The closing ceremony was held at the magnificent Bååt Palace. The delegates also learned about one of the rarest and most unique orders – the Order of Charles XIII directly from a Knight of the Order of Charles XIII – Tom Bergroth.
Before the conference our Curator Catherine Lapinsh had the opportunity to ask Tom some questions:
CL: Dear Tom, how did it happen so that you dedicated your life to the study of orders and awarding systems?
TB: I grew up with my Grandfather´s (Eric Oscar Wikeström 1898-1960) collection of Russian imperial orders and awards, regimental badges etc., since 1969 they are in the collections of the Historical Museum of the City of Turku/Åbo
CL: You have been involved with organizing many exhibitions, which ones do you consider most successful?
TB: The 10th Anniversary Exhibition of the Danish Orders and Medals Society in Copenhagen in 1976. The permanent exhibition of Marshal Mannerheim’s orders and awards in the Mannerheim Museum in Helsinki 1976-77, renewed in 2017, and the creating of the renewed permanent exhibition of the Swedish orders of knighthood in the Royal Palace in Stockholm 2005-13.
CL: What awards you are wearing on the photograph?
TB: On this photo from 2009 I wear beside the order of Charles XIII in the bar: The Order of the Cross of Liberty 3rd Class (for civil merits), the Military Medal of Merit, Knight of the Order of the Polar Star (commander in 2014) and knight of the Order of the Dannebrog.
CL: And what is your connection to the Order of Charles XIII?
TB: As a Freemason [initiated in 1974] I’ve hold the rank of Knight Commander with the Red Cross (1998) and have been Grand Marshal of the Swedish Order of Freemasons from 2001 till 2012.
Senior Curator of the Museum of the Royal Orders, Stockholm Palace
The Swedish Order of Freemasons
Freemasonry came to Sweden from France through Count Axel-Wrede-Sparre, who established the first lodge in Sweden, a private lodge under his own name in Stockholm in 1735. In the 1740´s and 50´s new lodges were formed in Sweden. Count Knut Posse established the first regular lodge of St Jean Auxiliaire in 1752. This lodge was called the Mother Lodge of Sweden and considered itself entitled to issue warrants to other lodges in the country. Count Carl Fredrik Scheffer who had been made a Freemason in Paris in 1737, was elected National Grand Master in 1753. During the 1750s the lodges opened their doors to members of other social classes than that of the nobility. In 1756 Carl Friedrich Eckleff introduced the St Andrew´s degrees together with two Chapter degrees when he formed the Scottish Lodge l´Innocente in Stockholm. The next step in development of Swedish Freemasonry was taken in 1759 when Eckleff established a Grand Chapter in Stockholm. In 1760 the Grand Lodge of Sweden was established as a mother lodge for all Swedish lodges. It was recognized as a National Grand Lodge in 1770 and 1799 by The Grand Lodge of England. Eckleff established a Masonic system on a Christian basis.
Freemasonry came to Sweden from France through Count Axel-Wrede-Sparre, who established the first lodge in Sweden, a private lodge under his own name in Stockholm in 1735.
In 1774 Prince Carl, Duke of Sudermania, later King Carl XIII (1748-1809-1818), became the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge and established The 9th Province in 1780, The Swedish Order of Freemasons. Under his leadership the Swedish System developed into its modern form of a logical, continuous system of Christian freemasonry, where the candidate is slowly guided through the Old into the New Testament. The Swedish rite is progressive and continuous. Each degree with its moral philosophy leads to the next and each sums up the contents of the preceding degrees. The System is made up of three Craft degrees, called St John´s Lodges. The following three degrees, the 4th to the 6th, are grouped together in a St Andrew´s Lodge, which is a part of Craft Freemasonry. The Chapter degrees consist of four additional degrees, which can be understood only by applying exegetic methods. Early in the 19th Century it consisted of nine degrees but a rather profound reorganisation and redistribution of the rite was made and the system came to consist of ten degrees. Members who belonged to the class of commoners could for a long period not advance beyond the 9th degree. Beyond the ten degrees of the Swedish Masonic System there is a supreme degree, that of Knight Commander of the Red Cross. Progression from one degree to the next is far from automatic. A brother has not only to be regular in attendance — he has to give proof of his proficiency and of his knowledge of Freemasonry. The Swedish rite is practised in Sweden, Denmark, Finland (Swedish speaking parts), Iceland and Norway. It is also in a German variant, practised in Grosse Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland (= The German Order of Freemasons).
For the most senior Grand Lodge office bearers the rank as Temple Masters came into being in 1777 and are officially addressed as Most Enlightened Brethren and Knight Commanders of the Red Cross. The Grand Master is supported by the Grand Council, headed by the Pro Grand Master. Members of this Council are the nine highest officials and the Provincial Grand Masters. There are at present six Statutory Boards headed by a Chairman who is a Temple Master.
The Grand Lodge of Sweden consists of Freemasons who are Knight Commanders of the Red Cross. The Lodge has twelve Grand Officers with the same rank. Those holding offices are participating in the ceremonial masonic meetings.
THE ROYAL ORDER OF KING CHARLES XIII
A Royal Order, which can be conferred only upon Freemasons, is unique in the system of awards in the whole world. However it is necessary to call attention to the fact that the order is in a constitutional sense absolutely not a reward bestowed by the Swedish State. It is merely a Royal prerogative to reward masons for services to mankind, beneficence and humanism. The Order ranks as the fifth among the Swedish Orders of Knighthood. Since 1975 bestowal of the State Orders of Knighthood to Swedes has completely ceased. A reformation of the awards led to that only the Order of the Seraphim and the Order of the Northern Star are awarded today to foreigners. The Order of Charles XIII was not included in the changes made in 1974 as the Department of Finance in their commissioned work stated that although being a State Order it was awarded only to Freemasons and the State is not involved.
A proposal to institute a system of orders of knighthood in Sweden were brought forward by the House of Nobility already in 1738. It took however another ten years to bring the matter to a conclusion. The fear of foreign orders being used on Swedish subjects for political reasons and a King to be, who had been awarded foreign orders of knighthood led to the creation of a awarding system after French pattern. On the 23rd of February 1748 the Crown in Council issued an ordinance to institute three Royal Orders: The Order of Seraphim (for the most exalted), the Order of the Sword (for officers in war and peace-time) and, the Order of the North Star (for civilian government officials and scientists). Formally the statutes were signed by King Friedrich I. On May 23rd 1772 King Gustaf III at his coronation instituted the so called free Order of Vasa (for economists and commercial and industrial achievements, artists etc.).
On May 27th 1811 King Charles XIII instituted the Royal Order that carries his name to commemorate the initiation of Crown Prince Charles John as a mason in the Swedish Order of Freemasons in 1810 and his appointment as Pro Grand Master of the Order. However the idea was not new. Already in June 1809 as newly crowned king Charles XIII had proposed the founding of an Order of Jesus Christ of the Temple based upon the knightly chapter degrees of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. The insignia was to be the red cross of the Knight Commanders. The suggested idea was opposed both by the Crown in Council (= Council of State) as well as the Supreme Council of the Masonic Order. When the question was raised whether the Red Cross was to be made a public Order it was strongly opposed by the high officials of the Order.
As nothing like an official Masonic decoration existed anywhere else reactions of foreign Masonic Bodies could become detrimental to the good name of the Swedish Rite. Due to politically uncertain times the question was dropped only to be taken up again two years later. The main reason for the delay was the matter of the order of succession to the Swedish throne as the Royal couple of the Holstein-Gottorp family was childless. This and Sweden’s role in the Napoleonic war and the loss of Finland, ceded to Russia in 1809, put the matter aside. When in autumn of 1810 the French Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte finally was adopted as Crown Prince Charles John, the King proceeded with his project. The same members of the cabinet who had opposed the idea two years earlier were now ready to accept the proposal for a new order of knighthood.
This Order of Knighthood is a very special one as it is an official State Order, which can be awarded only to members of an exclusive assembly, the Swedish Order of Freemasons. It was to be awarded to Freemasons only. It is a prerogative of the King to be the Grand Master of this Order. Second in command was the successor to the throne. Sweden at that time had an agnatic order of succession. Princes of the Blood would not automatically receive Order; it was up to the King to decide when the time had come for them to be dubbed. However in connection with the christening ceremonies a special blue ribbon with the cross of the Order of the Seraphim and buttons with the ribbon colours of the Orders of the Sword, the Polar Star and Charles XIII are attached upon the princely christening dress since 1826. The Order has its own Chapter of Knights. This Order of Knighthood may seem old-fashioned now but it maintains traditions from a long ago forgotten world with the use still today of a knight’s gown and the dubbing of new knights.
The appointments take place on the fête-day of all named Charles, i.e. on the 28th of January each year and the dubbing of a Knight takes place on the Annual Festive Day of the Grand Lodge, i.e. on March the 22nd. A knight of the Order should have reached the age of thirty-sex years upon being proposed. The number of knights was originally restricted to 30, three of whom should be clergy. Knights of Royal descent are not included in this figure. In 1858 three vacancies were added for the Norwegian Knight included in this figure. In 1858 three vacancies were added for the Norwegian Knight commanders belonging to the Norwegian Freemason´s Province, which became independent in 1891 as the Norwegian Order of Freemasons. Norwegian Freemasons being awarded the order after 1905 are numbered with alien Knights. Today the number of Knights is still 30 worldly and 3 clerical members. The number of vacancies has never been increased, although from time to time there have been extra Knights appointed due to ceremonial duties within the Order of Freemasons. From 1974 onwards the holders of high offices within the Swedish Order of Freemasons have to retire upon becoming 75 years of age. This means that today there is a surplus of Knight Commanders over and above the originally planned for 33 only. It means also that not every Knight Commander with the Red Cross can be awarded the Order of Charles XIII.
The Chapter of the Order
The first knights were all appointed by King Carl XIII personally. In 1821 his successor, King Carl XIV Johan, decided that to fill a vacancy, names of candidates were proposed and voted on, and the prospective member elected by a majority vote of the members of the Chapter of the Order. A knight to be elected is thus proposed by knights of the Order. In 1932 King Gustaf V made a change in the procedures when he decided to have three nominations for each vacancy but wished to make his personal choice among these. The procedure was adopted from that year up to 1972: The Sovereign King personally, as Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons, made his selection. He did not necessarily have to follow the proposal of the knights but this was normally done. With few exceptions the Kings personally attended and presided at the meetings with the Knights. From 1979 the Chapter makes the proposals, which are forwarded by the Chancellor of the Order to King Carl XVI Gustaf for his approval. Today it is customary that only one name is forwarded for each open vacancy. Formally the present King still appoints all new Knights of the Order.
During its history only one Knight has been expelled from membership of the Order and the Swedish Order of Freemasons and three appointed Knights have died before having been dubbed and bestowed the insignia. In all 409 Swedish Knights (incl. Royal) and 54 foreign Knights have been created since the founding of the Order in 1811.
The type of the neck cross can be divided into three main types, the first being manufactured in 1811 by the Court jeweller Michael & Bedicks. The first series of crosses were surmounted by a very small royal crown. The monogram and emblem in the centre medallions were flatten gold-enamelled. The glass pieces were plane on the obverse and bevelled on the reverse. Later in the 1840´s, when crosses were repaired, these crowns were replaced with larger ones. When seven foreign vacancies were created in 1852 a new, second type was manufactured by the jewellers R. Brieskorn and Christian Hammer. Between the crown and the upper cross arm is a ball-shaped bulb and the monogram and the letter B within a triangle is sawed out in gold on the enamelled medallions. The glass pieces in the arms are with a convex cut. The third, and present type followed in the early 1860´s, manufactured since then by the Court Jeweller C.F. Carlman. The crown type is the same as on all other crosses of the Swedish Orders of Knighthood and the glass pieces are bevelled on both sides. Older crosses have frequently been repaired through the years and altered, especially when it comes to the surmounting crown. Very few crosses of the older types have been preserved.
1° Black leather boots with wide tops and lace on the top, of the same form as that of the boots of the Order of Seraphim;
2° Silver spurs of the same shape as those used by the Knights of the Seraphim;
3° Buff-coat coloured broadcloth or cashmere pantaloons that extend into the boots;
4° The coat of the same colour as the trousers, of the same shape as those of the dress of the Commander of the Order of the Sword, with the difference that which is blue velvet on the last mentioned dress, shall be purple coloured velvet, and should reach the back part of the knee; on the left side is worn the customary red cross of the Order.
5° The belt, same cloth as the buff-coat, with a narrow velvet lining of the same shape as that of the dress of the Order of the Sword;
6° The sword, the same as that worn in the Grand Lodge, in a red saffian scabbard;
7° A white silk sash that goes from the right shoulder to the left side of the waist, tied together at the hip with a large rosette, and in the ends gold fringes;
8° The mantle, white, of woollen cloth, is worn somewhat over the left shoulder and reaches down a little beyond the back part of the knee; on the mantle is attached a large red (temple) cross as demonstrated on the model.
9° A black round hat, similar to the usual Order hats, fastened up on the left side; braid and button as demonstrated on the model; the military Knights wear the yellow cockade, civilians the national cockade. Around the hat a golden and red cord with nine knots, as demonstrated on the model. In the hat white and black plumes shall be worn.
The sash grew out of use in the early years of the 20th Century. The hats were taken out of use in the late 19th Century and replaced with white caps. In 1929 efforts were made to reintroduce the hat but only in the year 2000 it was finally accomplished. Thus this is one of the old traditions maintained by the Order into the 21st Century.
Heraldic Coats of Arms
What has freemasonry to do with tournaments, carousels and hastiludes of the late 18th century in Sweden? A good question as it seems far-fetched. In fact the knightly chivalry within the higher grades of the Swedish Masonic Order was remodelled at the same time as the hastiludes of 1776 and 1777 were staged at the Ekolsund Castle and on Adolf Fredrik’s Square in Stockholm. Although not directly related to the tournaments and hastiludes of the time, it is an interesting variant having developed from these events in the 1770’s.
In 1774 Duke Carl (1748-1809-1818) became Grand Master of the Swedish Order of Freemasons. His first task was to connect the various grades into one system — today the Swedish system. He established in 1780 the IX Freemason Province. (1) It was related to a phenomena born in the middle of the 18th century in German principalities, a masonic system by the name of the Strict Observance, which claimed to be inheritor of the Knights of the Temple. In fact the higher grades were completely hidden for members of the lower grades, the so called working degrees. King Gustaf III’s (1746-1772-1792) interest in the history of the Order of the Knight Templar was of great importance to him in the negotiations concerning the election of his brother, Duke Carl, as head of the Strict Observance. The romantic passion for medieval chivalry had in fact a real political significance. The first hastiludes, arranged by his brother, King Gustaf III, coincided with Charles’ creation, on medieval lines, of the chapter system of higher grades in which symbolic stories were transformed visually into reality.
This is also indicated in the very questionable letter of patronage or protection for the Freemasons, signed by King Gustaf III in 1778, in which he openly states that the Masonic Order merely was a way, a preparation for and, a screen for the Order of the Knight Templar. These chapter grades became “a secret order” — the Order of the Knight Templar — in which the cloak and sword of the knight replaced the apron and trowel of the mason. This allusion to a medieval order of chivalry attracted many of its members from the upper reaches of society and enchanted the pleasure they took in the antiquity of freemasonry. In fact there was no connection whatsoever between the Order of the Knight Templar, dissolved in 1314, and the masonic chapter grades within the Swedish Rite. In the rite there was however to be found a symbolic and ethical inheritance, created by Duke Carl and his collaborators in the 1770’s and 1780’s, based mainly on the 18th century literature and tales.
Photo: C. Lapinsh
Why then these archaic ideas were introduced in freemasonry. Considering the public tournaments and hastiludes, Gustaf III had expressed as his view that the revival of knightly exercises would maintain in the nobility the heroic spirit so necessary in a state destined for the defence of the realm. Duke Carl was not slow to capture this idea of his brother, veiled under the guise of Freemasonry. The Masonic Order would form an excellent setting for the idea. From the very beginning there was a very strong opposition within the Order against these chivalric ideas. Very many members of the Order found them quite ridiculous and childish. However not everyone understood the intentions of the King and the Duke. Several Freemasons refrained from accepting the chapter grades, but many had, due to their position at Court, to play along.
The Eight Ritual Book of the Masonic Order, approved in March 1780, consists of an introduction of thirteen chapters, of which the three first deal with an organization connected with the Masonic Order, forming a supreme organization within The IX Masonic Province. This was a symbolic organization of an Order with external signs of dignity such as armorials, banners, seals, coat of arms and so on. These signs were born in connection with the events previously mentioned, and thus are related to the hastiludes. The tradition with coats of arms within the Order were created at the same time and cannot have been inspired by anything else than the hastiludes.
At the hastiludes in Adolf Fredrik’s Square in 1777, the Duke´s quadrille assembled on the courtyard of the Rosenhane palace on the island of Riddarholmen, at that time the Residence of the Masonic Order, issuing forth on horsebacks. At this hastilude the knights in the King´s and Duke´s quadrilles carried coat of arms which, in addition to a motto, were also blazoned with emblematic pictures. The choice of masonic symbols — the set-square, the cubic stone etc. — for the shields of the Duke´s quadrille can be put down to the fact that several of its members being freemasons. The family coat of arms were painted on the armours of the knights. These shields can be taken as the forerunners of the armorial shields which began to be used within the Swedish Masonic Order in 1777.The connection is apparent from the riveted border surrounding the actual armorial bearings. The three rivets at the sides symbolise the attachment of he leather straps behind the shield, which went round the wearer’s arm. Chapter brethren initiated into the VIII grade were given a coat of arms with a chivalric name and motto from the middle of the 1770’s.
According to the regulations it had to be the family coat of arms used as emblem. Still it was mostly nobles who were initiated in these higher degrees and received a knight’s coat of arms. Then at the tournaments and carousels at Drottningholm in 1799 and 1800 we observe that the participants are using their family coats of arms on their shields as within the Order. The shields preserved in the Masonic Order, painted on papier maché, correspond to form and design with those painted by I. Kastberg for the tournaments. The tradition with oval shaped shields is still today maintained for the Knight Commanders with the Red Cross while the smaller one is rectangular.
Photo C. Lapinsh
Already in 1811 the then Chancellor, baron Wilhelm Bennett requested permission for a smaller shield to be taken in use due to lack of space on the walls in the old Masonic Hall, the Rosenhane Palace. This was approved the next year and thus was born a not heraldic shield form, rectangular with cut edges. This form was only used in Stockholm. Up to 1929 both a large and a small shield was painted for each knight, from that the large shield only for brethren holding the tenth degree. In 1967 the large shield was completely abolished with the exception of those for the Knight Commanders of the Red Cross. The older shields were painted on papier maché. From the early 1890´s the shields are all painted on tin-plate. The Royal Court painter David Friefeldt (1889-1978) painted the masonic shields from 1935 to 1977, the longest record in the history of the Order. Since the early beginning only the small shield has been preserved while the larger ones are re-used for new knights, that is repainted.
With the creation of the Royal Order of Knighthood the knights continued to have the already traditional shield used within the Order since 1777 as their armorial wearing. There were also plans for an armorial corresponding to that of the Order of the Seraphim. The magnificent volume was began in the 1810´s but only the coats of arms of the first appointed knights were painted in, but without any text. The volume is in red leather with corresponding decorative cover details and size as that of the early 19th century volume of the Order of the Seraphim. When in 1858 a number of vacancies for foreign knights were introduced a knew armorial was created in a smaller size with the adverse and the reverse of the cross of the order on the covers. This volume continues up to the year 1868. Shields for foreign knights were painted up to the year 1934.
- Svenska Frimurare Orden (Swedish Masonic Order)
- Åttonde Boken, Första Delen (föredragen vid Konventet i Stockholm 11.3.1780 enligt protokoll med hänvisningar). Signum 8 B/I D/3a
- 1787 Convents Beslut
- Logedirectorii Protokoll 1800-1824
- Various documents and drawings
- Eriksson, Rut: En kostymhistorisk studie kring Kungl. Teaterns repertoar från gustaviansk tid till nationalromantikens genombrott, Lidingö 1974.
- Hedvig Elisabeth Charlottas Dagbok 1775-1792, Stockholm 1907-42, part I and II
- Olausson, Magnus: Tournaments and Carousels in the Gustavian Era, Gustavian Opera — Swedish Opera, Dance and Theatre 1771-1809, Uppsala 1991.
- Stenström, Stig: Gustav III:s riddarspel 1776 och 1777, Livrustkammaren Vol. IV:1-2, Stockholm 1946
- Gustav III:s divertissementer och de sista gustavianska riddarspelen, Livrustkammaren Vol. IV:4, Stockholm 1946
- Bergroth, Tom C: Om riddarevapnens uppkomst och utveckling inom Svenska Frimurare Orden. Paper, read in Stockholm 6.5.1988.
- Robelin, Roger de och Åke Sandberg: Heraldik inom Orden/Frimureriet och heraldiken. Paper read in Uppsala 18.11.1980 and in Gävle 17.4.1985.
For further reading
- Tom C. Bergroth: Freimaurerei, ein Ideal in der Zeit, In gold und himmelblau – I guld och himmelsblått, Ausstellungskatalog Nr. 15, Turku Landesmuseum,/Åbo landskapsmuseum, Turku 1993
- Tom C. Bergroth: Kungliga Carl XIII:s Orden ‘til upmuntran och belöning för medborgerliga och välgörande bemödanden til nödlidandes och allmänt gagn’, Åbo 2002.
- Tom C. Bergroth: L’Ordre Royal de Charles XIII, Renaissance Traditionnelle, No. 133 Janvier 2003, pp. 20-29