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Eight Coronation and Coronation Ordines in Medieval Scandinavia
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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.

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