A few years ago a librarian at the National Library asked me if there were any books or articles dealing with the history of the Norwegian royal court. It turned out that no such book or article existed, but now I have done something about that and in the latest issue of Historie (no 4-2010), which is out today, one can read my article “Adel ved Bernadottenes norske hoff”, which deals with the Norwegian court during the union of crowns with Sweden and focuses in particular on the role played at the court by the nobility.
Five years ago, in December 2005, the current King and Queen hosted a gala dinner for their employees to celebrate “the Royal Court’s centenary”, but this is obviously wrong and must have been based on very bad research. In his contribution to the anthology on the establishment of the Bernadotte dynasty my fellow historian Per Sandin on the other hand landed on the date 1818 for the establishment of a separate Norwegian court, but in my article I argue that the available sources indicate that this actually happened in 1816 (although the short reign of King Christian Frederik also saw the appointment of a court on 22 May 1814).
The nobility was abolished by Parliament in 1821, which deprived King Carl Johan of what might have been a significant means to build a power-base in Norway. Instead it seems he chose to fill his Norwegian court with members of the former noble families, which made the court almost entirely dominated by aristocrats during his reign.
The first State Almanac published after his accession shows that 10 out of 14 courtiers were nobles in 1820, but the state almanacs show a clear decreasing tendency during his successors. Following his son Oscar I’s accession in 1844 the number is 13 out of 25 courtiers, in 1862 (the first almanac after Carl XV’s accession in 1859) 13 out of 30 courtiers belong to the former noble families, in 1875 (two years after Oscar II’s accession) the number is 12 out of 48 and in the last State Almanac published under the Bernadotte dynasty, that of 1905, only 7 out of 35 courtiers belong to the former noble families.
In the article I also look specifically on the two most senior positions at court, those of Lord Chamberlain and Mistress of the Robes. Three out of six Lord Chamberlains belonged to the former noble families, whereas four out of five Mistresses of the Robes did so.
Although we find courtiers from the families Anker, Clauson-Kaas, Kaltenborn, Mansbach, Rosenkrantz, Wedel-Jarlsberg, Haffner, Haxthausen, Løvenskiold, de Besche, Falsen, von Munthe af Morgenstierne, Trampe, Treschow and Knagenhjelm, three families stand out as particularly strongly represented at court.
Sixteen Wedel-Jarlsbergs, eleven Løvenskiolds and eleven Ankers held positions at the royal court between 1816 and 1905 and the article explores these families’ links to the court through offering details of what positions were held by which members of these families. It is quite interesting to note how service at the court was almost the norm in these most notable of the former noble families. For further details about the noble families and their links with the royal court I refer you to the article.
The photo above shows the arms of the Wedel-Jarlsberg family (the only titled noble family in Norway) as it appears above the entrance to the family crypt beneath Sem Church on the outskirts of Tønsberg. It might be added that the choice of illustrations made by the editors for the article is a bit peculiar, as none of the persons portrayed were in fact courtiers.
It might by the way seem that I write more articles than I am aware of myself. At least I was quite surprised when I recently received a letter with an enquiry to my article about Oscarshall in the latest issue of Langt Vest i Aker. I had never heard of this periodical, but it turns out that it is published by Ullern historielag, a local history club, and that they have quite simply stolen the article I wrote on Oscarshall as a royal residence in the reign of Oscar I from Byminner this summer. This is obviously a blatant violation of Norwegian law, which accords me the copyright to my article for my entire life and seventy years from my death. It turns out that a fellow historian has had one of her articles reprinted without permission in the previous issue of the same periodical, so obviously this publication is based on systematic piracy.