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Medieval History of Norway – Late Middle Ages

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Sverrir’s reign is a new era in the history of Norway; he delivered a decisive blow to both allies – the clergy and the aristocracy – and approved the democratic principles on which the Norwegian state rested. He destroyed the power of the nobility, appointing new people to rule the country, who depended solely on him; titles are preserved, but they now represent nothing more than an empty sound. He also eliminated the predominance of the clergy on the grounds that the king received his title from God and ruled over all his subjects. The clergy rebelled against him, Pope Innocent III excommunicated him, all the bishops left Norway, but Sverrir remained adamant. The struggle continued even after his death (1202), both under his son Hakon and during the interregnum period, when one king was appointed by the birkebeiner, and the spiritual party of the other, until Sverrir’s secondary grandson, Hakon, was recognized by the king of both by parties at a meeting in Bergen, attended by high clergy, Labas and peasants.

For Norway, a period of peaceful development had begun. Hakon did not agree to recognize the letters of the Golden Pen, but at the same time he acted as a mediator between the peasants and the clergy. In the case of jurisdiction, the clergy were granted complete independence from the civil court; it elected its dignitaries without the intervention of the king, and the church estates were declared free from military service. In gratitude, the clergy helped Hakon to conquer almost all of Iceland and Greenland. His son, Magnus VI, came to the throne ( 1263 ), not by choice of ting, but at the request of his father, who offered the people to swear allegiance to him before the proposed march to Denmark and promulgated the law of succession in 1257, which did not allow the bishops to influence the election of the king and preventing the fragmentation of the state into parts. Magnus maintained calm within the state and peace with neighbors and earned the name of the Improver of Laws ( Lagabøte ); he established a general law for the whole country, laying in its foundation the old legislation of the country, gulading, frostating, etc. The punishments were relaxed, more precise rules of succession were established, completely eliminating the king’s election. Significant changes made in the state system, was to increase the value of servicemen of the king and the rise of the power of the king.

Hereditary Kingdom of Norway

King Haakon V (1319) completely abolished the titles without encountering any resistance: the title holders ceased to be the leaders of the people, representing only large free landowners, and did not acquire such preeminent significance that would create from them a separate class, which ranks first among the kingdoms. In general, it was not possible to land the peasants and, having concentrated land ownership in their hands, to create a leading position in the state of the Norwegian aristocracy, as there was no intermediate landless, fully dependent on it class on which it could rely in its struggle with the King. Thus, Norway has remained the country of peasants – small landowners. Hakon died without male heirs, and, as the mother of the young Swedish king Magnus Eriksson who was the grandson of Hakon, the Norwegians elected him as their king: the throne of Norway passed into the Swedish line, and both countries retained their laws and their supreme councils. In Norway, there were 4 local councils ( Orething ) and one general council, which gathered mostly in Bergen. Larger cities had their own self-government.


Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary
Danielsen R., Durvik S., Grönli T., Helle K., Hovland E. History of Norway. From the Vikings to our days

History from the Vikings to Our Own Times
Khlevov A.A. The forerunners of the Vikings
Kuznetsov A.Ye. History of Norway
Keizer, Jacob Rudolph . Norges Historie

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