Prince Philip: The Centenary

By Sarah Betts with Saira Baker

Today marks 100 years since the birth of Prince Philip on the 10th June 1921 on the island of Corfu as the fifth child, but only son of Prince Andrew (a younger son of King George I of Greece) and his wife Alice of Battenberg (a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria). Philip was thrust on to the global stage in 1947 when he married Princess Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Their marriage lasted over 70 years until he died on the 9th April 2021, just a couple of months short of his hundredth birthday, the longest serving consort in the history of the British Royal Family.

Philip and his life have been written about for decades, but rarely (and only relatively recently) in an academic setting. However, both the changing world around, and the personal circumstances of, Philip’s long life provide a vast array of avenues of academic enquiry to explore that match well with many of the directions being seriously pursued within the now well-established, and burgeoning, field of Royal studies. So we have seen, even before his death, that, as the study of modern and contemporary monarchies begins to garner more scholarly weight, essays focused, or part-focused on discussing him have begun to appear in collections such as Charles Beem and Miles Taylor’s, The Man Behind the Queen, (2014), Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham and Michael D. Kandiah’s The Windsor Dynasty: 1910 to the Present, (2016), and The Routledge History of Monarchy (2019), whilst he also appears as an interesting case study in Edward Owens’s monograph, The Family Firm. Monarchy Mass Media and the British Public, (2019).

Most obviously, Philip fits into the study of consorts and consortship which has been for many years a central facet of Royal Studies, and he is set to feature again in this context in the fourth volume of the major forthcoming collection edited by Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, Joanna Laynesmith, Danna Messer, and Elena Woodacre, English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty. However, as someone born into one of Europe’s many exiled/abolished monarchies who married into its most prominent surviving one, a member of an elite European-wide genetic network of influential and royal families who also saw action in the British Navy as plain Lt. Mountbatten, a consort of multiple realms across the world in a global age, an enthusiastic and sometimes visionary patron of innovation in science, technology, arts, sports, youth leadership and the environment, as a man honoured with a grand Royal funeral in a time of restrictions and hardships of a global pandemic, Philip’s life, lifetime, heritage and legacy offers opportunities for comparison and contextualisation across a variety of current and emerging interdisciplinary approaches to Royal Studies.

Interview with Ann Black

Ann Black is Reader and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Queensland where she is also the Executive Director of Comparative Law, for its Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law. She researches comparative law and legal pluralism with a focus on Asian and Islamic law. She is the author of numerous books and articles, a list of which can be found here. Her article “Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Royalty, Women, and Ideology in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam” is available in the Royal Studies Journal issue 7.2.

RSJ Blog: Thank you for an insightful article about the sultan of Brunei. We learned so much! For those interested in studying Brunei, what languages would a researcher need to know? What archives should a researcher access?

Ann: The local language is Brunei Malay. It is also the official language. However, because Great Britain colonised Brunei, English has been the main language used for government, commerce and law. For example, English is used in the superior courts, and foreign common law judges sit on both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Court reports are in English with most now available online through the Judiciary’s website. Legislation is available in both English and Malay and is similarly available online. Newspapers are available in English and Malay. So whilst knowledge of both is desirable, one can conduct research in English.

RSJ Blog: How did the legacy of British colonialism contribute to authoritarianism in modern Brunei?

Ann: In the colonial government, known as a Residency, all power – executive, legislative and judicial – was concentrated in one person: the British Resident. During that time, the Sultan only had control over the religion of Islam. When Brunei became self-governing, the powers of the Resident transferred to the Sultan who also retained his control over Islam. In essence, Brunei adopted the colonial model of power concentration; referred to as an Islamic Malay Monarchy. There was no participatory democracy in the colonial era. One can speculate as to whether Brunei might be democratic today if the Residency had embedded such practices and concepts..

RSJ Blog: What is the sultan’s “personal” wealth?

Ann: We do not know. The Sultan alone determines the allocation to himself and the royal family from the nation’s revenues, and this is not publicly disclosed. Estimates of his net worth are speculative. Neither the Sultan, nor the family are accountable for how their allocation is spent. Their lifestyles are lavish. For a nation with a population less than half a million people, the royal place, decorated with vast amounts of gold, is the largest in the world. The Sultan has a collection reportedly of 7,000 luxury cars with 500 of those Rolls Royce, which is said to be the world’s largest private car collection..

RSJ Blog: The article mentions that Brunei has nobility. Is a substantial part of the population of Brunei nobles or aristocrats?

Ann: Yes, Brunei has an heredity nobility with a complex structure of titles and entitlements, and the Sultan can award lifetime peerages. I am not sure of what percentage of the population today falls into either category but for a small nation there seems to be many with noble titles.

RSJ Blog: Your article mentions that not everyone is satisfied with the current political system in Brunei. Are these people fighting for constitutional monarchy? No monarchy at all?

Ann: People cannot advocate for change to the system, much less ‘fight’ for it in the stronger sense as occurs in other countries. To question or criticize the current monarchial system is seditious, and because the Sultan is head of Islam, it can be heresy. The recent Syariah Penal Code Order added another layer of censorship upon an already heavily censored society. As there are no elections in Brunei, the Sultan personally appoints Bruneians to government positions that they hold ‘at his pleasure’. There is no government opposition, and without elections, there is little need for political parties. The one political party permitted in Brunei, had to affirm its support for the existing Monarchical system.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for this great contribution to studies of modern monarchy!

The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire

This is a classic: The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire by Leslie P. Peirce (Oxford University Press, 1993). In this excellent text, Peirce presents a nuanced understanding of the Ottoman harem and its dynastic politics for a western audience.

            To start, Peirce explains what the imperial harem was and what it decidedly was not. Orientalist assumptions have profoundly colored how westerners understood the harem, painting sexually lurid pictures. In fact, the harem was not especially sexual but was rather the place where the sultan’s family (his mother, consorts, children, and many, many slave servants) resided. Peirce emphasizes that part of this misunderstanding has come from modern western ideas of public vs private space (something which many historians of queenship are not doubt familiar). While the harem had restricted access, it was a space of power. Even the sultan was generally secluded; Peirce helps readers visualize this by describing how power in the Ottoman world was a function of outer to inner, rather than down to up as in many western places. The closer one moved inward, to the sultan, the greater that person’s power.

            In order to understand the vital role women played in Ottoman sovereignty, Peirce next explains the dynasty’s reproductive strategies and succession practices. Although the first couple of Ottoman rulers made dynastic marriages, that practice quickly came to a halt as the family increased their power. As the premier dynasty in the region, the Ottomans had no need for legitimation through alliances. The trade-off of outside family alliances was not seen as worth the high-status brides. Consequently, the dynasty turned to reproduction through slave concubines, initially following a one mother-one son policy, which was broken in the 1500s. Because the Ottoman dynasty was of such high status, concubines who birthed sons were retroactively ennobled. This enabled these mothers to serve as part of the ruling dynasty.

            Initially, when a prince reached his majority (late teens), he was sent to rule in a provincial city. His mother went with him, and was his main protector and one of his main advisors. This was a high-stakes duty because the dynasty practiced widespread fratricide until the end of the sixteenth century. The Ottoman dynasty as a whole was always regarded as more important than any individual, which sometimes led to fathers executing sons who threatened (or were thought to threaten) the father’s rule. A mother whose son did not became sultan was likely to lose her son to strangulation. In the generations after Süleyman (known as “the Magnificent” in the west), the pattern of father-son succession changed to that of seniority: the eldest male in the dynasty succeeded. A number of elements caused this transition, but the main causes were the ending of princely careers (the princes did not go to the provinces by stayed in the palace), the cessation of fratricide, the sedentarization of the dynasty as offensive war slowed, and the succession of several young sultans. These were all interrelated. When a young sultan who had not proven his reproductive capacity succeeded, it was unwise to execute his brothers and risk the extinction of the dynasty. With the princes remaining in the palace, they were not permitted to reproduce and thereby achieve full adulthood, which meant by around 1600 and beyond, every sultan was of unproven reproductive capacity. Fratricide was also more difficult for the populace to accept when it happened in Istanbul, in prominent view (one sultan was buried with his nineteen underage sons, killed by their elder half-brother). With a series of unproven sultans, the queen mother – valide sultan – became the glue that held the Ottoman dynasty together.

            Peirce explains how the power of early sultans’ favorites, such as Hurrem the favorite of Süleyman, ultimately led to an increase in the power the valide sultan exercised in the 1600s. This power became institutionalized, and was reflected in the massive public works that queen mothers undertook and the huge stipends they received. Since valide sultans were beyond their sexual years (even if they were physically able, they were seen as socially past that stage of life), they were held in higher esteem and possessed greater power and influence than the sultan’s concubines. With the changed mode of succession, the “the relationship between mother and son … became the fundamental dynastic bond, in terms not only of its political utility … but also its public celebration” (229). The valide sultan represented the elder generation and so was the head of the dynastic family. She might even be called on to sanction the deposition of one sultan and his replacement by another Ottoman, again emphasizing how sovereignty was vested in the family as a whole. Her role was particularly important during the early 1600s when a series of youthful and incompetent sultans ruled, but waned over time. Her official role could not infringe on sultanic authority.            

Peirce’s work excellently showcases how the early-modern Ottoman state relied on a family model of rule, although the sultan was obviously supreme. The valide sultan’s role was not a corruption of sovereignty but a necessary part of dynastic rule. The book also details how princesses, through their marriages to high-ranking officials, helped their mothers form blocs of power that could ultimately benefit their brothers. In the Ottoman system, “the principal tension within the dynastic family was generational competition for power” (285). As the family elder, the valide sultan had a vital role, although she could not obstruct the sultan’s exercise of power.

Playing Their Part: Vice-Regal Consorts of New South Wales 1788-2019

Playing Their Part: Vice-Regal Consorts of New South Wales 1788-2019 was edited by Joy Hughes, Carol Liston, and Christine Wright (Royal Australian Historical Society, 2020). You can purchase a digital copy of the fascinating, beautiful, and affordable book here. This book gives a fascinating look into the lives of the women and men who represented the British Monarchy in New South Wales. Although the Governor of New South Wales was an official posting, the role of consort was a required, albeit unofficial, one. Governors who did not have spouses would have a daughter or sister fill the role.

Royal Australian Historical Society

The vice-regal consorts were supposed to set social standards and to be above reproach. It was mainly a social role: the consort was to attend social functions, support charities, and not be overtly political. The consorts played a vital role in ensuring the success of the vice-regal governors, and several of the consorts were instrumental in advancing their spouse’s careers. For instance, the first governor, Phillip, owed a great deal to his two wives, who helped him to advance socially. Other consorts served as secretaries to their husbands, and one, Anna Josepha King (consort 1800-1806) was even known as Queen Josepha (page 31) because she was so helpful to and influential over her husband.

Nearly all of the consorts engaged in traditional feminine patronage, supporting orphans, schools for underprivileged girls, mother and infant health, and later, the Girl Guides. Generally, their social welfare work endeared them to the New South Wales population, although there might still be criticisms in the newspapers about who and how they entertained. The biography of Nea, Lady Robinson (consort 1872-1879), highlights how she was a social success overall, yet was still subtly criticized for not doing “enough to raise standards in social life” (91).

Many of the consorts kept personal diaries and sent many letters, which served as valuable sources for these biographies. A number of the consorts really come alive on the page through these personal anecdotes. Lady Woodward’s comment that she moved around so much she learned she could not plant a lettuce and then eat it (172) was one of many amusing and lively comments in the book. Newspapers also served as a major source for the book, which provided valuable insight into how the media portrayed and perceived the various consorts. While the papers often praised the vice-regal consorts, frequently commenting on their fashion (not much has changed!), the papers would also critique.

Of particular interest is Margaret, Countess of Jersey (consort 1891-1893). Her involvement in the conservative party organization the Primrose League and her role as founding president of the Victoria League “places Lady Jersey as one of the leading imperialists in Edwardian Britain” (106). Her biography highlights some of the ways that aristocratic women promoted imperialism and also reminds readers that women had a vital role to play in enacting British power. While women were disadvantaged in some respects (such as their lack of the vote, which the Countess supported), elite British women also upheld the hierarchies from which they benefited.

The biographies are also microcosms of societal changes. Many of the earlier governors and consorts were gentry, followed by several members of the high nobility. Later, there were many servicemen, until the 1990s, when Governor Samuels was appointed, the first lawyer and Jewish governor. His wife Jacqueline, was an actor who had had a long career in both the arts and at universities. The Samuelses were followed by Sir Nicholas Michael Shehadie, the first male consort, and Governor Professor Marie Bashir. Since 1946, the vice-regal families have been Australian, indicating recognition of the power and prestige of Australia itself.

The book is full of fascinating little facts, such as that Elizabeth Northcott, who served as consort to her father when her mother was ill, was required to curtsy to him when they met in the morning (168)! Grandchildren had to curtsy to their grandfather governor as well (173). Lady Rawson kept a pet kangaroo and some parrots (125).* These biographies also highlight how mobile people were during the colonial era. Many of the consorts had traveled with their spouses around the world, from posts in Canada, South Africa, and India, among others.

Finally, the book has many great images and photographs. Sketches and photographs chronicle the changing face of Government House, while images of many of the consorts provide an intimate touch. For anyone interested in the colonial government of New South Wales, this book will prove invaluable. It is also accessible for people with a general interest in monarchical studies, given that one does not have to be an expert in Australian history to enjoy the biographies. Overall, this book provides a great look into how monarchies showcase their power through “offshoot” (if you will) monarchies.

*This reader was surprised Lady Rawson was the only consort specifically mentioned as keeping a kangaroo as a pet. If I were a vice-regal consort, my number-one goal would be to have at least one pet kangaroo!

Interview with Matthew Firth

RSJ Blog: Hello Matthew, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for us!

You’ve done a fascinating study on the ‘Character of the Treacherous Woman in the passiones of Early Medieval English Royal Martyrs’. Can you give us some background about why you chose this fascinating subject? Why these three royal women in particular?

Matthew: The starting point for this article, as with so much of my research, was the reign of Æthelred ‘the Unready.’ It was a reign that began in murder. Æthelred succeeded to the throne in 978 around the age of ten, following the assassination of his half-brother Edward ‘the Martyr.’ At his side was his mother Ælfthryth. Ælfthryth would wield significant political power in Æthelred’s minority and likely served as queen-regent.

She is a fascinating figure of late tenth-century English history. In contemporary sources Ælfthryth is a powerful and politically active woman: charter witness, landholder, legal advocate, reformer, patron of female religious houses, mediator with the king. She was also England’s first-known native-born queen-consort to be anointed as such. Yet, in the minds of the post-Conquest hagiographers and historians who relayed Edward’s assassination, Ælfthryth’s agency was anathema and it was she, in her thirst for power, who was the architect of Edward’s murder. This is a tradition that seems to start about a century after the event, and there is no contemporary evidence for her involvement in the plot.

So, as I began to research Ælfthryth’s evolving legacy, I also began to notice similarities between her characterisations and those of other royal women in early English saints’ lives. And here there are two tropes running parallel. Firstly, that of the so-called ‘boy-king’ martyrs, a reasonably common sub-genre of English hagiography which revolves around the murder of an innocent. And secondly, that of the ‘wicked queen,’ which is something of a universal motif with biblical and classical precedents. My survey of these saints’ lives landed on three cases that typified the intersection between these tropes: St Æthelberht of East Anglia and Queen Cynethryth of Mercia, St Kenelm of Mercia and his sister Cwenthryth, and Edward and Ælfthryth. The question then became, what underlies this literary construct? What societal attitudes would inform the transition of such royal women from early English history into stock literary antagonists at the hands of post-Conquest writers?  

RSJ Blog: Is this a well sourced area of royal studies? Did you encounter any challenges during your research?

Matthew: It’s a bit mixed. The ‘boy-kings’ of pre-Conquest England received some significant attention in the twentieth century. Even if commentary on the role of the female antagonists in their stories is limited, it does mean there is a body of scholarship to draw on. It also means there are accessible transcriptions of the texts, though only the Life of St Kenelm has an up-to-date critical edition. The Passion of St Æthelberht in particular could use a new edition as significant new manuscript traditions have come to light since it last received dedicated attention in 1917! This said, I am fortunate that in all cases the hagiographies exist in multiple manuscripts and that many of these have been digitised. Though the secondary challenge that then presents itself is sorting out which narrative tradition each manuscript belongs to; the lives of Æthelberht, Kenelm and Edward each have multiple progenitors.

RSJ Blog: Finally – can you tell us about any projects you’re working on at the moment?

Matthew: I’m mainly working on my thesis at the moment (which is what my supervisors want to hear!) – there I’m looking at the historicity of depictions of early medieval English kingship in the sagas of Icelanders. Which said, I do have a couple of other interesting projects on the go.

I recently published an article on the importance of sea-power to English kingship in the tenth century in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology with Dr Erin Sebo, and we’re collaborating again on an article examining the fabrication of King Hiarni in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. She and I also have an edited volume in the works on extreme or alien emotive display in medieval North Sea cultures. We’re quite excited about that project, it’s bringing together an excellent group of scholars from Celtic, Scandinavian, English and Frisian studies working across history, literature and archaeology disciplines.

Otherwise, I’m working as a research assistant on the Flinders University-led project Exiles: Medieval Responses to Isolation. One of the outputs from this will be a collection of themed essays for an upcoming issue of Neophilologus. For that, I’m writing an article, together with my colleague Cassandra Schilling, that looks at queenly exile in Old English literature and the correlating experiences of widowed queen-consorts in tenth-century England.

And that’s probably enough to be going on with! There are a few other projects on the horizon, but for now the thesis beckons…

RSJ Blog: Thanks again for talking to us!

The Proclamations of the Tudor Queens

This is another classic, The Proclamations of the Tudor Queens by Frederic A. Youngs, Jr (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). Our sincerest thanks go to Valerie Schutte, who has authored this guest post for us. For more of Valerie’s work, please visit her website about Tudor Queens.

Frederic A. Youngs’s study, The Proclamations of the Tudor Queens, may be 44 years old, but it contains many ideas that still ring true for studying England’s first two regnant queens. He takes royal proclamations as the jumping point for comparing the two queens, as only one decade earlier, Paul F. Hughes and James F. Larkin produced their three-volume set of Tudor Royal Proclamations (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964, 1969), offering transcriptions of the proclamations of all five Tudor monarchs. Youngs builds upon Hughes’s and Larkin’s work by offering analysis of the proclamations issued during Mary’s and Elizabeth’s reign, while in the same year, Rudolph W. Heinze did the same for the proclamations of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Edward VI, in The Proclamations of the Tudor Kings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

            Youngs shows that royal proclamations were important because they had the ability to reach a wide audience, being both printed and hung in public spaces, as well as read aloud for the illiterate. They were also temporary and limited, so as not to interfere with Parliamentary legislation. Both Mary and Elizabeth issued royal proclamations in response to crises and disorder, as well as to assist with the interim religious settlements until their first Parliaments met. Both queens also issued royal proclamations on dissident books which challenged official policy, although Elizabeth issued several more as she had to deal with both Catholic and Protestant dissent. Primarily, they used the proclamations as temporary legislation or to notify the public of some new government administration.

            For the Tudor queens, often proclamations were issued to protect their personal honor, not from personal interest; Henry VIII left behind personally corrected draft proclamations while neither queen did. Rather, Mary and Elizabeth’s proclamations were more about public policy. During Mary’s reign, she and her Privy Council issued 64 royal proclamations, while during Elizabeth’s reign she and her Council issued 382. Comparisons of these proclamations show that Mary used proclamations to explain changes in religion and justify her decisions, such as to marry Philip, while Elizabeth did not give her opinions to the masses. Youngs repeatedly emphasizes that proclamations were meant to deal with issues in the short term, until Parliament could enact permanent law or the specific issue at hand was handled.

            In three sections, Youngs shows how proclamations were used to deal with matters of security, social and economic interest, and religious settlement and dissent. For security purposes, both queens issued proclamations in response to rebellions and to keep the peace in various localities. For economic management, Mary and Elizabeth issued a total of 225 proclamations on topics ranging from coinage to wages to market regulation; both queens had to address the wool trade in regards to their current foreign relations. Youngs points out that one of earliest and most pressing matters for both queens was the religious settlement. He writes, “although the permanent settlements at which they arrived were diametrically opposed, the half-sisters experienced the identical need to preserve order and to prevent religious contention, and thus there was a great similarity between the interim settlements: they regulated preaching, controlled the press, forbade plays which touched on religion and matters of state, and provided instruction on doctrine (183).” All of this was done using proclamations.

            Unsurprisingly, with Elizabeth’s reign being 40 years longer than Mary’s, there are many more proclamations and evidence on which Youngs draws upon. But he does make a valiant effort to compare and incorporate both queens in all sections of his book. It reinforces how both queens faced similar challenges and rebellions which required royal response. For example, Youngs spends a whole chapter demonstrating how religious opposition in both reigns was greatly fostered through print; dissenting books caused continual problems. Yet, both regimes used similar tactics against dissent. A Marian statute against seditious books was reissued and applied in Elizabeth’s first Parliament, and again in 1581.

What is so remarkable about Youngs’s study is that in his comparison he does not find either queen wanting in her abilities as monarch, nor use one queen as a foil to bolster the other. He straight-forwardly explores the proclamations issued by each queen, which were often done to address an immediate threat, and explains how each queen similarly used proclamations often to the same effect, relying upon the precedent and tradition of their father. He also remarks upon instances when Elizabeth followed the precedent of Mary regarding the issuance or subject matter of a specific proclamation. For example, in 1553, Mary issued a proclamation to enforce nine previous statutes. Similarly, in 1561, Elizabeth ordered that thirteen of her statutes be enforced. Refreshingly, he finds many similarities among the proclamations, but does not do so at the expense of Mary. Youngs’s book truly seems ahead of its time in exploring aspects of governance that Mary demonstrated for Elizabeth and should be given its due as seminal to the study of the Tudor queens.

Loyalty to the Monarchy in Late Medieval and Early Modern Britain, c.1400-1688

Loyalty to the Monarchy in Late Medieval and Early Modern Britain, c.1400-1688 was edited by Matthew Ward and Matthew Hefferan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). Matthew Ward graciously summarized the book for interested readers. Thank you, Matthew! This sounds like a fantastic collection!

Purchase Here

The book explores the place of loyalty in the relationship between the monarchy and their subjects in late medieval and early modern Britain. It focuses on a period in which political and religious upheaval tested the bonds of loyalty between ruler and ruled. The era also witnessed changes in how loyalty was developed and expressed. The first section focuses on royal propaganda and expressions of loyalty from the gentry and nobility under the Yorkist and early Tudor monarchs, as well as the fifteenth-century Scottish monarchy. The chapters illustrate late-medieval conceptions of loyalty, exploring how they manifested themselves and how they persisted and developed into early modernity. Loyalty to the later Tudors and early Stuarts is scrutinised in the second section, gauging the growing level of dissent in the build-up to the British Civil Wars of the seventeenth century. The final section dissects the role that the concept of loyalty played during and after the Civil Wars, looking at how divergent groups navigated this turbulent period and examining the ways in which loyalty could be used as a means of surviving the upheaval.

Four chapters deal with the issue of propaganda and royal attempts to foster loyalty among their subjects. The first of these, by Emma Levitt, considers the importance of tournaments in allowing the first Yorkist king, Edward IV, to cultivate friendship and personal loyalty among the English nobility following his usurpation of the crown. Wesley Corrêa’s chapter focuses on royal propaganda under the Yorkist and early Tudor monarchies and suggests that propaganda was not, at this time, a one-way flow of information, but rather a dialogue in which the crown used the channels of information available to it to promote itself and court the people for approval, legitimacy, taxation and loyalty. Likewise, Michael A. Heimos uses two important legal cases from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to examine what the common law concept of ‘allegiance’ reveals about the way in which contemporaries understood and discussed the loyalty that each subject owed to the monarchy. Finally, Janet Dickinson examines how Elizabeth I was able to use the concept of courtly love to foster loyalty among her nobles, some of whom had difficulty reconciling their Catholic faith with their allegiance to Protestant England.

On the other side of the coin, many of the chapters in this volume are concerned with the way in which the subjects of British monarchs expressed their loyalty. Callum Watson offers a valuable re-reading of Blind Harry’s fifteenth-century poem The Wallace to argue that, rather than being a subversive text written in support of those dissatisfied with King James III of Scotland’s rule, the poem was intended to encourage those with grievances against the king to cling to those values for which the king was supposed to stand, even when the king failed to embody those values himself. Other chapters explore how loyalty to the monarchy was demonstrated for less idealistic reasons, and more in the self-interest of the person or community professing loyalty. Simon Lambe uses the Paulet family of Somerset as a case study to demonstrate how expressions of loyalty to the monarchy could be used by a gentry family in the hope of receiving royal patronage in the form of land and office, especially as religious reforms gained pace in the 1530s. Similarly, Valerie Schutte uses the previously untapped evidence of book dedications during Henry VIII’s reign to show how the sixteenth-century nobility used dedications to profess loyalty to the king in the hope of receiving royal favour and influence as they navigated a new religious and political landscape. John Pagan, meanwhile, explores how the royal colony of Virginia sought to use the reciprocal relationship of loyalty and protection with the king of England to avoid a parliamentary tax that the colonists found unduly burdensome, but were ultimately unsuccessful in the face of the British monarchy’s unwillingness to use grievance petitions as vehicles for questioning imperial policies formulated by the king and parliament. Finally, James Harris investigates how ‘repeated testimonies of duty and affection’ were used in Cornwall and southwest Wales to reaffirm loyalty to the crown following the restoration of the monarchy in the second half of the seventeenth century.

A number of chapters in this volume are, by contrast, interested in disloyalty, dissent and subversion. Jamie Gianoutsos examines how religious persecution in the seventeenth century tested the boundaries of loyalty to the English monarchy. Focusing on the persecution of three key puritan protestors, John Bastwick, Henry Burton and William Prynne, Gianoutsos argues that these men adopted a mixture of religious polemic, historical exempla and gendered language to successfully justify disobedience to the English Church. Religious division was not the only cause of dissent in the seventeenth century. The reign of Charles I, and the Civil Wars which it encompassed, was also divisive. This is reflected in the chapter by Richard Bullock, which assesses how sheriffs in the East Midlands found their loyalties divided between the king and their local community when Charles I sought alternative sources of revenue to parliamentary subsidies and the enhanced use of prerogative rights. Edward Legon, meanwhile, examines how disloyalty to the crown continued even after the Restoration in 1660, often with dangerous consequences for those involved. Nevertheless, despite the opportunities for dissent that the Civil Wars presented, others remained loyal to the British monarchy. This included, as Andrew Lind’s chapter demonstrates, a number of Scottish Royalists who, despite the dangers that support of the crown presented for them, remained steadfast in their deep-rooted belief that good subjects owed loyalty to the king.

Book of the Month: Counsel and Command in Early Modern English Thought by Joanne Paul

This month the RSJ Blog is delighted to feature Counsel and Command in Early Modern English Thought by Joanne Paul.

Book available here

Joanne’s book takes up the issue of counsel in early modern England. As her introduction expertly lays out, counsel is tricky: if counsel is required, it diminishes the monarch’s sovereignty but if counsel is optional, it becomes essentially useless.

The book argues for three things:

            it provides an account of the move from the monarchy of counsel to modern notions of sovereignty, making the argument that the paradoxes inherent in the discourse of counsel prompt this transition. Second, it contributes to an understanding of the boundaries of this change, in particular the division between public and private that is essential to modern ideas of politics. … Thus, third, this study contributes a new perspective on the development of modern ‘political science’, by tracing the moves from moral philosophising to historical knowledge to the observation of contemporary affairs in the writings about the counsellor (4).

The first chapter, on the humanist counsellor, focuses on the writings of Erasmus, More and Castiglione. These works grapple with ideas about princely education, too, and the balance between instruction and counsel. The second chapter investigates what humanists said about the timing of giving counsel. Erasmus and More largely argued for silence until the opportune moment, while a younger generation of writers, such as Thomas Starkey and Thomas Elyot, disagreed. They wanted counsel to be more public and institutionalized. Although these humanists disagreed on when a counsellor should speak up, they all agreed that rulers needed to listen to counsel.

Chapter three looks at Machiavellian counsel in England. Machiavelli argued it was better for the ruler to be good and capable than his counsellors to be. In addition, he thought counsellors would probably be selfish and should be kept in check. The ruler needed to command and dominate his counsellors, a contrast with humanist arguments. Exploring eight related aspects of Machiavellian counsel, this chapter expertly contrasts it with humanist perspectives that saw counsel in more positive terms.

Chapter four looks at the acceptance of Machiavellian ideas even by those opposed to his work. Prudence in the political sphere is separated from morality. Politics becomes morally flexible or even amoral, and counsellors are not expected to keep a ruler from being a tyrant by cultivating the monarch’s virtue. Chapter five, “Late Tudor Counsellors,” focuses on how these new ideas, coupled with “weak” monarchs (children and women) led to increased institutionalization of counsel as represented by Parliament and the Privy Council. Humanist texts promoted the idea that child and female monarchs would be in particular need of advice, but Machiavellian ideas suggested individual, selfish counsellors could and would exploit these monarchs for their own gain. This tension helped to change the way counsel operated.

Chapter six looks at “Reason of State,” wherein knowledge of the contemporary world, rather than virtue, is the main qualification for a counsellor. The chapter argues the Stuart monarchs preferred this idea because it helped them to re-assert monarchical power after the “weak” (and so exceptionally counsel-needing) late Tudor rulers. The counsellor is further subordinated to the monarch because he transmits information rather than guidance on morally-correct governance.

Chapter seven looks at some of the counsel-related problems faced by James VI/I and Charles I. While both kings saw counsel as subordinate to their authority, they relied on personal favorites as counsellors. On the other side, theorists and politicians saw Parliament as the best choice of counsel, contending that Parliament’s self-interest was the state’s interest. Another aspect of the English Civil War is the fight over counsel. Through investigation of the writings of theorists such as Thomas Hobbs, the chapter argues that ideas about counsel fade away in the later 1600s as discourses of sovereignty come to the fore.

This fascinating book gives insight not only into the political thought of early modern England, but also offers ideas on why and how political discourse has changed over time.

The blog also caught up with Joanne to ask her a few questions.

RSJ Blog: How did you get the idea for the book?

Joanne: This book emerged out of my PhD, which I completed under the supervisor of Professor Quentin Skinner at Queen Mary, University of London. From my undergraduate onwards I had been interested in what we might think of as the ‘middle men’ in the Tudor court, as well as in the writings of the time which theorised about their role. The Tudor political discourse thought a lot about these intermediaries, who sat between ‘the people’ and ‘the ruler’. When I first sat down with Professor Skinner, we discussed that two ways in which we might explore these figures and the writings about them: (a) work on ambassadors and themes of representation or (b) work on counsellors and themes of rhetoric. I chose the latter. This was largely because almost every political text of the time, especially in England, devotes significant attention to the role of ‘the counsellor’, and yet there was no book-length study of the topic. I focused particularly on the relationship between ‘counsel’ (giving advice) and ‘command’ (giving orders): a relationship which thinkers have been contemplating since Homer and which reached a head (as it were) during the English Civil War. The ‘paradox’ is fairly straightforward: if your advice isn’t obligatory and can be ignored, what is the point in giving it (especially when it might come at great cost)? On the other hand: if it is obligatory, then it isn’t advice. In either case, counsel becomes less important than command. The working out of this paradox shapes much of the political thinking of Tudor and Stuart England, defining events such as the Break with Rome and the Civil War and sweeping up figures such as Thomas More, Elizabeth I and Charles I.

RSJ Blog: For students who want to undertake similar work, what archives or printed sources do you recommend starting with?

Joanne: Fortunately, much of what I was looking at is available in print form, and some in modern editions (such as Utopia, The Prince, Leviathan, etc). Those that have not been printed since the Early Modern Period can be found on online resources such as Early English Books Online. It is difficult to read any political tract of the age without coming across the figure of the counsellor (and most were written by counsellors themselves and offered as advice!). For those looking at the inner workings of counsel itself, which is not something I devoted much time to in this book but is work that needs doing, State Papers Online is a fantastic repository of letters offered by counsellors (formal and informal) to those they advised (not always their monarch). Most calendars of papers (for instance those on British History Online) also give a good impression of the type of advice given, how it was framed, the rhetorical devises used, and so on. But I do think it is difficult to understand such sources without understanding the widely-held and circulated ideas about these matters. There were essentially guidebooks about how to give advice, based on the texts about rhetoric taught in schools. I think we can wander astray if we do not understand the intellectual framework in which these counsellors were consciously and unconsciously operating.

RSJ Blog: What are you working on now?

Joanne: I have just finished my first draft of a narrative history of the sixteenth-century Dudley family, to be published with Michael Joseph (Penguin imprint), a book I had the idea for while working on Counsel and Command. I am also working on modern editions of two sixteenth-century texts. The first (for Tudor and Stuart Texts) is The French Historie, written by Anne Dowriche in 1589, which I also used in Counsel and Command. This is an often overlooked text by a female Elizabethan writer, and I think it deserves a modern edition. I am also producing a new edition of Utopia by Thomas More (for Oxford World Classics), based on the mid-sixteenth-century English translation. This early translation of More’s text is interesting in its own right, and I will be striving to bring that out in my editing. This work follows up on my book on Thomas More’s thought, published with Polity in 2017.   

RSJ Blog: Thank you!

Interview with Louise Tingle

Louise Tingle is an independent scholar who recently completed her PhD in history at Cardiff University. Her work focuses on late medieval English queens. Her article “Aurum Reginae: Queen’s Gold in Late Fourteenth-Century England” appears in issue 7.1 of the Royal Studies Journal.

Philippa of Hainault. Image in public domain and from Wikipedia

RSJ Blog: Thank you for talking with us! For those who don’t know, could you briefly describe queen’s gold?

Louise: Queen’s gold was an extra payment on fines owing to the king, with the profits going to the queen and her household. Originally the custom was in return for the queen’s activity as an intercessor, but by the late fourteenth century, it was essentially an extra tax whether the queen had intervened or not – no wonder it was unpopular and difficult to make people pay! By this time, the tenure of Philippa of Hainault, queen’s gold had been set at a rate of ten per cent which recipients had to pay on essentially any privilege granted by the king, including licences, pardons and other perks. However, when individuals argued against having to pay essentially an extra tax, they tended to base their arguments on whether the fine in question was one liable for queen’s gold, rather than arguing against the queen’s right to claim queen’s gold as a whole. Others seem not to have responded at all, as shown by the multiple examples of the same writ issued for the same claim.

RSJ Blog: What are some of the source problems you faced researching and writing about queen’s gold?

Louise: The main problem with looking at the writs for queen’s gold is that very few of the writs survive. Fortunately, in the seventeenth century a large selection of records from Eleanor of Aquitaine to the Tudor queens were transcribed with the objective of investigating the possibility of queen’s gold under the queen consort at that time. Of the writs surviving in the National Archives, a large amount of these were issued under Philippa of Hainault, which is unsurprising given Philippa’s fairly long tenure for a medieval queen, lasting over forty years. Even so, most of these writs derive from a very few years towards the end of Philippa’s life and still may not represent all of the writs issued. In addition, few records exist for the accounts of the revenues derived from collecting queen’s gold, which makes it difficult to ascertain just how much of the writs issued were actually paid.

RSJ Blog: Since your article focuses on Philippa of Hainault, what are your thoughts on her as a queen?

Louise: I think the image that survives of Philippa in the popular memory is very different from the historical Philippa! There are several stories relating to Philippa – for which we have the chronicler Froissart as well as Victorian biographers to thank – which probably aren’t even true at all. The most famous of these is the story of Philippa’s intercession for the burghers of Calais which poses Philippa as the quintessential merciful queen, when in reality she probably wasn’t present at all. It is however a story that has done wonders for Philippa’s reputation!

I do think that Philippa maintained a close working relationship, if not a loving one, with her husband and it seems that Edward chose to retire in his later years to be near her. Philippa is often forgotten in contrast to queens like Eleanor of Aquitaine and her mother-in-law Isabella of France, who were both queens who in some ways stepped outside the bounds of conventional femininity. Philippa’s role as a prolific mother and her reputation as an intercessor would have classed her as a ‘good’ queen according to contemporaries, even if they might not have liked her lavish lifestyle and spending. Her inconspicuous reputation may have been deliberate in contrast to the upheaval caused in the previous reign when Isabella was involved in the deposition of her husband.

RSJ Blog: What are your current projects?

Louise: I’m currently writing the chapter on one of Philippa’s successors, Isabella de Valois, for a four-volume set on English royal consorts in Palgrave Macmillan’s Queenship and Power series. I’m also in the process of publishing my first book, Chaucer’s Queens, in the same series, which focuses on Philippa of Hainault and Anne of Bohemia, and where queen’s gold features as the linchpin between queenly intercession and patronage.

RSJ Blog: Thank you! We look forward to reading your new work!

Book of the Month: Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media

This month, the Royal Studies Journal blog is featuring a book that accompanies an exhibit at the The Foundling Museum. Both the book and the exhibit are entitled “Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media” and were curated by Karen Hearn. The exhibit runs until 23 August 2020 and tickets can be purchased here.

As Karen explained to the blog: “The book and exhibition are the first ever to focus on portraits of pregnant women in British art over a 500-year period.  Although up to the early 20th century many women spent most of their adult years being pregnant, their pregnancies are seldom made apparent in surviving portraits. Portraying Pregnancy considers the different ways in which (from the late Middle Ages onwards) a sitter’s pregnancy was, or was not, visibly represented to the viewer, and how the social mores and preoccupations of different periods have impacted the ways in which pregnant women have been depicted.

The book addresses a number of British royal women, including Anne Boleyn, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Anna of Denmark, Henrietta Maria, and Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales. The book is extensively illustrated with painted portraits, drawings, miniatures, prints, photographs, sculpture, textiles and objects.

Both the book and the exhibition offer a new lens through which to look at history and art history, by rethinking the context in which portraits of women were made in the past.”

The book contains 60 high-quality illustrations, making it a fantastic accompaniment to the exhibit or a substitute for those of us who are unable to visit The Foundling Museum. The book can be purchased here or through The Foundling Museum when purchasing exhibit tickets.