Remnants from a Glorious Carousel

The Royal Armoury, Sweden

An exposé of the objects preserved from King Karl XI's tournament in 1672

Engraving of Karl XI on Horseback, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden
Behold, the King!
On 18th December 1672 the 17-year-old Karl XI ascended to the Swedish throne. The occasion was celebrated with several days’ festivities organized by the architect Nicodemus Tessin the Elder and the artist David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl. The climax of the celebration was the carousel at the Tilt-Yard (Rännarbanan). Ehrenstrahl was also commissioned to immortalize the proceedings. His drawings were transferred to copperplate by Georg Christoph Eimmart in Nuremberg and printed 1685 by Georg Eberdt in Stockholm. The prints show the splendour of the carousel; the remnants from it are kept in the Royal Armoury.
Engraving of the Trumpeters, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

Twelve musicians went in front of the King, heralding his arrival.

Engraving of the Trumpeters, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

Six of the musicians played a roman horn, a buccina or a cornu, with dragon's heads and vibrating tongues.

Horn, buccina, unknown, 1671/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

Two of the instruments are still kept at the Royal Armoury.

Engraving of the Insignia Bearers, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden
A Roman Emperor?
The carousel was a competition arranged in forehand with four quadrilles (teams): the Geats, the Turks, the Poles and Other European Powers. The Geats, forebearers to the Swedes and contemporary to the Roman Empire, were dressed in Roman garb. Most possibly because dressing in animal fur and coarse wool was not perceived as elegant as shining brass cuirasses and flying colours. The tournament revolved around King Karl XI who, in the guise of a Geat-Roman Emperor, succeeded in uniting the Poles and the Other European Powers against the Turks.
Insignias for King Karl XI's Carousel, unknown, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

The three insignias carried at the carousel are kept in storage and have not been photographed recently. This old photograph shows them at a display over fifty years ago.

Engraving of Karl XI on Horseback, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

Karl XI rode into "combat" under the name of "Equitis Gloriae", the knight of Glory. His motto was "Only the virtuous are happy and glorious". The enemy's, the Turk's, motto was "Force before law".

Engraving of Karl XI on Horseback, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

As a sign of King Karl's might and power several guardsmen surrounded him. Some carried fasces, symbolical polearms carved to look like bundles of sticks with an axe in the middle.

Fasces for King Karl XI's Carousel, Lukas Meijlandt, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

One of the fasces survived into the 21st Century.

Engraving of Karl XI on Horseback, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

As might be expected, the entire dress worn by the King is kept in the Royal Armoury.

Sword for King Karl XI's Carousel, unknown, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

The King's sword. In the engraving it is carried in front of the King.

Muscle Cuirass for a Roman Dress, Hans Clerck, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

The breast plate is lacking some of its original decoration, but the gilt brass is still shining.

Muscle Cuirass for a Roman Dress, backside, Hans Clerck, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

The back part of the cuirass is a bit worn by time. Some of the brass scales are missing. If they have fallen off by themselves or if they were taken away as souvenirs is anyone's guess.

Tunic for a Tournament, Tolle Ballie, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

The tunic is rather the worse for wear. Several attempts to better the tunic along the centuries are visible. Originally it would have been red, but red dye fades quickly if exposed to light.

Metal Skirt, pteruges, Hans Clerck, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

The protective skirt of metal scales is also lacking a few parts.

Shoulder Armour, Hans Clerck, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

Two leonine masks of pressed and gilt brass covered the King's shoulders.

King Karl XI's Roman Boots, Jacob Schwarzkopf, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

All the colour is gone from the King's boots. Although they were supposed to look Roman, they were quite modern in design.

Engraving of Karl XI on Horseback, Georg Christoph Eimmart, 1672/1686, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

Sometimes it is diffucult to imagine the splendour of the procession when we first look at the engraving...

Helmet for King Karl XI's Roman Armour, Tolle Ballie, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden

...and then look at the object as it is today.

Roman Skirt, Tolle Ballie, 1672/1672, From the collection of: The Royal Armoury, Sweden
Sic transit gloria mundi
Thus passes the glory of the world. Most of the objects relating to King Karl's carousel are now gone forever, disintegrated and turned into historical dust. Karl XI’s reign began in full baroque splendour. In history books, however, he is often referred to as “Grey Cloak” because of his frugal ways and, allegedly, for his habit of riding alone through his kingdom in a grey cloak talking to his subjects. 
Credits: Story

National Historical Museums
Text: G. Sandell
Photo: H. Bonnevier.


For further reading: Rangström, Lena. (Ed.) 1992. Riddarlek och tornerspel. (With English and German summaries.)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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