Interview with Catriona Murray, Winner of CCCU Book Prize

Dr Catriona Murray is a historian of early modern British visual and material culture from the University of Edinburgh. Her first monograph, Imaging Stuart Family Politics: Dynastic Crisis and Continuity, focuses on familial propaganda of the royal Stuarts. Her study has recently won the CCCU Book Prize from the Royal Studies Journal.  The team from the Royal Studies Journal Blog got together with her to learn more about this award-winning research, and what is next for Catriona.      

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: First of all, congratulations to you! Your first monograph, and already you’re winning prizes for it! We do hope you celebrated accordingly! Could you please tell our readers a bit about the premises of this study on visual and material propaganda under the Stuarts?

Image result for celebration

Catriona: Thank you! It really is an honour and I am very grateful to the book prize committee for their consideration. I think I can also confirm that at least one glass of fizz was consumed!

Imaging Stuart Family Politics grew out of my doctoral research and actually began life in response to a single engraving, which I came across in the National Portrait Gallery’s Heinz Archive in 2008. Printed in 1703, it displays oval portraits of four Protestant Princes, Edward VI; Henry, Prince of Wales; Henry, Duke of Gloucester; and William, Duke of Gloucester, with a banner proclaiming ‘Wee [sic] Reign in Heaven’. I was intrigued by the idea that, despite their premature deaths, these figures continued to hold some allure decades and even centuries after their loss. As I probed further, I discovered a series of reproductive failures and untimely young deaths which blighted the Stuart line. Despite this, I also unearthed a wealth of visual material which indicated the importance attached to these lost dynastic hopes. I have always been interested in history’s ‘what ifs’ and the tensions between representation and reality so part of the drive behind the project was to retrieve the reputations of those forgotten Stuarts.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: As you said, these members of the royal Stuarts were mostly forgotten, and – honestly – we don’t know much about them either. Could you therefore please give some brief background for the uninitiated about Henry (son of James VI/I), Henry of Gloucester (son of Charles I), James of Cambridge (son of James II), and William of Gloucester (son of Princess, later Queen, Anne)? Did the representation of these later-born or early deceased children differ in any way to the heirs apparent?

Catriona: Most importantly, all of the princes you mention were Protestant and the impacts of their deaths often became more pronounced as dissatisfaction with their successors developed. Henry, Duke of Gloucester, for example, died when he was twenty-one, just as the Stuarts were returning to power with the Restoration. Although, he was widely mourned at the time, it was not until several decades later, with increased concerns about the politics and religion of his brothers Charles II and James, Duke of York, that he was re-framed as a lost leader, a figure of vanished hope. Similarly, James, Duke of Cambridge, died when he was only three years old and yet some twenty years later his image still held resonance. Following the succession of his Catholic father, James II, and the failed rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s illegitimate but Protestant son, a portrait of the long dead prince was commissioned by his sister, the future Mary II. Willem Wissing’s painting of the little Duke (the cover image of Catriona’s book) highlighted the extended absence of a Protestant male heir, presenting Mary as Britain’s next best hope. In life, representations of these princes were designed to encourage loyalty to the crown but, as time passed, they also assumed meanings beyond royal control. Their afterlives would prove controversial.

Adriaen Hanneman, Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1653), oil on canvas, 104.8 x 87cm, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: In the case of James, Duke of Cambridge, it was his sister Mary who used his image. Most of the other heirs were also quite young, and it seems striking that they are not portrayed in the family context. For example, it seems William of Gloucester was often represented without his mother, Princess Anne. During his life, was he “more important” than her?

Catriona: It is a little more complicated than that. Actually, for reasons of gender, it was unusual for English male heirs to be portrayed with their mothers so the images of Anne and William together which do exist actually reflect their combined significance to the Stuart succession. Certainly, William’s birth was a great boost to Anne’s position after the Glorious Revolution and her motherhood became a crucial part of her public image even after her son’s death. In turn, Anne’s part in the Revolution and her self-proclaimed Englishness were important for William’s portrayal. Together they represented a bright future for the Protestant Stuart line.

After Willem van de Passe, The Triumph of King James and his August Progeny (third state, c.1660), engraving, 32 x 38cm. 283000, Biographical History of England, extra-illustrated by Richard Bull, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: Following on from this, when it became apparent that the dynasty would pass on through the female line rather than the male line, the Stuart heirs like Mary of Orange or Sophia of Hanover were still pictured in their more traditional roles opposite men – as daughter, as consort or as mother. Are there any depictions of them in a more martial role or have they been associated with more manly and vigorous attributes? If not, why?

Catriona: Not really. There is a lost portrait of the sixteen-year-old Mary as Minerva but, generally, her depiction conforms to tradition, presenting her with reference to the men in her life. Similarly, Sophia is portrayed as a matriarch, the founder of a long line of future kings. The representation of Protestant piety is also central to both women’s public images. Given their rather conventional lives as royal women, this is not really surprising. Both Mary and Sophia were political pawns in the international marriage market and, upon their entry into wedlock, were supposed to secure the line and produce offspring. As heir to the throne, their representations continued to reflect those gendered expectations. This was an age when artists and patrons were predominantly male. Even images of Elizabeth I as heir subscribed to the conventions of female portraiture. Women’s agency and its portrayal had to be negotiated carefully.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: In your book you are saying that “the fine arts have often been viewed in isolation – both from popular and material culture and from contemporary political, religious and intellectual developments.” Yet, they are so interconnected. What do you think is the reason behind that separation?

Catriona: Firstly, study of the art of seventeenth-century Britain remains an emerging field and some of its most important scholarly contributions are now decades old. As a result, reassessments of the material and its literature have stalled. A traditional focus on connoisseurship, form and technique has prevailed until recently. Indeed, it has taken historians, such as Malcolm Smuts and Kevin Sharpe, to forge ahead and re-present the art history of early modern Britain as an interconnected cultural history. We need to value the – sometimes idiosyncratic – art of the seventeenth century as much for the stories it can tell as for its visual qualities. Steadily, historians and art historians are embracing this approach and producing works which demonstrate the pervasiveness of the visual as a complex social and political language during this time.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: So, after already winning a prize for your very first monograph – what can we expect next from you? Are you further working in the interdisciplinary field connecting art history and history?

Catriona: I am just beginning to get my teeth into a new monograph project which will explore the origins and development of public sculpture as an art of political communication in early modern Britain. Under the Stuart dynasty, monuments played a pivotal role in the negotiation of authority. The imposition of a royal sculptural presence, in strategically-selected urban locations, articulated the reach of royal dominion. In turn, though, sculptures became physical sites for public interventions, which both supported and contested Stuart government. Covering portrait busts, public statuary and tomb monuments, as well as temporary festival sculpture and ceremonial effigies, I hope this project will expose the complex processes through which the Stuart monumental image was both fashioned and dismantled, while exploring visual languages of power which are still contested today.

Arnold Quellin, James VI and I, 1686, lead, Glamis Castle, Glamis, Angus

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: We wish you the best for this new, exciting research project. Thank you for taking the time to show us this fascinating aspect of the Stuarts!


Royal Studies Journal and Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) Early Career Researcher and Postgraduate Student Article Prize 2018

For the Royal Studies Journal and Canterbury Christ Church
University (CCCU) Early Career Researcher and Postgraduate
Student Article Prize 2018
Launched in June 2015, the Royal Studies Journal Early Career Researcher and
Postgraduate Student Prize is awarded to a current early career researcher or
postgraduate student for the best published, or unpublished, scholarly article or
book chapter (approx. 5,000-10,000 words in length) based upon original
research on any topic falling within the broad geographical and temporal scope
of royal studies. The Royal Studies Journal and our prize sponsor, Canterbury
Christ Church University (CCCU), are committed to assisting, encouraging, and
supporting the career development of early career researchers and postgraduate
students in a highly competitive professional research environment.

Extended closing date for nominations is March 31, 2018. Further particulars and the nomination form are
available via the Royal Studies Journal website at:
For further information, please contact the prize convenor, Dr Zita Eva Rohr or the
Journal Editor-in-Chief, Dr Elena Woodacre

Interview with Jennifer Mara DeSilva

Jennifer Mara DeSilva is an Associate Professor of History at Ball State University (Indiana, USA). She has written several articles about the papal Masters of Ceremonies and edited collections examining the reformist behaviour of early modern bishops and the coercive process of sacralizing of space in the premodern world. Her current research focuses on how individuals and groups at the Papal Court established identities through office-holding, rituals, and relationships with groups and sites. Please see our previous interview with Jennifer at

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: Thank you so much for talking with us! So the canonical age for cardinals was 30, which many people probably find surprising in the premodern era – a lot of undergraduate students don’t necessarily think people in the past lived that long! Why was the age for appointment 30 and does that suggest anything about life expectancy?

Jennifer: Calculating life expectancy in the premodern world is problematic. The fact that so many people died as infants or children makes the mortality rate deceptive low. If a man lived past 20 years of age or a woman past successive childbeds, they were likely to live for many years more, barring falling victim to a disease epidemic. With that in mind, we should also remember that there were several canonical ages. The canonical age for becoming a cardinal or a bishop was thirty, which was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent (1545-63). However, the canonical age for other ecclesiastical offices – tonsured monk, deacon, priest – varied over time and according to the authority. Most likely this says more about the vision of man’s intellectual frailty and potential, than it does about how long people lived. Yet, even with these age thresholds articulated, we would be hard pressed to find a medieval or early modern depiction of a cardinal that was not modeled on a much older man. Indeed, many modern films use the same stereotype of bearded maturity, decades past thirty, when depicting the College of Cardinals. This suggests that canonical ages functioned as guidelines illustrating a hierarchy of offices and the need for experience-based wisdom in those office-holders.

The broad population that the premodern College of Cardinals embraced can be seen in two sixteenth-century portraits: An Unknown Young Cardinal by a follower of Titian (16th century), now at Petworth House, National Trust, UK and Titian’s Cardinal Pietro Bembo (Samuel H. Kress Collection, c.1540), at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. The unknown young cardinal is likely under the canonical age of thirty, while Pietro Bembo was about seventy when Titian painted his portrait, having been elevated to the College in 1539.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: Your article talks about the life stage adolescentia (14-28 years old). Is this life stage at all similar to that of today’s teenager?

Jennifer: Yes and no. In the premodern era, depending on one’s economic status, this phase could include years spent as an apprentice and journeyman worker, as a novice, or at university. By the age of 28 most men were still only approaching the point at which they could afford to start their own household, enter a guild as a master, or hold a civic or ecclesiastical office of power. In that sense adolescentia was a stage of continued dependence or training. This might seem similar to the lengthening period that today many people spend in post-graduate studies or research before landing a first full-time and permanent job in their chosen field. Of course, in contrast to this period’s characterization as “in-training,” financially, intellectually, and emotionally, teenagers today (13-19 years old) face the same stereotypes that Bernardino of Siena and Girolamo Savonarola identified in early modern adolescents. Some things have barely changed.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: How big was the College of Cardinals? One of the reform decrees the article quoted mentioned there shouldn’t be two men from the same mendicant order, which really seems to limit options!

Jennifer: Over the course of the fifteenth century the College of Cardinals grew. Although reform decrees limited the College to a maximum of twenty-six members, after the 1450s the population fluctuated between the high twenties and the low thirties. Through the 1500s the College continued to grow, reaching a maximal plateau of seventy members. In 1587 Pope Sixtus V reinforced this ceiling by decree and it continued until the late 1950s when Pope John XXIII and his successors allowed it to creep upwards. However, even by the late sixteenth century very little store was placed in the fifteenth-century limits, and the mendicant orders played a diminishing role in cardinals’ origins. Many men elevated to the cardinalate in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were secular canons who had held positions in the pope’s household or in the Curia.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: Your article mentions that the pope is often criticized for these under-aged cardinals but these youngsters are appointed anyway. Who was criticizing the pope for this? Protestants? Or the secular rulers who benefitted?

Jennifer: Secular rulers rarely suggested that fewer cardinals be appointed. Through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they were more concerned with balancing factions in the College of Cardinals between themselves. This was especially true of France and Spain. Nevertheless, criticism sprung from both Catholics and Protestants, as well as some members of the College of Cardinals. Tension existed between those who had been promoted before thirty years of age and those who sought the promotion of under-aged relatives, against outsiders who had either had no skin in the game (historians of deceased popes) or profited from highlighting continued Catholic abuses (Protestants).

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: How much resistance did popes offer to the appointment of under-aged cardinals? Did your research turn up any young cardinal candidates who were never appointed or were made to wait until after they turned 30 for papal appointment?

Jennifer: Each promotion occurred because of a distinct assortment of motives and pressures. In the same way that popes objected to adult candidates with unsuitable pasts, there is evidence of reluctance to elevate very young men to the College. In several instances adolescent or pre-adolescent nominees were required to wait several years before their promotion was publicized, during which time they were prohibited from assuming the office’s dress or title. In all cases, these nominees were members of ruling families that were important to the pope. While none of these men were forced to wait until they turned thirty, this practice suggests that there was a widespread acknowledgement that one could undermine the authority inherent in the office, if the nominee was too far from the canonical age.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: Why have historians been so attached to the idea that these under-age cardinals were the relatives of sitting popes rather than elites from Catholic states?

Jennifer: Into the twentieth century the papacy stood as an emblem of difference separating Catholicism from other Christian denominations, but also as an emblem of human invention and corruption. While denominational prejudice has largely left the discipline of History, centuries-old criticism that emphasized the pope’s autocratic rule and ability to create cardinals merged with disapproval of the swift social mobility that election to the papacy brought. The result was that papal nephews, sons, and grandsons, many of whom were underage, attracted so much attention and criticism that effectively they obscured the other men who profited in a similar but less conspicuous fashion. The under-aged papal kin provoked a far greater response than under-aged nobles, who traditionally were expected to compete for titles and wealth in a way that was unseemly for the relatives of a cleric.

Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena: Thank you again for you time and participation! What is next for you?

Jennifer: You are very welcome, Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena! This year I am one of the inaugural fellows of Ball State University’s Digital Scholarship Lab, where I am using timeline, mapping, and networking software to explore how Bolognese patricians competed for place and power. My current project is a digital study of how patrician families in Bologna, Italy, used offices, both ecclesiastical and lay, to compensate for limited access to executive civic authority. These tools offer exciting new insights and comparative opportunities for studying the past.

Interview with Glenn Richardson

Glenn Richardson is Professor of Early Modern History at St. Mary’s University, London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association. He specializes in the history of Tudor England and its political and cultural relations with Renaissance Europe. He has published extensively on the topic and is currently working on a biography of Cardinal Wolsey. We caught up with him to discuss his article for the Royal Studies Journal, “The King, the Cardinal-Legate and the Field of Cloth of Gold” in the special issue on Renaissance Cardinals which he edited.

Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: Good day Prof. Richardson and thank you for taking some time to do this interview!

You have written a very interesting article on one of the most fascinating characters of Tudor England. Thomas Wolsey came from a common family, and advanced to the second-highest position in the kingdom by his clerical career. Was this still a common occurrence in the early modern period, or was Wolsey indeed a huge exception? Was the promotion of “new men” perhaps a characteristic of the Tudor era, given the political background of the War of the Roses, the new dynasty and the lack of trust for old families?

Glenn Richardson: The early years of Henry VIII up to the period with the break with Rome were still very much dominated by the clerical estate. Many of the king’s leading counsellors and opinion-formers were senior clerics, like Fox, Warham, and Ruthall who (unlike many of their French or Spanish or German counterparts) were from gentry or commoner backgrounds. It was into this clerical establishment that Wolsey himself was first drawn through the patronage of Fox. His background was therefore not perhaps as exceptional as might first be thought, but his meteoric and stratospheric rise certainly was. The first two Tudor kings did directly or indirectly, bring into royal service numbers of ‘new men’ with backgrounds in law and the emerging humanities rather than theology and church administration, based on their competence and capacity for work – and Wolsey was certainly one of those.

Banner of Cardinal Wolsey

Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: And Wolsey had indeed done the king many services but it seems that Henry’s desired annulment of his first marriage became the cardinal’s Achilles heel. He appears ambitious but also very calculating, a man who knew well what and whom he was dealing with. Would you say that it was basically an unfortunate accumulation of circumstances that brought him down or did he overreach himself in the eyes of Henry VIII?

Glenn Richardson: It is true that Wolsey had made his entire career by giving the king what he wanted. He was able to give Henry a high international profile by means other than warfare for a long time but that tied his fortunes very tightly to the uncertain world of European politics. Had the Sack of Rome by Charles V’s rebellious troops in April-May 1527 not happened, it is possible that Pope Clement VII might have granted Henry the annulment of his marriage that he sought, but dependent as he was on the protection of Charles for his own and Florentine family’s interests, Clement was not going to do anything to bite the hand that might yet feed him – whatever the theological arguments for annulment Henry mounted. Wolsey was quite conventional, if imaginative, in his thinking and made strenuous efforts to secure his aim through all kinds of channels and suggested ways forward but, yes, an accumulation of adverse circumstances prevented him from doing all he might have done to achieve his aim. The failure of the Blackfriars’ legatine court and the signing at the same time of the Peace of Ladies between Charles V and Francis I, left Henry without the annulment he had sought and isolated in Europe. It finally undermined his confidence in Wolsey.

Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: You argue convincingly that Wolsey’s loyalty lay with the king’s interests much more than with the church’s, but how were those loyalties perceived towards the end of his career and afterwards? Was he perhaps even accused of being a papal spy and was his deposition partly a statement to the pope?

Pope Leo X (right) with Cardinal Giulio de Medici (left)

 Glenn Richardson: Wolsey was never in favour of the king’s divorce, a fact which he asked Henry to acknowledge publicly at the Blackfriars’ trial. This was in answer to allegations that he had somehow sought to bring a divorce about. In 1529, Wolsey was caught between a king in whose interests he had largely run the Church in England (through his legatine powers), and the papacy that had granted him those powers but for whom he had in fact done comparatively little. He fell only because he could not, for once, give the king all that he wanted.  I don’t think there was any suggestion that Wolsey was acting as the pope’s ‘agent’ in preventing the legatine court arriving at a decision favourable to Henry (although his fellow legate Campeggio almost certainly was). Subsequently, as part of the posthumous vilification of him by the chronicler Edward Hall and others, Wolsey was portrayed as both a papal dogsbody, and a man with an overweening ambition for the papal crown himself. Neither allegation can really be substantiated.

 Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: How then, was Wolsey perceived in Vatican City and how were the events you described in your article received there?

Glenn Richardson: The events which led to the creation of the Treaty of Universal Peace in 1518 and the Field of Cloth of Gold two years later were well reported and understood in Rome. Leo X had papal legates in England and France and the German lands for the negotiation of what he had intended as a truce between Christian princes and which Wolsey converted into an international non-aggression pact apparently sponsored by Henry but organized entirely by himself. They reported back to Leo regularly. There were French, Imperial and Venetian ambassadors at the English court, and in Rome, who (for their own varied interests) kept the pope well informed about Wolsey’s status and reputation in England and he was perceived rightly, if regretfully, as the key to Henry himself. Wolsey was seen as ambitious for England, pompous and difficult to deal with but impossible to ignore – so a mix of threats and inducements of various kinds were offered. The key to Wolsey in turn, was his desire for permanent legatine status in England. This, Leo was reluctant to give because he had no confidence that such an appointment would make Wolsey work more for him than for his king. He was right to be cautious.

Close up from the Field of Cloth of Gold ©Kent Rawlinson

Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: So the pope was indeed suspicious of Wolsey. At the same time he could not openly act against the peace alliances because it would have made him look hypocritical. Did he perhaps try to undermine them in any other way?

Glenn Richardson: There was little trust between Leo X and Wolsey and the pope constantly sought to undermine Wolsey’s ‘universal peace’ of 1518, in which he had no more than a walk-on role, by trying to get Henry to ally with Charles V against Francis I of France. Even as Henry and Francis met at the Field, Leo was in effect promising to make Wolsey a legate for life (something Wolsey very much wanted) if he could bring about an anti-French alliance, in order to force Francis to relinquish his hold on Milan. In the end this did come about in 1521, but that was because by then Wolsey and Henry had finally recognized that for all the talk of Henry’s being the ‘arbiter’ of Christendom, war between Francis and Charles was all but inevitable and Henry had to be kept on the likely winning side. So Leo got what he wanted (without having to grant Wolsey lifetime legatine status) and was comprehended in the anti-French alliance in November 1521. Even then Wolsey made clear that it would be Henry who determined the timetable for action against France, not Leo.

 Elena, Cathleen and Kristen: Your analysis show that Wolsey was a very complex character. It must be difficult to do him justice on screen. Yet, Wolsey has been depicted quite a lot recently in historical dramas like “Tudors” and “Wolf Hall”. What do you think of these portrayals?

Glenn Richardson: Wolsey is such a difficult character to portray. All the contemporary, or near contemporary, descriptions we have of him emphasize his arrogance, his pomposity and bombast, his cleverness, and his ambitiousness and this has given the lead to actors for generations. Many sources also acknowledge, however, his personal charm and sense of humour (especially for Henry VIII), his eloquence, his capacity for imaginative diplomacy, his considerable administrative competence, a desire to see the kingdom of England well governed, and his enormous appetite for sheer hard work. No recent portrayal captures the balance of these aspects of his personality very well, and having Sam Neil’s Wolsey in The Tudors cut his own throat in despair was just stupid. In my opinion the one portrayal than comes closest to capturing the many varied aspects of Wolsey’s personality and his role as Henry’s chief advisor is Anthony Quale’s subtle and highly nuanced performance in the 1969 film Anne of the Thousand Days.

Elena, Cathleen and Kristen: Richard Burton did quite a nice job as well in this movie playing Henry VIII. You also compiled an issue on Cardinals for the Royal Studies Journal. Could you please tell us a bit more about the role of cardinals at courts, in government, and within royal society?

Glenn Richardson: I have long found Cardinals an interesting group of people and historical subject in themselves, particularly those of the Renaissance period and after. They, more than other senior clerics, embody the close connections between Church and State, belief and politics in the early-modern period. I suppose my interest in them derives from that in monarchy and royal courts. They were at once enigmatic and impressive creatures, the electors of the popes who were the spiritual monarchs of Christendom, sometimes for the better and very often for the worse. After all one had to be a cardinal to be a pope and the papal Curia was, arguably, Christian Europe’s earliest and most complex royal court. I find their roles at Rome and in their home kingdoms, principalities and republics as agents of the papal rule interesting insofar as they always had to face in two directions, towards the papacy as its chief advisors, agents and representatives, ‘the princes of the Church’, but also back towards their own families as the majority in this period were of noble blood (and not a few from royal lines). Royal authority and papal authority had ideally to work in tandem, at least until the Reformation, and yet frequently did not do so very well at all. No two cardinals resolved the inherent contradictions of their ‘Janus-like’ position in quite the same way. Those kinds of questions and considerations were very much at the heart of the 2015 conference on them as ‘diplomats and patrons’ in relation to monarchs, which prompted the current issue.

Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: Thank you very much for answering our questions and giving us a deeper insight into the subject! We are looking forward to reading your biography on Cardinal Wolsey. Apart from the book, what are your next projects?

Glenn Richardson: I have a number of things that I have been tinkering away at for some time to complete including an article on an oration delivered by the University of Paris to Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII, when she married Louis XII of France in 1514. It is a very arcane speech but interesting on showing how a French academic can be nice about England (and to an English woman) when he needs to be! I have a study of leading courtiers of Francis I of France les gentilshommes de la chambre du roi, to complete, making comparisons with the courtiers of Henry VIII. I am working on an article about Sir William Fitzwilliam, one of Henry VIII’s leading courtiers and am also pursuing my research into masculinity and kingship in the early-modern period. The 500th anniversary of the Field of Cloth of Gold is coming up in 2020 and I am working with the Historic Royal Palaces agency in Britain and several TV production companies on exhibitions and possible collaborations to mark that event.

Elena, Cathleen, Kristen: These sound like some ambitious and interesting projects. We wish you good luck with your endeavors!

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey


RSJ Prize for Articles and Book Chapters (CCCU-Prize)

Interview with Zita Rohr

Dr Zita Rohr is a member of the Royal Studies Network who is well known to participants of the Kings & Queens conference series. Aside from her research into medieval and late medieval queens and gender politics, she also coordinates the CCCU Article Prize for Early Career Researchers. We caught up with her to discuss the art of writing a prize-worthy research article!

Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: Hi Zita, and thanks for taking some time during the Australian summer to do this interview! First of all, could you please tell us a bit about the CCCU Article Prize in general? What are the conditions, who can submit, and so on?

Zita: My absolute pleasure, I am always happy and keen to sing the praises of this great initiative. Launched in June 2015, the RSJ Early Career and Post-graduate student prize is awarded annually to a current early career researcher for the best published or unpublished scholarly article-length work (approx. 5,000-10,000 words), which should be based on original research on any topic that falls within the scope of royal studies. The RSJ and the prize sponsor, Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), are committed to assisting, encouraging, and supporting the career development of early career and young researchers in a highly competitive professional research environment.

Entrants for the Prize must be current Early Career Researchers. Early Career Researchers (ECR) are researchers who are within 5 years of the start of their research careers when they submit their applications. The applicant must be working towards or have a PhD or equivalent research doctorate, awarded within the last 5 years.  At the time of application, applicants must not be in a tenured or permanent academic position.  Entrants may make only one submission to the Prize per calendar year.  Contributions will be accepted on a year-round basis, with a submission deadline of 1 March 2018. The judging panel looks for exceptional research, and the ability to communicate it, emerging from early career stage scholars.

Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: Speaking from our own experiences, all early career researchers, two of us non-native English speakers, it is quite challenging to write an article. One has to figure out the overall argument, connect the case study to method and theory, discuss literature, think about audience and style, struggle with unwritten rules of academic presentation, and so on. What advice could you give researchers on how to approach such a project?

Zita: From personal experience, I would observe that, in the process of pulling together doctoral research, many interesting possibilities for further consideration/emphasis emerge – which may, or may not, have to do with the task at hand. The article format (5,000-10,000) words is an excellent framework within which to explore such possibilities. We are all very pressed for time, particularly during the earliest stages of our academic careers, yet if one can find the time and the inspiration to explore a particularly tasty morsel of research – or a truly innovative finding, I think that a well-framed article, or scholarly book chapter is a great way to unpick ideas and communicate innovation. So, what advice might I give – advice that has been extended to me by my own generous scholarly mentors, collaborators and good friends? Here is a quick and dirty list which might be worth considering:

  • Have a clear question, idea, great finding to which you seek to respond/communicate.
  • Be able articulate your methodology and argument with clarity and concision. Be precise in your thinking, and in communicating your thoughts. Think Hemingway rather than Proust.
  • Edit sober. By this I guess Papa Hemingway meant that we should hone our prose, and be ruthless with our cuts – not merely to keep the word count down, but moreover to achieve beautiful, simple (but not simplistic) communication.
  • Do not assume that your reader is an expert in your field – but likewise do not go overboard in your efforts to backfill.
  • This is perhaps the hardest: show your writing to as many people as you can corner, who are willing and able to make objective comments and suggestions. Climb out of your silo – it is sometimes our harshest critics who will give us the most honest appraisal of our work. This hurts – I know from very personal experience – but once one gets over the hurt feelings and has a good hard look at both the work in question and the criticism of it, the work improves. I am still learning about my writing. The more of it one does, the better and stronger it becomes.


Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: Conventions are very different, already between the UK, US, and Australia (never mind, in other languages, disciplines, and traditions). How can prospective writers deal with this?

Zita: We accept articles and scholarly book chapters for consideration in languages other than English. I always seek out native, or near native speakers, for these who likewise are specialists in the field of the particular research under consideration for the prize. Each submission is allocated a minimum of two specialist external readers who comment upon and grade the submissions according to specific and uniform criteria. Regarding conventions, we do not expect contributors to alter the way they structure their submissions – consistency is the key.

Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: One of the most difficult questions is always the one which sources to use. It can become very complicated, also from a financial point of view, to always get access to the original sources or the original quote. How important is it for an ambitious young scholar to always be on track of the “original” or “best” source?

Zita: On this, I am pretty much in lock-step with our man Erasmus, “Sed in primis ad fontes ipsos properandum” (Above all, one must hasten to the sources themselves). I realize that this is not always possible, or even feasible – living down here in the antipodes, Australian scholars of the pre-modern and early modern European world have a particularly hard time of it. That said, with increasing digitization of primary material, things are getting much easier and it behoves scholars (ECR and established) to persist and dig down into them. Interlibrary loans and electronic databases are invaluable aids to current research undertaking – as are digitally-connected networks of scholars and academics. There is nothing worse than reading books and articles that seem to rely only upon ‘edited highlights’ drawn from the research of other scholars. But, all of this takes time, and lots of it. When I think of the amount of excavating and reading I was obliged to do to unearth the life and deeds of Yolande of Aragon from original and secondary sources, my head fairly spins. That said, I still think that the ad fontes approach is still the best and most reliable method for getting at the ‘truth’.

Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: There is a lot of sensational or pseudo-scientific literature around that is often frowned upon but sometimes offers an interesting point of thought or simply a chance to compare. Can you give us any advice on how to make the leap and use such sources without risking the quality of our scientific work?

Zita: My suggested strategy would be to engage with such source material, ideas, and points of view as and when appropriate, but I am quite leery of hybridizing or over-popularizing academic research. There are many other fora where this approach might be considered; magazine articles, blogs, chat rooms etcetera. I am a bit old-school, I like to keep the standards high in scholarly undertaking and writing. With so much information out there these days, it is very easy to muddy the waters with unsubstantiated thought-bubbling that is not sufficiently backed up with hard scholarly evidence.

Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: Could you tell us a bit more about the side of the judges for the CCCU Prize? What are the criteria, and what are the most critical points?

Zita: There is a jury made up of three judges, who make the final call on the award of the prize. In order to be able to do this disinterestedly, and for us to be equipped with the very best advice, each submission is allocated at least two external readers in a double-blind review process. The jury looks for rigorous, exceptional, original research, and convincing results expressed in clear and effective prose.

The external readers are asked to make comments that highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the submission under review, and to make a recommendation as to the submission’s worthiness for the consideration of the award. The external readers are also asked to score the submissions in three categories viz. Originality and Depth of Research; Analysis and Argument; and Presentation and Clarity. The data are then collated for careful consideration and comparison by the three-member jury who will come to a definitive collegial decision. Should the readers indicate that none of the submissions meet the criteria for exceptionality, and the jury agrees, or if insufficient submissions are received, then the prize will not be awarded. This was the case for the 2017 campaign.

In closing, I wish to reiterate that we should call upon our wider networks to publicize this important prize. The exceptional work of post-graduate and early career researchers needs support and encouragement, and we need their fresh insights and ideas if we are to continue our work in promoting the importance of royal studies and the nurturing of new talent in the field.

Cathleen, Elena, Kristen: Zita, Thank you very much for giving us (and prospective early career article writers) some insights into the CCCU Prize.

Zita: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss this important initiative.

Are you interested in submitting your research for the RSJ – ECR Article/Book Chapter Prize, or the RSJ – Boook Prize, both sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU)? Check out all information here, the guidelines, and the nomination forms for the Article and Book Prizes.
The next deadline for submission is March 1, 2018. Good luck!



Website Review: History of Royal Women

Bildschirmfoto 2017-11-18 um 09.35.50

The History of Royal Women Website is a community project run by a group of enthusiastic women from various countries and professional backgrounds. The website is well structured, lovingly designed and regularly updated.

Articles about royal women are sorted according to the kingdom they married into or, if they remained celibate, according to the kingdom they were born in. Most of the articles are biographic and offer a general overview of their subjects’ lives, but some discuss more specific topics. There is also a section called “special series” covering various topics or regions. A search button at the bottom of the page will lead a visitor to all articles concerning the royal woman he or she is looking for.

The section for “Places to visit” includes royal residences and burial places, travel guides and a helpful list of ongoing exhibitions worldwide focusing on royal women. There is also a strong focus on articles about television series and documentaries.

The home page features the more recent posts, the must reads and book reviews that cover everything from historical fiction to biographies to more scientific literature. There is also a Youtube channel attached to the website featuring mostly videos on sights and exhibitions.

Some of the articles posted are taken from various journals and newspapers covering a wide range of topics and time frames which shows the dedication of the website contributors.

Yet, the website could extend certain topics and establish perhaps a section for visual portrayals like Royal Women in art. Most of the articles display several paintings, mostly portraits but there is not much information on the artists and which museum or private collection they could be found in.

As stated above, much of the biographic information is rather general and can often be found on other websites as well. Many writers make references in their articles but often very few and some do not indicate their sources at all.

Those who are working on the topic, perhaps preparing a presentation, will find this website a good starting point for some overall information and useful links. Since the use of a limited number of sources often creates a one-sided picture, university students and scholars have to treat certain information with caution. Although the website is not primarily directed at scholars of history, it offers some interesting reading and perhaps a suggestion for an article. One might also find a shortcut to useful books, an exhibition nearby or a captivating documentary to watch.

It is an ambitious project with information on an impressive number of royal women and women close to royalty, for instance mistresses. The website’s strength lies in the variety of topics, in its visuality and in the commitment of the team. For the majority of the contributors, history is more a passion than their career and for anyone with the same passion in history, this website has much to offer, if not on a professional, then at least on a private level.


Kings & Queens VI in Madrid: Interview with Rocío Martínez López

Readers with a good memory might remember Rocío Martínez López from our earlier interview on her winning the first Essay Prize of the Royal Studies Journal. She is also one of the main organizers of the next Kings & Queens VI Conference at Madrid in September 2017, and will tell us a bit more about what we can expect from the first Kings& Queens Conference in Spain. Please make sure to include #KQ6 on social media, and follow the conference on the same hashtag if you cannot be there!

Cathleen & Kristen: Hi Rocío! Great to have you here again, Rocío, establishing somewhat of a continuity and hopefully showing our readers the people behind the Royal Studies Journal, the Royal Studies Network, and the conference series Kings & Queens. First, the conference is now “on tour” for the third year in a row (before going back home to Winchester next year, and then again going to Sicily). Could you tell us a bit more about how the conference came to Madrid, Spain?

Rocío: Thanks to you, Cathleen and Kristen. The work you do with the blog and other activities for the Royal Studies Network is truly remarkable. Well, regarding your question, I went to the Kings and Queens series’ congresses that were wonderfully organized in Winchester and Lisbon in the past few years, although, unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Clemson for its last edition. I found myself amazed by the concept of Royal Studies when I went to my first congress in Winchester as well as by the depth of the discussions, the variety of topics and the great expertise showed by the researchers that were present there. I thought that Spain and Spanish scholars have much to offer to this field, as there has been a great development of several lines of research linked to the Royal Studies in the last few years, but that their work were not very well known by the English-speaking experts I met in both congresses and that there should be a way to give their work more exposure in an English-speaking, international context. Likewise, I noticed that the Royal Studied Network wasn’t very well known in Spain, where a great deal of people interested in this kind of studies right now might be interested in joining. I really thought that the contact between the Royal Studies Network and its members, and the flourishing Spanish royal scholars would be enormously helpful for both parts, so to host one of the Kings & Queens congresses in Madrid would be a wonderful way to bring them all together. I talked to Ellie Woodacre about this possibility around three years ago and asked her if she had thought about the possibility of bringing the congress to Madrid sometime in the future, and she showed a great enthusiasm for the idea. At first, I just wanted to bring Kings & Queens to Madrid, and I didn’t think I could have been the chosen one to make this wish come true. I really thought they would choose someone with more experience. But Ellie, who has always showed great support for young career scholars, trusted us with this task and the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), has been always wonderfully supportive with this whole project. So, three years and the support of a lot of wonderful people after, Kings & Queens 6 is just a couple of days away!

Cathleen & Kristen: The organisation of such a conference is always a difficult matter with a lot of coordination, planning, and stressing out over problems going on. Could you tell us a bit more about how you are doing it in Madrid this year, e.g. who else is in the organisation committee, or how you divided all the work?

Rocío: Of course. Organizing the congress of this size is always a challenge. At first, we didn’t expect to host so many people and were working with a number of attendants closer to the ones who went to Winchester and Portugal. But we ended up receiving about 170 paper proposals from all over the world! The real preparation began more than a year and half ago when the project was officially presented in the Department of Early Modern History of the UNED, and they gave us not only their blessing, but their whole support. The institutional support given to us from the UNED was outstanding and we are very grateful for it. The number of people who could collaborate with us was a little small and all had their own research and teaching responsibilities, so the organization was quite a challenge. Also, one of our principal concerns was money. A congress this size is an important investment and we needed to know we would be able to back up financially all our promises. We also wanted to try to get some additional funding to help young historians or early career experts without a fixed post to come to Madrid, as to come to this kind of meetings is also very challenging economically for young historians and a lot of great new researchers haven’t been able to travel to big congresses like this one for economic reasons. We wanted to do our best to help and thanks to the UNED and the work of my co-organizer, Antonio José Rodríguez Hernández, we could obtain a grant which gave us the funds to organize the congress. Through the aforementioned grant, the UNED allowed us to offer 42 grants for young historians from around the world, to be able to organize the congress without having to impose a registration fee and to subsidise the outings. Without the UNED’s support, that would have been impossible to achieve. Once the economic part was settled, the real work began. We drafted the Call for Papers and began to receive proposals almost immediately. They were evaluated by two different experts from our Committee linked to the specific discipline of each proposal. Also, we began to work to organize all kinds of things that were needed for the congress, from the organization of the outings to El Escorial and the Prado Museum to contingencies as the reservation of the rooms for the congress, to the preparation of materials and the crafting of materials (just the bio & abstracts document is several hundreds of pages long). At the same time, we have tried to attend questions and petitions of our attendees to the best of our ability. All of this while we also attended to our other obligations in the university which, especially in certain times of the year, are enormously demanding. As none of us were devoted only to the organization of the congress and everyone had their own obligations to deal with, everyone in the committee took responsibility of the things they could do at the time and we are grateful for the help of lots of people. Besides Antonio José and me, the help of Luis Ribot, José Antonio Vigara Zafra, Ellie Woodacre, Julio Arroyo Vozmediano, Cristina Agüero, Ana Echevarría, Diana Carrió, Jitske Jasperse, Maria de la Cruz Carlos Varona, José María Iñurritegui, Marcela Miranda, Sergio Gutiérrez, Anabel del Prado, José Luis Sancho, Almudena Pérez de Tudela, Antonio Rubio Sánchez and many, many more was invaluable. A lot of people showed us support in concrete matters in all this time and we are very grateful to them, too. I especially want to thank Patrimonio Nacional and Museo del Prado, who offered us all the help we requested to organize the outings. And I apologize if I forgot someone!

El Escorial (top) and Prado (bottom)

Cathleen & Kristen: That does sound like we can expect one of the biggest Kings & Queens Conference to date, and thank you for spending so much time on this, and making sure, we will feel welcome!

Another topic: Can you tell us a bit more about the state of research in Royal Studies in Spain? From the outside, it looks like a very central topic with lots of interesting stuff being done on medieval king- and queenship, and of course on the Habsburg studies. Also, how does being a modern monarchy reflect on this field?

Rocío: That is a very interesting question. As I appointed before, the royal studies are flourishing in Spain. I can safely say that the royal studies in Spain are trending right now. In different Spanish universities and research groups, we find great works focused on different aspects of royal studies. For example, in the Department of Early Modern History of the UNED we have some of the leading experts in the study of seventeenth century Europe, like Luis Ribot, Juan Antonio Sánchez Belén, José María Iñurritegui and Antonio José Rodríguez Hernández, who had made great advances in the knowledge and research of this period in the fields of political, military and diplomatic history. This last aspect, as well as others like the representation of power, royal propaganda and the relationship between nobility, royalty and art is also well represented in our Department of History of Art, with experts like the aforementioned José Antonio Vigara, Diana Carrió and young researcher Cristina Agüero. Some of these topics are also present in our Department of Medieval History, to which the member of our organization Ana Echeverría also belongs. In the University Rey Juan Carlos, there is currently a great and very interesting project focused on Royal Sites and its varied functions, composed by experts like José Eloy Hortal, Félix Labrador Arroyo, Koldo Trápaga and Gijs Verstegeen, who are going to present a panel in the congress and they are also going to present the latest developments of the project they are working on aided by the latest technological advances. Also, the Autonoma University is doing a great work in the field, with experts like Antonio Álvarez-Ossorio Alvariño, who is going to give the closing lecture, and the activities and projects linked to the Instituto Universitario “La Corte en Europa” (IULCE), whose new director, Manuel Rivero Rodríguez, is also going to be with us, as well as other members, like Javier Revilla Canora. In addition, we will have with us experts from the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) of Spain, like Rubén González Cuerva, who has recently published a book with Brill about court factions in Early Modern Europe’s court which is very promising. And, to connect with your last question, last but not in any way least we have the Complutense University, which is going to be very well represented by several of their leading researchers, like the vice rector David Alonso. From said university, we are going to be able to listen to some remarkable experts in Medieval, History of Art and Early Modern History, but we also count with a very interesting panel focused in Contemporary royal history leaded by Raquel Sánchez. Royal Contemporary History  (meaning their study from Isabel II and Alfonso XII’s reigns onwards) as such weren’t a big line of research in Spain until recent years and its study was relatively limited to royal biographies, law and constitutional history and works of political history that, in most cases, weren’t focused on topics related to royal history and this approach was just a little part of a bigger idea, like the works related to the evolution of the Spanish political and constitutional system from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy, for example. But this is slowly changing and we hope that his congress can be a way to show this change. Other Spanish institutions, like the University of Barcelona, of Zaragoza, of Valencia or of Valladolid, amongst others, are also well represented in this congress. To sum up, we have representative of many of the leading research institutions of Spain and we hope our initial intention, which was to give exposure in an international setting to the leading Spanish research institutions and their researchers and forge a successful relationship between said Spanish researchers and the people linked to the Royal Studies Network, will come true.

Cathleen & Kristen: So, in the conference next week: what can we expect? What is planned, and what should we absolutely not miss when visiting Madrid? Also, could you please tell us a bit how you planned panels and breaks, and what you hope this conference achieves?

Rocío: We have a lot of plans for the congress and we hope for the attendees to enjoy it. We hope to go further than the papers themselves, and for it to be a way for scholars of different parts of the world, who seldom have the opportunity to meet, to exchange points of view, information and projects and maybe for it to be the beginning of a lasting relationship between scholars of different institutions, countries and research interest. I would like to highlight three points that we have worked a lot to bring to reality: firstly, for all the attendees to enjoy the possibility of hear papers of great quality from some of the most important and most interesting researchers  of the whole world, and for it to become a meeting place for hearing of the most innovative trends followed by different countries and universities, interact with researchers of different backgrounds and interests and exchange ideas, information and even plans for future projects and publications. In the second place, we expect for it to be a way to showcase all the possibilities that Spain has to offer in the field of royal studies, both with the presence in the congress of members of the leading Spanish universities and with the presentation of projects, future publications and collaboration that could spark our attendees’ interests. And, in third place, we also intend for it to be a way for young or early career scholars to present their current work in an international setting. Both the Royal Studies Network and the UNED are institutions who are trying very hard to promote young talents and help gifted young scholars to begin and develop their research careers. We hope for this conference to be a way to help them to thrive in their fields of choosing and meet older, more experience scholar who could assist them in the future, at the same time they reward us with new, exciting views, theories and investigations. All of these will be achieved not only through the panels and sessions given, but also with the other activities we planned for the congress, with two exciting guided visits to the great Monastery of San Lorenzo El Real de El Escorial and the Prado Museum and other activities in the congress, like the presentation of the exciting project about royal sites lead by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos which uses the latest advance of technology to recreate and study the Spanish Royal Sites, and a meeting with the Royal Studies Journal’s leading members that will talk to those who are interested about their international publication and how they can become members of their staff, amongst other activities. All of this and much more will take place in during the congress, under the umbrella and support of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED).

Impressions of Madrid

Cathleen & Kristen: Thanks for doing this interview! Is there anything you’d like to add?

Rocío: Just that we really hope that all our attendees enjoy the congress and the activities related to it and that we hope it becomes a milestone in the field of royal history. Also, we hope it is the beginning of many projects, publications and collaborations in the future. And, also, to say that all the members of the organization have worked hard and without stop for months to bring this congress to reality, so I hope everybody enjoys it and can forgive any human error we can commit. We are doing our best and we hope we all have a great experience at Kings and Queens 6!

We hope to see you in Madrid – bring sunglasses, comfortable shoes, great ideas, and share with us your experiences under #KQ6!