THE ROYAL CONFESSOR: PASTORAL CARE AND POLITICAL COUNSEL AT THE LATE MEDIEVAL SWEDISH COURT
Authors of medieval political thought were more concerned with the personal qualities of the prince than with political institutions. They wrote more about his virtues than about his role in parlia- ment. This article examines the sacrament of penance as one of the didactic means by which such norms were communicated to the prince. The royal confessor was the crucial link in this transfer, and this article traces his appearance at the late medieval Swedish court and also discusses the confessional manuals that were produced to help him interrogate his royal confessant. The Swedish court is relatively unexplored as a locus of devotion and little is known about its clerical personnel. This article presents the appearance of the papally-sanctioned royal confessor, in the reign of Magnus Eriksson in 1347, and offers a brief discussion of the careers of a number of later incumbents of this office, suggesting that the post of royal confessor was a likely path to a bishopric. The main part of the article is a scrutiny of manuals for confessors and penitents, which elucidates the political norms communicated through the pastoral care of the confessors. At the centre of this discussion is a Swedish instruction for royal devotion – Fjorton råd om et gudelikt leverne (c.1457), compiled by the Vadstena abbess, Ingeborg Gerhardsotter, for King Christian I – and a popular Latin manual for confessors that included a specific interrogatory for temporal lords, the Defecerunt of St Antoninus of Florence (print 1499). What, according to these texts, were the particular spiritual dangers of holding power? And did the confessor examine the policies of the king? The Defecerunt provides didactic examples that demonstrate how princes sin in their exercise of central governmental concerns, such as jurisdic- tion, warfare, relations to the church, taxation and usurpation. Ideally, if administered in accordance with the advice in the Defecerunt and similar manuals, the sacrament of penance would not only benefit the spiritual wellbeing of the king, but also instill a set of constitutional standards.
Lund, 2012. 49-59 p.