The Swedish Kings in Progress – and the Centre of Power
Scandia, Vol 70, Nr 2 (2004)
The medieval travelling kngdom
The present article is a study of what we can know about Swedish rulers’ choices of residences in the age of the travelling kingdom. ‘ This type of state – whose name is my own translation of Reisekiinigtum, a term used in German research – was characterized by the absence of a permanent seat of residence of the royal court and the central administration, who were constantly migrating from place to place. The travelling kingdom was a characteristic of medieval Western Europe, where it lingered on until the Renaissance. All West European courts lived under similar conditions. The royal suite was a collection of households the size ofwhich is difficult to estimate. According to one English assessment, no self-respecting lord or lady travelled with fewer than fifty persons, often 250 or so. Narrative sources give the impression that Swedish magnates travelled with a few dozen companions, while the kings may have been followed by a few hundred men.
Unfortunately there is no way to verify these Swedish figures by comparing them with royal account books; the fourteenth-century accounts kept by the magnate Raven van Barnekow give us a hint of the costs of feeding the royal suite and its horses, but they never explicitly mention its size. The travelling household was highly organized. The luxury of the court followed the magnates horn place to place. “Chambers” and “halls” were transported from one place to the next. Gentlemen sometimes had to apologize to unexpected visitors for the absence of essentials which had been sent on ahead for the next removal.The travelling suite had its own doctors.