A 'Swenglish' journey through family photos, notes and postcards
from the early 20th century.

2022-08-12

Gerda's Medal

The last photos of my grandmother's sister Gerda that I have are these two below, with her wearing a 'royal' medal. I was hoping to find out when she was awarded it, and for what - but that turned out not all easy. There is a register of medals that one can search on the Swedish Royal Court's website - but her name does not turn up there. 



However, I decided to apply the advice repeatedly given by Alan Burnett (host of Sepia Saturdays): Looking for 'time markers' to try and date the photo and occasion.

1. The photos were taken in my grandparents' living room. I recognise the chair Gerda is sitting in, and also the cupboard behind her. Moreover, I happen to know that my grandfather got that chair for his 50th birthday - which was 23 June, 1954. So that would be the earliest possible date for this photo.

2. Because of the where, I also feel sure that the photo was taken by my grandfather, who was a journalist and an experienced photographer. But as in later year's he suffered from Parkinson's disease (and died in the spring of 1969), I'd say the photo was taken before the mid 1960s. 

3. Using a magnifying glass with the original photo, I  can establish that the text on the front of the medal says Gustaf VI Adolf - Sveriges konung (king of Sweden). He became king in October 1950, after his father, Gustaf V passed away. This means that Gerda must have received the medal after 1950. As I don't have the medal itself, I don't know what the text on the back said. 

4. Gerda was born 25 October 1881. If she was given (or wearing) the medal in connection with a special birthday, it's likely to have been for her 75th (1956) or her 80th (1961). 

5. I recently got confirmed from a reliable source that Gerda did get employed as lady's maid to Estelle Bernadotte in the autumn of 1928 - after Folke and Estelle got engaged, and before their wedding. (Just as I have been guessing all along, but haven't known for sure.) 

6. There is a medal for 'Zealous and Devoted Service of the Realm' (Swedish: 'För nit och redlighet i rikets tjänst') - awarded to one who has been a Swedish State employee for 30 years and has shown "zealous and devoted service". If this was the medal that Gerda was awarded, it ought to have been in 1958. The problem is that I don't think that Gerda, employed by Folke and Estelle Bernadotte, would count as "state employee".  Moreover, the top of that medal is different, and I haven't seen any images of it with a neck ribbon like in Gerda's photo.

  

7. However - I also found a similar medal from a 'Royal Society' called [Kungliga Sällskapet] Pro Patria - a charity society that has also given out medals. Between 1836-2005, there was a medal for 'Fidelity and Diligence' (Trohet och Flit) that could be awarded to someone who had been serving the same employer/family for a long time. (At least 25 years for the bigger size medal.) This medal was paid for by 'the one who applied for it' - which I take to mean the employer/family. I also found images showing that the front of this medal seems to match the one Gerda is wearing, and also seems to come with a ribbon to be worn around one's neck.



8. If Gerda was awarded this medal after 25 years of service, it would have been in 1953 - in which case the earliest possible date for the photo would still be my grandfather's 50th birthday in 1954. I'm leaning towards the idea that she was awarded it after 30 years of service, though - in which case the photo could be from 1958. Her "showing off" the medal when visiting my grandparents seems to suggest to me that the visit happened not too long after she recently received it - and that she was in focus, rather than either one of my grandparents.  I guess other prossible occasions could also still be her 75th or 80th birthday, though (1956 or 1961).



"Digging through old photographs, looking for clues as to place, time or person, sifting for details that will illuminate a story - lovers of old photographs are a bit like archeologists - dealing with pictures rather than places."
(Alan Burnett on this week's Sepia Saturday)


Svenska:

De sista foton jag har av min farmors syster Gerda är dessa två, där hon bär en 'kunglig' medalj. Jag hade hoppats kunna fastställa vilket år hon fick den, och av vilken anledning – men det visade sig svårt. På hovets hemsida finns ett register där man kan söka medalj- och ordensförläningar, men hennes namn ger inget utslag där.

Så istället försöker jag nu bara tillämpa allmänna råd från Alan Burnett (värd för Sepia Saturday) om att titta efter 'tidsmarkeringar' när det gäller att datera gamla foton.

1. Fotona är tagna i mina farföräldrars vardagsrum. Jag känner igen stolen Gerda sitter i, och även skåpet bakom henne. Dessutom råkar jag veta att min farfar fick den stolen på sin 50-årsdag, 23 juni 1954. Vilket betyder att det är tidigaste möjliga datum för fotona.

2. På grund av var fotona är tagna utgår jag från att det också är min farfar som är fotografen. Han var journalist och även en erfaren fotograf. Men då han mot slutet av sitt liv led av Parkinsons sjukdom, och dog våren 1969, så skulle jag säga att dessa foton togs senast i början av 1960-talet.

3. Genom att titta på originalfotot med förstoringsglas kan jag se att texten på medaljens framsida lyder ”Gustaf VI Adolf – Sveriges konung”. Gustaf VI Adolf tillträdde som konung i oktober 1950, efter att hans far, Gustav V, gått bort. Det betyder att Gerda måste ha fått medaljen efter 1950. Eftersom jag inte har själva medaljen så vet jag dock inte vad som stod på baksidan.

4. Gerda var född 25 oktober 1881. Om hon fick (eller bar) medaljen i samband med en speciell födelsedag, så bör det ha varit när hon fyllde 75 (1956) eller 80 (1961).

5. Jag har nyligen fått bekräftat från säker källa att Gerda anställdes som kammarjungfru till Estelle Bernadotte hösten 1928 – efter hennes och Folkes förlovning, men före bröllopet. (Detta har jag tidigare också antagit, men inte vetat säkert.)

6. Det finns en medalj ”För nit och redlighet i rikets tjänst” som tilldelas den som varit statligt anställd i 30 år. Om detta var den medalj Gerda fick, så borde hon ha fått den 1958. Problemet är att jag inte tror att Gerda, som anställd av Folke och Estelle Bernadotte, räknades som ”statligt” anställd. Dessutom stämmer inte riktigt utformningen av överdelen av medaljen (kronan) med bilder av den medaljen jag hittat online – och jag har heller inte sett den med ett sådant halsband som på fotot av Gerda.

7. Det finns emellertid också en liknande medalj från ”Kungliga Sällskapet Pro Patria”; ett sällskap som förutom att bedriva välgörenhet också har delat ut medaljer. Mellan 1836-2005 fanns det en medalj för ”Trohet och Flit” som kunde tilldelas någon som hade tjänat samma arbetsgivare eller familj under en lång tid. (Minst 25 år för den större storleken.) Denna medalj ”delades ut mot en kostnad för den som gjort ansökan” - vilket jag tolkar som att det var arbetsgivaren/familjen som gjorde en sådan ansökan. Jag fann också bilder som visar att framsidan på denna medalj ser ut att matcha Gerdas, och även att den verkar ha haft ett sådant band att ha runt halsen.

8. Om Gerda tilldelades denna medalj efter 25 års tjänst, så bör det har varit 1953. I så fall är tidigast möjliga datum för fotot fortfarande min farfars 50-årsdag 1954. Jag lutar dock åt att hon ändå fick medaljen efter 30 år (då hon skulle ha förärats en liknande om hon varit statligt anställd). I så fall kan fotot vara från 1958. Att hon ”visar upp” medaljen vid besök hos mina farföräldrar tänker jag tyder på att besöket sker inte långt efter att hon fått den - och att det var hon själv som var i fokus snarare än min farfar eller farmor. Men andra möjliga tillfällen att ståta med medalj skulle väl fortfarande också kunna vara Gerdas egen 75- eller 80-års dag (1956 eller 1961).


7 comments:

  1. Very nice to keep us in touch with Gerda and match the prompt so well. I have learned so much from participating in Sepia Saturday over the years - new ways to look for clues or to interpret information. Good job dating the photo! We can't always be exact, but I think you have it well placed in time.

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    1. Kathy, I have learned a lot from Sepia Saturday, too. And also from going through Gustaf's postcard collection, of which so many turned out to be written by Gerda.

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  2. How wonderful that she received the award, and certainly was eligible for something to acknowledge her service...you've come to some possible identifications.

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    1. Thanks Barbara. I feel satisfied to at last have found a medal that seems to 'fit'. Pinning down the exact year not really all that important, as I know she remained living with Estelle Bernadotte even beyond the age of 80.

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  3. This is a wonderful portrait of Gerda! Her hint of a smile conveys a sense of pride and accomplishment that fits perfectly with your deduction that she wears a medal of exemplary service and long tenure. I have researched many photos of people with medals, almost all men, and know how frustrating it is to find examples that match a grainy black & white photo, so I applaud your detective work. You deserve a medal too for this loving series on Gerda!

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    1. Thanks Mike! - and I agree about Gerda's smile. My impression is that she's looking back at her life with satisfaction - and still some secrets she's never going to reveal!

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  4. That is a nice little smile. And also some great sleuthing on your part. Congrats on finding and putting together all that information!

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