Heraldry in Sweden Part 4

Swedish National Flag
The last person to receive a charter of nobility was the explorer Sven Hedin who received his in 1902, more than a hundred years ago. And this will most likely be the last Swede ever. In 1974 the new constitution proclaimed that no person can be granted nobility nor receive the orders of the state. The house of nobility lost their last privileges and political influences in 2003 and is today considered an exclusive society for nobles. As was stated in the previous post the first known heraldic achievements in Sweden is dated 1219 and depicts the arms of the two brothers Sigtrygg and Lars Bengtsson of the Boberg family. The seal shows two identical arms and the Latin text in the document reefers to them as “Dominus” and although they are not related to the royal family they definitely belong to the aristocracy. Some thirty years after these arms appears, there are a dozen other that are known to us today. They belong to one king, a couple of chief judges, one Jarl (from where the English title Earl originates) and one constable. The main part of the aristocracy during this period came from the southwestern parts of Sweden, close to Denmark and Norway. They were probably the main source of influence as well as other ideas of the Middle Ages during this period.

King Magnus Ladulas coat of armsWith the decree known as the “Alsnö stadga” king Magnus Ladulås (1275-1290), coat of arms left, gave tax-exemptions to anyone who were in lieu of knight service. This is the first step towards nobility in Sweden. Any commoner who showed up at the annual visitation with sword and shield on a charger were freed from taxes. At this time the first document with the title knight emerges. Less than some 500 knights are known from 1278 to 1521. From the 13th century there are only arms of the high nobility that are known to us and in the early 14th century the lower nobles starts using heraldic achievements. Worth pointing out is the fact that this is during the same period that burghers and priests begin using arms. Although there is very poor knowledge of tournaments in Sweden, we do know that they took place from the mid 13th century, less which took part and there are no recollection of any heralds at all. Minstrels are frequently mentioned in 14th century chronicles and they might have had the same duties as the English 13th century heralds. There is only one herald known to us and his name was Simon and was probably introduced between 1416 and 1418. Before this period charters of nobility never included coats of arms as they always did after this period and onwards if the nobleman were given hereditary tax-exempt.

As the higher nobility adopted their own coats of arms there are only the members of the lower noble class that were granted charters including arms. The first known charter depicting a coat of arms are dated 1420. We also know that several of the older low nobilities changed their arms during the 15th century. Civic arms are known since 1247 for the city arms of Kalmar. Soon after we can find arms for the cities of Stockholm, Skara and Örebro in numerous documents

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