivocally embraced Lutheranism and only used the religious conflict to reduce the power of bishops and churchmen in Swedish political life. This attitude explains the mixed character of his coronation.[122] Gustavus had the Swedish protagonist of the reformation, Olaus Petri, preach the sermon, but the coronation was entrusted to the senior bishop, Magnus of Skara, since the archbishop, Gustav Trulle, had left the country as a political enemy of the king. Thus the coronation must have followed the traditional, Catholic, and medieval ordo, which we, alas, do not know. We know only that six bishops assisted the coronator and that the insignia were carried by the leading men of the realm: the orb by the imperial master of the court, the sword by the marshal, and the scepter by another member of the royal council.

The Swedish coronation oath, recorded for the first time at this occasion,[123] consists of the first part of the professio known from the German ordo. One may assume that the medieval Swedish ordo contained the entire text and was, therefore, identical with the medieval Danish one. Gustavus Wasa quite consciously halved the text. In this way he retained only a general promise of lex, iustitia , and pax to the church and his people. The latter half would have bound him specifically to observe the honor, rights, and privileges of clergy and church, of abbots and of counts as vassals, whose counsel he would also have promised to follow. Leaving these out the king avoided swearing on any truly constitutional point which would have limited his attempts to strengthen royal prerogative.


For the first genuine Protestant coronation in Sweden, that of Erik XIV on 19 June 1561, several handwritten and printed sources have come down to us. These permitted Per Janzon[124] to establish, by careful sifting and comparison, two versions of the ordo that were prepared before the coronation. Janzon concluded, just as we did for the first Danish Protestant coronation, that the ordo went back to medieval ordines but was fused with Lutheran ideas, especially in the sermons and the liturgy. The ordo of 1561 existed in two versions before the coronation, represented in a number of variants. Version A appears to have been a draft, and hence closer to medieval models, while version B displays a stronger influence of Lutheran thought. While B represents in all likelihood the ordo that was used in 1561, version A is, of course, more important for our enterprise of reconstruction,[125] and we shall follow it in detail.

The king, at this time still unmarried, was received at the church door by the bishops, wearing their pallia . After greeting and prayers he was led to the altar while a reponsorium is sung. The ordinator —in 1561, the Lutheran archbishop of Uppsala—preached a sermon. Following that, the king, now dressed for anointing, knelt on a prayer bench. Then followed the collect, spoken by the archbishop; Epistle, read by one of the leading pastors; and, with the Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria omitted, the scrutiny. Consisting of three main questions by the archbishop, it is clearly discernible, in contrast to the Danish precedent. The king promised to obey God, to hold the right faith, which in Lutheran formulation was called "the pure word of God," to abolish all false teaching and heresy, to protect the church and her servants and the subjects of his realm, and to observe the law of the land and resist injustice. The king replied with "Yes" to all the questions and finally swore a coronation oath that summarized all the preceding points. The oath was similar to the Danish one in the ordo of 1537, but different both from the old professio and the Gustavus Wasa version of it.

The king was then anointed on the forehead, the chest, between the shoulders, on both shoulders, elbows, and wrists. After another prayer, he was given the gloves, the ring, a small sword (girded to his waist), and the mantle. Together with the other bishops, the ordinator -archbishop placed the crown on the head of the kneeling king, who was then led to the throne. Seated there, he was given scepter, sword, and orb, and acclaimed as king of Sweden. Subsequently the Swedish king too read the Gospel of the week, holding up the naked sword, while two clerics held the Gospel-book in front of him. The ceremonies ended with the Creed, the king's offertorium, and his partaking of the Lord's Supper for the first time as king. A blessing is the last act noted. The sources do not contain any details about the investiture with the insignia; nothing is said of the swinging of the sword or of secular participation in the placing of the crown, as in Denmark.

The ordo of 1561 shows both parallels with and differences from the 1537


Copenhagen coronation. The combination of scrutinium and professio is the same in both. But the anointing in Sweden is much more elaborate than the Danish and resembles rather the high medieval practice in Germany and Western Europe.[126] Only the anointing of the hands is missing, but this was omitted for a while in thirteenth-century France.[127] The number of the insignia parallels that of the English and German regalia. The duplication of the sword is noteworthy. The place of the coronation in the middle of the ceremony points to Western European models. While an enthronement was only hinted at in Christopher III's coronation in 1443, it is here explictly included. The acclamation of the king in the 1561 ordo (version B ) refers quite clearly to the medieval practice of the assent of "the people."[128] Here it is noted that after the king has been announced as ruler by a herald, the usual acclamation is given: "God give our king luck and health," or "May he enjoy good luck and a long reign." It is most noteworthy that the king's reading of the Gospel features in the Swedish ordo in the same way as it did in the 1443 coronation in Denmark. I regard this as an additional proof for my hypothesis about Christopher III's introduction of this act to Scandinavian coronation rituals.[129] It is most likely that he proposed it not only for Denmark but also at the coronations for his two other realms, including that in 1441 for Sweden.[130] Thus it is most likely that this German practice did indeed find its way into Scandinavia during the reign of Christopher III.

In summary, coronation and anointing were also introduced to Sweden from the older Christian kingdoms to enhance royal prerogative and state power as well as to secure succession by primogeniture, just as in Norway and Denmark. Here, too, the first coronation was held for a king who claimed the throne as a descendant of a holy king, St. Erik. The office of coronator was from 1210 throughout the Middle Ages with very few exceptions the privilege of the metropolitan of Sweden, the archbishop of Uppsala. Even though a fixed coronation place was not established, the prevalence of Uppsala as archsee and as the church closest to the traditional secular center of ascension, the Mora-field, is obvious. Uppsala's position was unchanged until around 1336 when the principal residence of the kings, Stockholm, moved into first place. The kind and number of the insignia parallel those in Germany and England but lack baculus and armillae and so surpass the Danish ones. The inclusion of a professio, the insignia, and the form of unction point to German ordines while the sequence of the investiture points rather to English examples. In the light of the above, the medieval Swedish ordo may have had the following structure:

1. Entry of the king.
2. Sermon, prayer for the ruler, collect, Epistle.
3. Scrutinium.
4. Unction (forehead, chest, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists); prayer.


5. Gloves and ring.
6. Small sword.
7. Mantle.
8. Coronation of kneeling king.
9. Enthronement; scepter, orb, large sword.
10. (Since 1441?) Reading of the Gospel with upheld sword by the king.
11. Creed, offertorium, communion.


The introduction of coronation and anointing was motivated in all three Nordic kingdoms by the same concerns: to narrow the claim to the throne from the entire stirps regia to a particular dynasty and even further, to secure the succession right of the oldest legitimate son of the ruler and so secure the stability of the kingship. The relationship of the royal family to a dynastic saint was adduced to give greater weight to these moves.

The position of the coronator was essentially unchallenged in all three realms. Since each consisted of one archdiocese, the metropolitan was unquestionably the prelate who held this right. In contrast to Germany, France, and England, the Scandinavian countries established no fixed rightful place for the coronation, even though Uppsala in Sweden came close to such a position. In Denmark neither the metropolitan's see in Lund nor the burial church of Ringsted managed to acquire such a position. In Norway the centers of royal power and the main residence, locations defined by practical rather than spiritual aspects, came to be the sites for coronation. As the Middle Ages progressed, both Denmark and Sweden moved closer to the older Norwegian model by holding the coronation at the developing royal capitals: Copenhagen and Stockholm.

The most conspicuous difference among the Scandinavian kingdoms is the form of the unction. While the Swedish practice resembled Western and Central European practice, the Danish usage—only arm and back—is closest to the prescriptions of a decretale of Innocent III of 1204 which, following the imperial ordo, named these two parts of a king's body as proper places for unction, thus separating the ruler's unction from clerical-episcopal annointing.[131] However, no German or West European king observed these restrictions contained also in the Pontificale Romanum . It is equally unlikely that Danish kings would have done so. Danish kingship in 1170 was certainly strong enough to forego any such gesture of humility and even more so the "imperial" kingship of Waldemar II "the Victorious," contemporary of the decretale . It is much more likely that the change was introduced as late as 1443 by Christopher III, whose coronation was separated by a hiatus of almost 120 years from the preceeding one. But the exact motive of the king or the archbishop Hans Laxmann of Lund for introducing this change many centuries after the issue of the papal ruling remains a puzzle. A similar develop-


ment may also be assumed for the difference in regalia between Denmark and Sweden. While in 1537 Christian III definitely wore a royal mantle, gloves, and ring, he was not formally invested with these. In contrast, at the coronation of 1561 all these and other insignia typical of any medieval German or English coronation are listed. Maybe in this respect, too, a simplification was introduced under Christian III for reasons that are not yet known to us.

Norway displays some other peculiarities. There was no orb, as in France, but there was a second staff, the baculus , as in both France and England. Western European influence can be assumed for the sequence of the ceremonies in which the placing of the crown was always in the middle of the ceremony, not at the end as in Germany. However, the liturgy, the place, and content of the scrutinium and professio and, as we saw, the unction, point to the German ordines. It was also from German practice, in this case late medieval, that the king's reading of the Gospel with sword upheld found its way into Scandinavia. In all likelihood Christopher III brought it to Denmark and Sweden in 1441 and 1443, respectively, and perhaps also to Norway. Finally, the king's attire, as recorded in the charter of King Birger and the late medieval and early modern records, parallels fully that of Western and Central European rulers.

Thus our inquiry into the coronation practices of the three Nordic realms reveals that the development of these ceremonies reflect neatly the two main cultural and religious influences from abroad, one from Germany, the other from England and France, which affected in many aspects of Scandinavian culture ever since the Christian missions of the tenth and eleventh centuries.

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Eight Coronation and Coronation Ordines in Medieval Scandinavia
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