How to legitimize a king

This update was first intended to be an analysis similarities and differences between Lussinight and Ragnarok, but then I remembered that I already wrote about this in a blog post in 2011. And then I was going to write-up the interview I did with one of the academics in the history department at the University of Winchester, but then my laptop failed, and then I had no time to send the transcript over to the academic for proofreading. Well I guess that means I have to come up with something else, I’m going to look at something that could have changed the balance in the Norwegian civil war. Britain and France has its hundred year war, but Norway had a 100(and more) year’s long civil war between fractions of the (supposed) same family.

Some historical narratives suggest that the male line of Harald Fairhair ruled Norway until 1319, although the lineage of king Sverri is very debated, is it evident that Magnus vii Ericsson who succeeded to the Norwegian crown in 1319, was not the first man how claimed the Norwegian crown through his mother’s lineage. Magnus vii succeeded his maternal grandfather as king of Norway, and later his parental uncle King Birger Magnusson as king of Sweden. But Magnus vii’s link to Harald I of Norway is doubtful, for questions can be raised about the true origin of king Sverri. Yet that is not the matter of this update. Like Magnus Vii did Magnus V Erlingson inherit the crown through his mother, something which both according to the Norwegian laws and saga tradition is no legally possible. Harald Fairhair established the hereditary kingdom of Norway, which should be counted from him, and his sons, and only his male line could claim the title king in Norway. But something had happened by the 12th century: the Norwegian royal family was split into fractions, and different parts of it were fighting for the control of all Norway. Some pretenders had more, others less claim to the crown. But what was unquestionable was that one of the last true kings: Sigurd I Jorsalfar, had a living daughter who had by 1156 produced a child; a son. Kristin Sigurdsdaughter gave in c. 1156 birth to Magnus Erlingson, the boy who would change Norwegian history completely because of the wording of his coronation oath. At the age of 5 was Magnus taken as king among one of the fighting fractions in the civil war, but as Magnus claimed the crown through his mother, he needed something more to support him than just the royal blood of his mother. Magnus’ father Erling Skakke, made a deal with the church, and in 1163 were Magnus anointed and crowned king of Norway by the archbishop of Nidaros at the time. Magnus thus became God’s anointed king of Norway, something his opponents hardly could beat easily. He also gave his kingdom to God and St Olaf, and through him received the kingdom as a fief from the saint, who thus was transformed into the eternal king of Norway.

At the age of 7, were Magnus anointed king of Norway, and he had acknowledged that his legitimacy to the crown was through God and St Olaf. This changed coronation changed not only Magnus’s destiny, but also the history of Norway and Scandinavia. Magnus’s coronation was the first coronation to take place in Scandinavia. Through this coronation, did Magnus and his allies not only accept that the crown was given by the grace of God, but also that St Olaf became the eternal king of Norway.  This not only gave Magnus an alliance with the Church, but also gave rise to the lasting power of the Catholic Church in Norwegian politics in the middle ages. Furthermore although this coronation and alliance was supposed to secure the crown for Magnus, and create a lasting dynasty descedent from him, did it in the long run fail as the mastermind behind Magnus, his father Erling Skakke, fell in the battle of Kalvskinnet in Trondheim against Sverri in 1179. Magnus himself fell in 1184 in the battle of Fimreiet, where Sverri won and thus slowly secured the crown. Although Sverri defeated Magnus and his father, did the civil war continue another 50 or so years until Duke Skule was killed in 1240. The period after the civil war is often referred to as the Golden Age of Norway, something we will look at in a later update. Yet as we have seen, was the coronation of 1163 an important step to legitimise Magnus’s rule, and it also created a legitimacy for the following kings, as they could take the Crown as tenantas of Olaf, and through that being an annointed king of God, even if the king was only inheriting through his mother.

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