"Bäste biskop!" : korrespondensen mellan drottning Victoria och biskop Gottfrid Billing 1900–1924

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This is a critical edition of the correspondence between Queen Victoria of Sweden (1862-1930) and the Bishop and High Preacher to the Court, Gottfrid Billing (1841-1925), together with a commentary situating this surprisingly straightforward correspondence in its political and theological context.
Since the queen lived both in the public and the private sphere, she had a ‘mixed’ relation to her spiritual advisor, who also was active both in the ecclesiastical and the political sphere. The letters between the Crown princess/Queen and the Bishop are very ‘mixed’ letters, with soulcare as only one part among others.
Connecting to Kristina Persson’s description of the functions of letters, especially the ritual function is observed: the letter as a ‘receipt’ on the life and health of the correspondent, and a wish for further contact. This function is most clear when someone from the court writes to thank Billing, often in short, and because of the bad health of the queen. When he is being thanked, often together with the expressed hope for a renewed contact, from another person, the ritual function is especially accentuated. Generally, this means that a correspondence cannot be understood without consideration to letters from surrounding persons, in this case from the court and family of the queen. Also the mediating of norms is interesting. This function may be described as a variant of the social or identity function, and in this latter version it has a self-evident position in both spiritual and political letters. Here it turns out to be especially complex, since we may speak about a religious and a political creation of norms, simultaneously.
The letters perforate the borders between the sharply contrasting constructions of male and female. Per definition letters open a sphere in between, a third, intermediary area between the two spheres of correspondents. A space is created where opposites move into each other, at least in the unphysical space of the correspondence. To Perssons’s different functions, we may add this perforating, gender exceeding function.
The spiritual relation between the crown princess/queen and the bishop is constructed as comfort and advices in upcoming situations, seldom as answers to specifically spiritual questions. During the 1920s, this spiritual relation was also reversed, so that the queen comforted and encouraged the old bishop. Both the prayers and the silent understanding remain without traces unreachable to the researcher, but hence their existence has to be observed much more. The intimacy in a spiritual relation, or in any other human relation, may not be measured in numbers of words, still less in what could be labeled verbal exhibitionism. The soul-care in the letters is being related to the publications of Billing, in a few cases answering the needs being expressed in the letters.
A great part of Billing’s letters are missing, but this gap may partly be filled out by the queens’ letters to him, by his letters to his wife, or by the courtiers’ letters to him.
The queens’ letters are distinguished for their very good treatment of the Swedish language, but still with a few, remaining germanisms. Sometimes she tries to make the Swedish language more consequent than it in fact is, in constructing new forms.
In the letters we might speak about a formal and a material level of intimacy. The same letter may contains expressions at several material levels, depending on its material. This correspondence has been compared to other ones, such as the queen’s correspondence with her relative, Cardinal Hohenlohe, with Archbishop Söderblom, the Duchess d’Otrante, and with Dr. Sven Hedin.
The queen’s strong commitment to service and preaching is being presented, especially how she in 1912 and the following years was strongly committed to the publication of a service ritual with short sermons for use on the ships of the Swedish navy, dedicated to the navy from Queen Victoria. Of its 31 sermons, Billing had written 16. An enlarged edition was published in 1917.
Special observance has been paid to the correspondents’ positions from the perspectives of gender and relations. This correspondence is of great interest from a politico-historical point of view, and also theologically. The theological interest is to be observed, partly in several separate matters, and partly in both correspondents’ motivations in terms of Lutheran vocational teaching, the latter of which can be seen as motivating even the independent political actions of the Queen. The letters also reveal a relation of pastoral care that, at the end of the old Bishop’s life, is reversed, with the Queen providing spiritual solace to the Bishop. The edition includes a broad introduction and page-by-page comments in foot-notes.
FörlagLunds universitets kyrkohistoriska arkiv
Antal sidor88
ISBN (tryckt)978-91-89515-17-8
StatusPublished - 2010


NamnMeddelanden från Lunds Universitets Kyrkohistoriska Arkiv. Ny Följd
ISSN (tryckt)0455-0196

Bibliografisk information

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Filosofi, etik och religion

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