Servants of Fortune. The Swedish court between 1598 and 1721

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

Abstract

In what has been seen as an age of increasing bureaucratisation, did it matter who was close to the monarch? Since the monarch embodied supreme wordly power, the way in which daily life at court was organised was of great importance. One function of the early modern court was, in the words of Geoffrey Elton, to act as a point of contact between monarch and élite. I have chosen to test this hypothesis with a prosopographical analysis of more than 1,900 noblemen and noblewomen known to have served at the Swedish court between 1598 and 1721. The opportunities that the court provided are shown to have had far-reaching consequences, and it was also possible for women and men of low birth to wield informal political influence. Although few had really spectacular careers, if times were good the salaries and a plethora of perks were attractive.

Royal personality put its stamp on the court. The distant kingship exercised by Caroline rulers meant that they used their courts in a different way than the more outgoing Vasas. Court organisation, however, went mostly unaltered, and shared many common characteristics with other, especially German, courts. During the seventeenth century, the Swedish court was militarised in the sense that individual military and court careers often overlapped, and indeed could run simultaneously, while the court as a whole could still be expected to accompany the king into battle. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the nobility of the Baltic provinces of Estonia and Livonia were well represented at court. However, in the second half of the seventeenth century the court was gradually Swedified and demilitarised, and as the court became increasingly inbred, court offices were transformed from springboards for aristocratic youths to life-time jobs. There are obvious similarities between the Swedish court and other contemporary European courts, the foremost being that the Swedish court took its structure from neighbouring German courts. Sweden also shared the important shift from a peripatetic court to a sedentary one. A difference, however, was the more militaristic nature of the Swedish court, which to an extent was shared by the Prussian and Danish courts. After the mid-seventeenth century these three countries developed smallish, top-light courts that were, generally speaking, cheap and heavily militarised. I have characterised them as the martial courts of the Baltic.

Details

Authors
  • Fabian Persson
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History

Keywords

  • Modern history (up to circa 1800), aristocracy, informal power, patronage, prosopography, Court, royal household, Tidig modern historia (till ca. 1800)
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1999 Dec 13
Publisher
  • Department of History, Lund university
Print ISBNs91-628-3340-5
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1999-12-13 Time: 10:15 Place: Palaestra, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Rodriguez-Salgado, Mia Title: Prof. Affiliation: [unknown] ---