The Medieval Review 11.05.03

Gunnar I. Pettersen. Gunnar I. Pettersen. Regesta Norvegica IX, 1405-1419. Oslo: The National Archives, Seksjon for kildeutgivelse, 2010. Pp. 786. 200 Kr . ISBN 9788254801116.

Reviewed by:

Anders Winroth
Yale
anders.winroth@yale.edu

Norway belongs to the fortunate countries which can boast that all (or almost all) of its medieval diplomatic sources are available in print. More than 20,000 charters from before 1570 were edited in the 22- volume Diplomatarium Norvegicum, published between 1847 and 1995. What is missing there can be found in other source publications, such as the diplomataria of Norway's neighboring countries or the editions of Norway's medieval laws. A rich source material is, thus, available for those interested in the Norwegian middle ages, but it can nonetheless be very difficult to approach. The Diplomatarium Norvegicum is not organized according to any easily perceptible principle; it is not chronological as are the diplomataria of Denmark and Sweden, and some of its earlier volumes lack indices. The present publication aims to make it easier to use Norwegian diplomatic sources.

The Regesta Norvegica is a chronologically organized calendar which functions as a sophisticated index to the available source publications at the same time as it provides full summaries of all the charters in modern Norwegian (bokmål). The work has been published since 1978 and has now reached its ninth volume and the period 1405-1419, for which it lists no less than 1,445 charters on almost 800 pages. The editor Gunnar I. Pettersen provides for each entry references to relevant editions and to the original or whatever other source the edition used. He has gone about the work with appropriate and laudable care and has skillfully produced succinct and exact summaries that will be very useful for all kinds of historical research.

During the period covered in this volume, the three Scandinavian kingdoms Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were united under one ruler, at first under the architect of the union, the remarkable Queen Margaret (died 1412) and then under her great-nephew King Eric of Pomerania. The queen's death in a ship outside Flensburg is reported under no. 844 on the basis of an annalistic notice (and thus it is strictly speaking not diplomatic, but it would be churlish to complain about it). Since Margaret had joined all of Scandinavia in a union, Scandinavian politics during the period covered by the volume is also Norwegian politics. This has forced the author to make many no doubt difficult decisions about what documents are to be considered Norwegian enough to have earned a place among the Regesta. He has wisely chosen to err on the side of caution, thus including rather than excluding. The volume will thus be useful also for general Scandinavian history, especially political history.

Every reader will no doubt have his or her own favorite documents among the many calendered in this volume, depending on their interests. Anyone interested in, for example political events and political culture might pay special attention to documents about the queen and the king. Queen Margaret visited Norway at least twice during the period covered, issuing letters in 1409 in Oslo (nos. 491- 492; see also no. 490) and in 1410 in Bohuslän (nos. 592-593). Eric visited the country in 1405, when he (some 23 years old) traveled there to receive homage as king by the Norwegians. Before his journey, the queen wrote a long and detailed document (no. 16) telling Eric what he should do and how he should act in various possible situations. "He [Eric] should read these articles often and thoroughly so that he fully understands them and with the help of God will be able to answer and act." The document not only gives valuable insights into how Margaret understood kingship and taught Eric about it, but also presents fascinating details of cultural history. When Eric first meets his Norwegian escort, he should give them the German beer and mead which had been brought for the purpose from a royal castle. When traveling in Norway, he should allow the peasantry to swear allegiance to him, he should always accept gifts, and he should go when invited to banquets, but if specified persons ask for fiefs, he should try to delay his answer as long as possible. He should not issue any confirmations of old judicial decisions, but rather refer such requests to the queen.

This volume allows the interested reader to follow some of Margaret's marriage negotiations with King Henry IV of England. The plan was for Eric's sister Katarina to marry the Prince of Wales and for Eric to marry King Henry's daughter Philippa. Regesta Norvegica notes several English documents which detail expenses that the English envoys had on their journeys to Scandinavia to negotiate in this affair. Eric and Philippa got married in 1406 in Lund, and a document from that year (no. 230) details the clothes and other articles that were sent with the princess to Scandinavia for the wedding. Satin, silk, fur from beaver, hermin, squirrel and other animals are listed alongside wool, golden pearls, and copper rings. Katarina never married the Prince of Wales, but only a short time after the wedding, she entered into a contract to marry Duke John of Bavaria, the son of the German King Ruprecht (no. 234).

The volume does certainly not only contain documents of similarly great importance for Scandinavian politics and diplomatics, but also city privileges (e.g. no. 870 for Skagen), bills of sale issued by peasants (e.g., no. 871 from the province of Jämtland), judicial documents concerning rights in individual rectorates (e.g., no. 873), and donations to ecclesiastical institutions (e.g., nos. 878, 880, 882, 883, and 884). The volume ends with very full indices (193 pages) over personal and geographical names, and over things.

There is much in this book to discover and to enjoy for historians, linguists, genealogists, and others interested in medieval Scandinavia. This latest volume of the Regesta Norvegica joins the ranks of eminently useful tools that facilitate the basic work of finding the sources, an essential task before any scholar can go on to analyze and interpret. We all have to be grateful to Gunnar I. Pettersen for a work well performed and to the Norwegian National archives for wisely allowing him to use 30 percent of his time on this project.