House of Nobility

Stockholm, Sweden | C.1674

Photo Credit: Arild Vågen

Swedish nobility dates back to the 13th century, and today Sweden’s nobility meets every three years at the House of Nobility in Stockholm for the Assembly of Nobles. Known in Swedish as Riddarhuset it is a corporation and a building, that maintains records and acts as an interest group on behalf of the Swedish nobility. It remains one of the most exquisite works of architecture in northern Europe.

The name of the building literally translates to ‘House of Knights’. Knights – known in Swedish as “riddare” – belong to the higher ranks of the Swedish nobility. Their titles were often coupled with titles such as count and baron. All esquires are also represented in the corporation of the Swedish Nobility that is a tradition from the Middle Ages.

French-born architect Simon De la Vallee started the planning of the building, but his work was left uncompleted when he was killed by a Swedish nobleman in 1642. The plans were taken over by numerous architects in 1660, one of which was his son Jean De la Vallee. Ultimately, Jean de la Vallee and Joost Vingboons would be recognized for designing the final shape of the structure, and Jean de la Vallee was solely responsible for the construction of the roof, portals, and staircase.

Throughout the halls of the structure are various treasures, including remarkable ivory and ebony carved furnishings, historical coats of arms, and fine portraitures. The south end of the building carries the Latin inscription, “CLARIS MAIORUM EXEMPLIS”, in English, “after the clear example of the forefathers”, is a stark reminder of the purpose of Riddarhuset and the goals of its members.

After 1866, when the old Parliament of the Estates was replaced by the new Parliament of Sweden, the location served as a quasi-official representative body for the Swedish nobility, regulated by the Swedish government. Since 2003, it has been a private institution which maintains records and acts as an interest group on behalf of the Swedish nobility, its main purpose being to maintain old traditions and culture. The institution is also utilized for events such as chamber concerts, plays, lectures, art exhibitions, and private functions. Likewise, it is open for weekly visitor exploration.

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