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Kissing hands and wearing ribbons: Gender and Status Competition at the Swedish Court
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences.
2015 (English)In: Gender at Status Competition in Premodern Societies, Umeå 27 November 2015, 2015Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Competition for status was the life blood of early modern courts. Members of the elite guarded their place in the social hierarchy ferociously, and often tried to improve it at the expense of others. The court was probably rightly seen as an arbiter of status, a place where status was defined and acknowledged.

In reality, this was an intensely competitive environment where the struggle for status meant that hierarchies could be remarkably fluid. From 1672 onwards a crude table of rank, although limited in scope, afforded some semblance of continuity, but the personal character of early modern monarchy often trumped such blunt formalities.

The table of rank was in reality a poor guide to status, as that was made up not just of formal office and title, but also of family connections, perceived power, and royal favour. The role of women in formal rank systems was a bone of contention. Queen Christina considered having a special table of rank for women, and bitter struggles over precedence between women at court could escalate into long-running family conflicts.

Proximity to the monarch was key in the early modern Swedish polity; a physical proximity that was inevitably gendered. It also had to be asserted openly, preferably in formalities, and ceremony could thus denote an individual’s status. This opened up for a complex play between personal standing with the royal family and existing precedent. Ceremony could also be a public way—or often in the case of everyday ceremony, a semi-public way—to enhance (or diminish) status. Where would women and men at court be placed in processions, at meals, and on various other occasions? Who had the right of entry into the royal family’s most private chambers? It was calibrated all the way down to the individual components of ceremonies, with a ritual such as kissing hands also serving to indicate status. Who was allowed to kiss the royal hand? Who was allowed to kiss the royal cheek?

Proximity to the royal person could also be manifested in material form. Jewellery or miniature portraits, handed out as gifts, betokened royal favour and boosted status. Other objects could also signal inclusion, such as the paraphernalia of the various honours and royal orders and various forms of dress.  All this was visible to others present at court and beyond, and could increase (or decrease) the status and power of the individual.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-48799OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-48799DiVA, id: diva2:894421
Conference
Gender at Status Competition in Premodern Societies, Umeå 27 November 2015
Available from: 2016-01-15 Created: 2016-01-15 Last updated: 2016-01-27Bibliographically approved

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Persson, Fabian

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
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More styles
Language
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  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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  • asciidoc
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