Where, Oh Sverre, Is Your Kingdom Now?
In 1184 on the day of this entry’s initiation, June 29 (sometimes blogitation [thinking about blog writing] takes way way longer than it should), Sverre Sigurdsson was crowned King of Norway. Sverre, according to Britannica, is “one of the best-known figures in medieval Norwegian history.” The reason: “By expanding the power of the monarchy and limiting the privileges of the church, he provoked civil uprisings that were not quelled until 1217.”
Sverre’s story is a cautionary one. Early on, he was ordained as a priest. Then, at some uncertain date and for reasons unknown, his mother purportedly told him that he was the son of the former Norwegian king Sigurd II. Not one to let moss grow under his feet, Sverre immediately left the Faroe Islands and was off to claim his throne. From there, he hooked up with the Birchlegs, a political party that opposed the current king Magnus. (They were called Birchlegs, I have learned, because “they were tough, hardy men who were so poor they had to wear leggings made of birch bark.” For more, see the 2016 film The Last King.)
The civil war Sverre set off was nasmungus [hugely nasty]. According to Birchlegs 101: History and The Last King, “quarter was rarely given by either side; if you lost, you died or worse.” Sverre was proclaimed king in 1179 and then became “sole king of Norway” in 1184 when his troops defeated and killed Magnus.
One can only wonder at Sverre’s motivation for helping tear his country apart and cause who knows how many deaths. It could be because he was short and had a pre-Napoleon Napoleon complex. In other words, he compensated for his lack of height by seeking power, war, and conquest.
Or it could be this (quote from former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel): “…power gives you the wonderful opportunity to confirm, day in and day out, that you really exist, that you have your own undeniable identity, that with every word and deed you a leaving a highly visible mark on the world around you.” Note that he doesn’t specify whether it’s a positive or negative mark. We might call this the “Kilroy syndrome” after the famous World War II meme.
Kilroy has also been Chad, Smoe, Clem, Flywheel, Private Snoops, Overby, the Jeep, and Sapo. Substitute the name of any prominent politician here and around the world for Kilroy and you get the cause of our current megalodemic [pandemic of megalomania] in a nutshell.
This gives me an idea. Do you suppose if we created a Washington version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame called something like the Path of Me Me Me and put Kilroy-like plaques on the pavement for [fill-in-the-blanks], they would shut up and go quietly into that good night? I doubt it.
In January 1202, a few months before his death, King Sverre was still waging war to preserve his kingship. When he passed from an illness contracted during the campaign, he was buried in Christ Church in Bergen, which was destroyed about 300 years later. So, not king anymore. Not anything anymore. How much better of a life might he have experienced, and better for everyone in Norway, too, if he had simply spent it riding to the far corners of the country, inscribing “Sverre was here” on every amenable surface? Other than some ubiquitous graffiti, no harm would have been done, and Sverre might have died gloating, knowing his suprememocity [meme supremacy] would live forever because, while Kilroy might have been there, Sverre was there first.
(First Image: Head of King Sverre Sigurdsson of Norway in the Nidaros Cathedral. Dated c.1200/early 1200s. Public Domain. Second Image: Engraving of Kilroy on the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., C.C. by 2.0.)