Vox regis: Royal Communication in High Medieval Norway


In Vox regis: Royal Communication in High Medieval Norway, David Brégaint examines how the Norwegian monarchy gradually managed to infiltrate Norwegian society through the development of a communicative system during the High Middle Ages, from c. 1150 to c. 1300. Drawing on sagas, didactic literature, charters, and laws, the book demonstrates how the Norwegian kings increasingly played a key -role in the promotion of royal ideology in society through rituals and the written word. In particular, the book stresses the interaction between secular and clerical culture, the role of the Church and of the Norwegian aristocracy
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Biographical Note

David Brégaint. Ph.D. (2014), NTNU (Trondheim), is a post doctoral researcher for the Norwegian Research Council in the department for historical studies. He has published several articles on Norwegian medieval history and translations, including Le Discours contre les évêques. Politique et controverse en Norvège vers 1200 (Publications de la Sorbonne, 2013).

Table of contents

Contents Acknowledgements viii Abbreviations ix Introduction 1 1 Historiography: State-making, Communication and Consent 7 Manufacturing Consent: The Norwegian Historiographic Tradition 10 2 Perspectives on Communication and Power 14 Power, Communication and State Building 15 Communication, Propaganda and Communication System 18 3 Method and Sources 21 1 The Actors of Communication 22 2 The Vectors of Communication 24 1 A Genesis under Church Control 31 1 Introduction 31 2 Rituals of Succession 33 Tradition: Konungstekja 35 Innovation: The Crowning of Magnus Erlingsson 37 Redealing the Cards 41 Appropriating Public Acclamation 45 Jernbyrd: Trial by Ordeal 59 3 The Written Word and Royal Communication 69 Royal Charters and Chanceries 70 Royal Genealogies 74 ‘Crowned Ass’ and Learned Bishops 86 4 Nidaros: A Kings’ “Factory” 88 Promoting Nidaros a Center of Rituals of Royal Succession 91 …and it came to Nothing 99 5 Conclusion 100 2 King Sverre and the Making of Independent Royal Communication 103 1 Introduction 103 2 Tala Sverris konungſ: The King’s Speeches 105 Eloquence and Charisma: Portraits of Kings 106 Royal Speeches and War Propaganda 109 King Sverre, a Vulture Perched on High 115 Great Opportunities: King Sverre’s Own Death and Burial 118 Taking Matters in Hand: The Crowning of King Sverre 123 3 Grýla, Political Propaganda in Religious Clothing 130 The Use of History 132 Grýla 133 A Model Suited to Broad Reception…and Propaganda 146 Conclusion 147 4 Fighting Fire with Fire: Anticlerical Propaganda 148 A Campaign of Propaganda 149 A Speech against the Bishops 153 5 Evidence of a Royal Intellectual Milieu 167 6 Conclusion 171 3 Monarchic Communication 174 1 Introduction 174 2 Communication at Court: Royal Court and Courtly Culture 175 The Stakes 176 3 The Court 181 Sources and Terminology 183 The Court, a Royal Monopoly? 184 4 Monarchic Program and Aristocratic Demand 186 Courtliness, the Church and the Aristocracy 187 Royal Mediation and Connection to Foreign Courts 190 Cultural Monopoly and Economic Power 192 5 Domesticating the Body 194 Securing Presence at Court 195 Ritualizing Court Life 197 Dress Code 200 Table Code 202 Control over Oral Communication at Court 203 Courtiers as Means of Communication 206 6 Domesticating the Mind: Kings, Courtiers and Courtly Literature 213 Kings and Courtiers 214 The Structures of Production of Court Literature 231 Royal Ideology and Court Literature 241 Diffusion and Reception 254 7 The Axes of Political Rituality 262 Using Rituals: Ceremonial Politics 263 Controlling Rituals. Ceremonial Location 307 The Means of Ritual Control 334 8 The Chancery and Administrative Literacy 344 9 Conclusion 360 Conclusions 363 Bibliography 373 Index 401


The book is particularly relevant to anyone concerned with medieval communication and state-formation in medieval Scandinavia.