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Interview with Ellen Wurtzel

The Joyous Entry of Albert and Isabella in Lille: History, Conquest and the Making of Belgium

Ellen Wurtzel is an associate professor of history at Oberlin College (Ohio). She also  took part in the recent issue of the Royal Studies Journal on Taking Possession.  

RSJ Blog: Thank you for doing this interview on your recent article in the Royal Studies Journal “The Joyous Entry of Albert and Isabella in Lille”. First of all, could you tell us a bit more about what a “joyous” entry is, especially in comparison to other forms of entry or taking possession?

Ellen: Thanks so much for the opportunity of talking more about the article; I really enjoyed being part of the special issue for RSJ on Taking Possession. Joyous Entries were a particular form of late medieval ritual, but as you note, not the only one. Cities had numerous kinds of festival moments, including triumphal entries, marriage celebrations, peace processions and annual religious events. What differentiated Joyous Entries from these other celebrations was that they were the first visit of a ruler to a city, often at the beginning of his or her reign. It was a moment of introduction that served as an important kind of communication between two political entities.  While it is unclear exactly when this political ritual began, the inclusion of a written agreement originated when the Duke of Brabant entered the city of Leuven and delivered a charter in 1356. One article stated that if the sovereign did not fulfill his duties as specified in the document, his subjects would not be bound to obey him further.  When tensions rose in the 1560s over religious and political differences in the Low Countries, the Brabantine document was reprinted and distributed in a number of cities in order to legitimize a burgeoning rebellion. The 1582 Entry for the Duke of Anjou in Antwerp, in the midst of rebellion, contained pointed references to Spanish tyranny. Joyous Entries, like any liminal moment, could be fraught with potential disruption.

Interestingly, this ritual was revived with the founding of Belgium in 1830. The most recent Joyous Entries occurred in 2013 for King Philippe and Queen Mathilde and included the cities of Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and of course, Leuven.

RSJ Blog: In your article, you highlight that urban history considers early modern cities, and in particular, rituals like joyous entries as losing importance compared with the rising power of territorial rulers, in the case of Lille, the Habsburgs. Could you expand a bit on this? How can the relation between city and territorial rule be classified? And, is there really a decline in urban independence compared to the (late) middle ages?

Ellen: These are really big questions that depend in large part on what area of Europe one studies and how one defines the territorial power of rulers like the Habsburgs in the early modern period. The traditional narrative, shaped by Henri Pirenne and other social and economic historians, focused on the development of the powerful cities in Flanders and Brabant since the southern Low Countries was one of the most densely-urbanized populations in the later Middle Ages. Medieval cities, created to enable long-distance and local trade, arose and eventually weakened the power of feudal lords. A new class of people no longer bound to the land/service to their lord created economic opportunities and begat political liberties—and power. At the end of the Middle Ages, Pirenne argued, monarchical states developed political organizations that were strengthened by bureaucracy drawn from city elites, loyal armies, and the power to implement new taxation. With cities drawn more and more into the orbit of rulers’ needs—for money and war—their independence lessened. Therefore, in this traditional model, rituals like Joyous Entries could no longer be seen as a kind of negotiation, a contract, but rather a symbolic acceptance of territorial rulers’ overweening power.

While the dominance of that older model has been considerably weakened by the work of many historians in the past 25-30 years, it continued to shape the way that Joyous Entries were perceived until quite recently. Cities and states are no longer seen as either diametrically opposed systems or diachronic in importance. Even for strong-state kingdoms like France, historians have shown that the ‘state’ in its modern form was not fully-defined in the early modern period and different polities, including cities, continued to exercise corporate power vis-à-vis other political institutions. Moreover, not every city had an antagonistic relationship to the territorial ruler—Lille is a prime example of a city that promoted accommodation and peaceful negotiation while still retaining many liberties. In the early modern period, its officers consolidated power vis-à-vis other local authorities with whom the city corporation competed. The recognition of this diversity in the early modern period has enabled scholars like Anne-Laure Van Bruaene, Margit Thøfner, Michael Wintroub and Michael Breen to examine events like Joyous Entries in a new light, both in terms of audience and message.  My research on Lille’s Joyous Entry of 1600 in the RSJ confirms the continuing importance of these events as a primary site of identity fashioning and political negotiation, and allows us to ask new questions—about how city residents perceived their own pasts and how that perception of history and identity shaped their interactions with rulers.

RSJ Blog: Lille at the turn of the sixteenth to the seventeenth century was, although firmly under the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs, geographically and culturally close to the rebellious cities of the later Netherlands/General States. In what ways was this visible also in the recognition of a new sovereign in 1600?

Ellen: It’s important to remember that in 1600, the Dutch Revolt was far from over. War between the Habsburgs and the French had ended in 1598, but the seventeen provinces of the Low Countries were still at war and would be officially until 1648. Although delegates from Walloon Flanders (Lille, Douai and Orchies) and Hainaut had signed the Treaty of Arras in 1579 and Alexander Farnese had won back allegiance to the Spanish Habsburgs in other southern provinces, it was in no way clear that the Low Countries were to be divided permanently into two separate political entities. Since the thirteenth century, Lille’s merchants and political elites had longstanding commercial ties with other cities in the Low Countries. They shared many cultural exchanges through participation in competitions of rhetorical societies and sent ambassadors to other cities. By the sixteenth century, their delegates met with those from other regions in the States-General and negotiated for lower taxes. The introduction of the Protestant Reformation, increasing taxes, and subsequent political tensions with the Habsburgs, however, meant that common ground was difficult to find, particularly since some city governments embraced the new religion and others did not. That uncertainty about the collective identity of the Low Countries remained in 1600, alongside hope for stability and peace under new sovereigns Albert and Isabella. While the lavish spending on the event, and ritual of the Joyous Entry itself mirrored what was seen in nearby cities like Valenciennes and Antwerp, Lille’s Entry focused primarily on the city’s history in relation to its rulers and (perhaps purposefully) avoided references to specific neighboring cities.

Lille in the late 16th century (based on  Braun and Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum, II (1575))

RSJ Blog: Part of the festivities were tableaux vivants, living pictures, which represented the city’s history by highlighting important events. It was, in a way, a form of historiography “written” by the magistrates of the city – what can these living pictures tell us about sixteenth-century Lille, and how they saw themselves? How were they different from earlier representations or from other cities?

Ellen: Many cities in the Low Countries, France and England included living pictures in their festivities throughout the later Middle Ages. They were a wonderful way of making history come alive by forging a relationship between past events and the present viewers. Local people that one knew would dress up as the long dead Queen Mahaut or King Philip II surrounded by the conquered but happy people of his empire. It allowed people in cities like Lille to forge a personal relationship to far off or far distant events and implicitly acknowledge their legitimacy and relevance. Tableaux vivants were didactic forms of entertainment, but they also meant to display the learnedness of the local elite—sometimes with mixed results. In one memorable visit of Duke Charles the Bold to Lille in 1468, one of his counselors, a Lille native, thought he would honor the city by having three local women perform the Judgment of Paris. They were, according to a now-lost chronicle, apparently so far from Hera, Aphrodite and Athena in size and stature (one was nicknamed Grosse Juliette, another so thin that the author likened her to a herring) that upon seeing the scene the duke burst out laughing and was unable to stop! These classical or religious histories were popular subjects well into the sixteenth century, but during the fraught years of the 1570s and 1580s, their high-flown symbolism became weighted with barely-concealed allusions to Spanish tyranny. Lille’s Joyous Entry of 1600 pointedly avoided protest. The program focused less on religion or allegory than local events, shifting to what I would term a more prosaic kind of history. It indicated the increasing popularity of new forms of historical writing and the presence of humanist-educated men like Floris van der Haer, who published histories as well as fashioned the Joyous Entry. But it also meant that lillois magistrates wanted to introduce themselves to their new sovereigns by fashioning a different kind of narrative including their rulers’ imperial conquest, their own steadfast loyalty and a shared faith, Catholicism.

Example of a tableau vivant (Philip II of Spain)

RSJ Blog: You argue in your article that some of these tableaux vivants were already imagining Lille as part of the nation of Belgium, a territory which came into being as nation-state in 1830, more than 200 years later. How far were early proto-national sentiments already influential in the early modern period in Lille? And what did the contemporaries understand as “Belgian”?

Ellen: Although the focus of the Joyous Entry was Lille’s history, a number of the tableaux vivants and triumphal arches included references to the Belgian people and Belgium. These terms began to appear in reference to the whole Low Countries beginning in the 1550s, particularly in scholarly circles, and which both writers in the north and the south were using to describe their “Netherlandishness”. Some historians have argued that the shift from the plural les pays de pardeça to the singular, le pays de pardeça, or use of Nederlands or la Belge indicate a nascent nationalism. The Treaty of Augsburg  in 1548 had made the Low Countries its own entity within the Holy Roman Empire (The Burgundian Circle) and the Pragmatic Sanction the following year ensured that the same ruler would inherit the seventeen provinces. During the Revolt, those references moved from the antiquarian to the political, when both sides made reference to the Low Countries in terms of fighting for their country, the patrie or vaterland. I think the frequent appearance of Belgian and Belgium in Lille’s Joyous Entry raises some interesting questions—did the organizers mean to be subtly political? Or did van der Haer, Lille’s celebrated organizer of the event, see Belgium as a concept highlighting the learnedness of Lille’s educated citizenry and nothing more? One can’t say for sure, of course, but the context of their use appears to indicate that the lillois organizers wanted to see themselves as part of a larger polity within the Empire of the Habsburgs and were trying to figure out a way to do it. Many were uncertain what that belonging meant in 1600, with ten provinces in the south under Habsburg rule and the seven in the north still rebellious. Belgium united them, within the city and regionally, without forcing them to define what exactly that meant. And while these references were entirely positive in the Joyous Entry, they may also have served as a subtle warning that Lille was not alone and could act with other provinces, as they had in the recent past.

RSJ Blog: The historiography in the sixteenth century experienced its own “spatial turn”, long before the more recent one in the last few years: chorography and cosmography found its way into early modern history writing. Could you expand a bit more on these ideas and their implementation?

Ellen: Yes, this idea of a sixteenth-century spatial turn was a really fun area to ‘think with’. While all kinds of historical writing was more common in the sixteenth century, the newfound interest among Europeans for places around the globe meant that chorography, or local description, became a popular way of pairing history with place. One of the most successful chorographies was Lodovico Guicciardini’s Description of All the Low Countries, which combined short descriptions of a number of cities and regions with maps and city views and includes their physical features, major monuments, events in history and celebrated figures. The focus of both the images and the written descriptions were on place, like a guidebook. Guicciardini and others described what happened in the past primarily through showing what could be seen—buildings, streets, oceans and fields. This emphasis on place created a particular kind of historical narrative. The peacefulness of chorographic descriptions contrasted with other kinds of history emerging during the period, like broadsheets that were published showing terrible events like the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. When reading chronicle accounts of Lille’s Joyous Entry, I noticed that several of the tableaux vivants were very similar to Guicciardini’s Description in both language and subject, and it made me think about how much Lille’s Joyous Entry reflected a chorographic sense of history. The sovereigns moved through the streets of the city and touched on the events of the past through seeing the institutions their ancestors had created. The place-based fashion it told local history allowed lillois and their visitors to avoid reminders of the recent turmoil that had torn apart the Low Countries.

RSJ Blog: Finally, could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now? What can we look forward to reading from you next?

Ellen: Something completely different! I am finishing up one project but embarking on a study of urban bathhouses in the francophone world during the late medieval and early modern periods. From the mid fourteenth to the mid sixteenth centuries in the major cities of France and the Empire—Paris, Marseille, Avignon, Nîmes, Lyon, Besançon, Geneva, Tournai, Valenciennes, and Lille, to name a few—bathhouses welcomed all kinds, from locals and travelers to married couples, singletons, magistrates and members of religious orders. Histories of water and hygiene have noted the ubiquity of these places in urban France, and important studies have described the role of bathhouses in the history of prostitution, but little has been written on their social and economic history—who owned them, in what parts of cities, and with what labor and resources. It is a rich topic that can serve as a framework for understanding urban sites of sociability and gender distinction, medieval entertainment and pleasure, health and hygiene, material culture and the economy of individuals, families and institutions.

RSJ Blog: This does sound interesting! We are looking forward to see what you discover in these urban bathhouses, and what it will tell us about late medieval/early modern urban culture. Thank you for doing this interview!




Interview with Charles Keenan

The Limits of Diplomatic Ritual: The Polish Embassy of Giovanni Francesco Commendone (1572-1573) and Criticism of Papal Legates in Early Modern Europe

Charles Keenan is the Assistant Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston College. Read his full article in the Royal Studies Journal.

RSJ Blog: Thank you, Charles, for your interesting article in the Royal Studies Journal! In your article, you follow the papal legate, Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Commendone, to Poland-Lithuania during the interregna and elections of the 1570s. Such a mission of a legate was uncommon, especially since the use of papal nuncios spread across early modern Europe. Could you tell a bit more about the context of this mission, and why the apostolic nuncio in Poland was not enough?

Charles: Thanks for inviting me to appear on this blog! The original purpose of Commendone’s mission was to help organize a defensive league against the Ottoman Turks, which was a priority of Pope Pius V (r. 1566-1572) and his successor, Gregory XIII (r. 1572-1585). (As context, this was the same period as the famous naval battle of Lepanto.) Commendone was instructed to travel to the courts of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to secure military support. This task could not have been entrusted to nuncios both because Commendone needed to speak to multiple rulers (nuncios were typically “in residence” at a single court and were only credentialed to function as a diplomatic representative there) and because of the delicate nature of negotiations regarding the league: this was a significant request that would entail substantial financial commitments, something that even the powerful Philip II of Spain balked at when asked.  Of course, following the death of King Sigismund II Augustus in 1572 Commendone was instead instructed to oversee the election of the next Polish king, and the issue of the league faded from view.

Giovanni Francesco Commendone

RSJ Blog: So, his mission changed from gathering support to overseeing the election – and he failed, as you also stated in your article! How and why did Commendone fail?

Charles: I suggest there were two reasons for his failure. The first was related to the rituals surrounding diplomatic embassies, which were interrupted by the vicissitudes of the interregnum. As mentioned, the fact that Commendone was already in the middle of another embassy complicated the procedures for beginning a “new” mission to oversee the royal election, and, with no king in place, it was unclear who should receive him – the Polish diet, or only certain factions in the diet, or the one of several individuals claiming to be “leaders” of the commonwealth during the interregnum.  The second, less obvious issue was Commendone’s authority as a papal representative to intervene in secular political affairs. As I try to show in this essay, there was widespread disapproval of the legate’s role in the Polish election, which points to a larger critique of the papacy’s involvement in secular government.

RSJ Blog: The close connection between a diplomat and whoever send him seems to be at the heart of Commendone’s failure. What can this failure of diplomatic ritual tell us about the bigger context of European politics, especially in a time of confessionalisation?

Charles: The rituals surrounding this particular diplomat – the legate a latere – derived their efficacy from the authority of the figure whom the legate represented, the pope. The failure of legatine rituals thus suggests a larger problem with papal authority in sixteenth-century Europe, which should come as no surprise. In many ways Commendone’s story points to a larger development, the secularization of European politics and the removal of the Roman papacy from international affairs, something that is evident during Commendone’s mission but which is unmistakable by the time of the Thirty Years’ War.

RSJ Blog: Going from the subject of research to the researcher himself: How did you get started working papal diplomacy, and how does it differ from other kinds of early modern diplomacy? Was the pope still regarded as superior to all kingdoms, or was he just another ruler?

Charles: Well, if you asked one of the popes from this period, I’m sure they would maintain their superiority! It’s an interesting question. Some of the earliest resident ambassadors in Europe were stationed in Rome, and the pope was among the first rulers to send ambassadors abroad. But from the sixteenth century onward, the respect and honor paid to papal diplomats began to wane sharply. In many ways that is my argument in this paper: that there was a growing disjuncture between the papacy’s conception of itself and its authority and how other European states viewed the papacy. I became interested in papal diplomats after exploring the College of Cardinals in this period. Most of the literature on the Sacred College after the Reformation focus on cardinals’ roles in the growing papal bureaucracy (especially after Sixtus V reorganized the Roman curia in the 1580s), but a significant number of cardinals did not reside in Rome and instead served as papal diplomats across Europe.

RSJ Blog: Finally, the events surrounding Commendone during the election of the new Polish king are described much like a game of Chinese whispers – what was the role of rumours, communication, representation, and so on?

Charles: Given the sheer distance involved, with diplomats active in courts stretching from Paris to Warsaw, it was inevitable that communication issues were an important factor in this story. Dispatches could be delayed or lost altogether, and competing diplomatic networks – papal, French, Polish, imperial, Spanish – picked up on different rumors and transmitted them to different locations at different speeds. One walks away with an appreciation for difficulties facing all the parties involved. Policy decisions were difficult to negotiate on their own, but the communication and implementation of those policies presented another set of challenges altogether.

RSJ Blog: Charles, thank you for showing us how diplomatic failure can actually expand historical research! What are you working on now? Any interesting new projects we might soon be hearing more about?

Charles: I just finished preparing a translation of a sixteenth-century Jesuit devotional manual, Gaspar Loarte’s Exercise of the Christian Life, which is now available, and an overview to the historiography of Jesuit devotional literature should be appearing soon. Besides revising my book manuscript, which examines Catholic responses to edicts of toleration in the sixteenth century, I’m also drafting two articles at the moment: one that explores the difficulties Catholic diplomats faced in gathering information about Protestant Britain, and another that traces the career of Vincenzo Lauro, a contemporary of Commendone who was nuncio to Scotland, Savoy, and Poland before being created cardinal.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for answering our questions, and good luck with your writing projects!



Interview with Cloe Cavero de Carondelet

Possessing Rome ‘in absentia’: The Titular Churches of the Spanish Monarchy in the Early Seventeenth Century

Cloe Cavero de Carondelet will be joining the Institute of Art History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as a Research Associate in April 2017. She recently obtained her PhD in History and Civilisation at the European University Institute in Florence with a dissertation entitled “Art, Piety and Conflict in Early Modern Spain: The Religious and Artistic Patronage of Cardinal Bernardo de Sandoval between Toledo and Rome (1599-1618)”. She is the author of several essays on the suburban villas of Spanish cardinals, and her articles are set to appear in Archivo Español de Arte and the Boletín del Museo del Prado. Her full article can be read in the Royal Studies Journal.

RSJ Blog: Thank you, Cloe, for a wonderful and thought-provoking article. We learned a great deal about early modern Rome. To begin, for readers less familiar with your topic, could you explain what a titular church is? Were cardinals known as Cardinal [their name] or Cardinal [name of church]?

Cloe: Curiously, even the most informed visitors that marvel at the churches of the city of Rome are often unaware that almost every one of these was – and still is – the titular church of a cardinal. In some way mirroring the pope’s association with San Pietro in Vaticano and the connection between a bishop and his cathedral, seventy churches located in the city of Rome and its surroundings were attached to the corresponding number of cardinals of the Sacred College. Although the foundations of the cardinals’ association with the Roman churches are multiple and not yet completely clear, we can say that one of its main objectives was to establish a spatial and material link between the cardinals and the papal city. It was a mutually advantageous situation. The cardinal obtained a residence and a ceremonial space in the papal court, and the church received a source of patronage, which included the always needed architectural renovations and artistic refurbishments.

Most interestingly, as you have well pointed out, the temporary ownership of a Roman church also provided the cardinal with a new, symbolic identity. This was reflected in a fundamental element – the cardinal’s name. As it happened with Cardinal Carlo Borromeo – also called the Cardinal of Santa Prassede – it was a frequent practice, in which cardinals simultaneously employed their surname and the name of their titular church. However, as there was no fixed rule for the cardinals’ naming, sometimes they were also known by the name of their dioceses. In the case of Cardinal Sandoval, the archival documents refer to him as “Cardinale di Toledo” as a general rule, occasionally as “Cardinale di Sandoval”, and almost never as “Cardinale di Sant’Anastasia”.


Sant’Anastasia al Palatino. Photo courtesy of Cloe Cavera de Carondelet

RSJ Blog: At one point your article mentions a lack of available titular churches. Were there usually more cardinals than churches? Would some cardinals never be assigned a titular church?

Cloe: The number of titular churches and indeed cardinals was not fixed until 1586, when Sixtus V made an effort to control the increasing number of cardinals, by imposing a limit of seventy cardinals within the Sacred College. Consequently, this decision was simultaneous with the adjustment of an equivalent of number of titular churches. In fact, San Pietro in Montorio was only established as a cardinalatial title after this decision. However, despite this numeric concordance between cardinals and churches, the churches were not automatically granted to the new cardinals. There was one necessary condition for the allocation of a titular church: attending the ritual of closing-and-opening-of-the-mouth with the pope in Rome or, as I have shown in my article for RSJ, ensuring that the ceremony took place by proxy. Nonetheless, the delay in the allocation of Cardinal Sandoval’s titular church suggests that other additional symbolic elements came into play, besides mere availability. Although there were available churches when Sandoval achieved the red hat, none of them corresponded with the churches traditionally granted to the Primates of the Spanish Monarchy. In my opinion, this was the main reason why it took almost two years to endow Cardinal Sandoval with Sant’Anastasia, a church of no particular importance or previous connection with the Spanish Monarchy.

RSJ Blog: How were cardinals chosen during this era?

Cloe: From a ritualistic point of view, the creation of cardinals took place throughout three consistories. After listening to the suggestions and opinions of the College of Cardinals on the most adequate candidates, the pope decided who should receive the cardinal’s hat. From a political point of view, however, the situation was far more complex and negotiated. The unique system of government of the Holy See determined a curious situation. While the creation of cardinals was one of the most important prerogatives of the pope, the pope was elected from the College of Cardinals by the cardinals themselves. Thus, it is not surprising that the pope, the Italian families and the sovereign rulers of Catholic Europe all invested considerable efforts in influencing the appointments of these prospective papal electors. As one can imagine, this significant power was rarely given to individuals devoid of means or of humble origins. In fact, only in the years immediately following the Council of Trent can we find several cardinals chosen for their piety and devoted spirit. Furthermore, the creation of crown cardinals entailed a previous level of negotiation. As I mention in my article for RSJ, the Spanish king was the one who suggested the Spanish candidates who were to be considered for the cardinal’s hat. Being shortlisted for the purple was therefore also the result of complex negotiations within the royal court.

RSJ Blog: Your article mentions that the cardinal creations of 1596 and 1599 negatively affected the Spanish monarchy. How so?

Cloe: Even if this affirmation may seem a bit excessive, I believe that it is safe to say that cardinal appointments were an important barometer of the political situation in early modern Europe. They indicated which of the main Catholic monarchies – the French or the Spanish – enjoyed the favour of a given pope in a given moment. From 1595, it is possible to see how the Holy See gradually moves away from its alliance with the Spanish monarchy and aligns with the French monarchy instead. The 1596 and 1599 consistories did not benefit the interests of the Spanish monarchy, either in the creation of cardinals aligned with their faction or with that of crown cardinals. The bitter complaints and numerous criticisms recorded in the correspondence maintained between the Spanish ambassadors in Rome and the court of Madrid in these years evinces the significant importance that cardinal creations had for diplomatic relationships between Spain and Rome.

RSJ Blog: It seems having cardinals from your kingdom was an important part of diplomacy. How did the Spanish monarchy compare with its rivals?

Cloe: Known as the teatro del mondo, early modern Rome was a sort of international setting where the rulers of Catholic Europe negotiated their power. Every ruler could have formal or informal agents in Rome, but only a few of them had resident ambassadors, and an even greater minority had cardinals from their own kingdom at the papal court. Between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, almost 75% of the Sacred College of Cardinals consisted of Italians. The rest was divided between French and Spanish cardinals, who had a steady 10% each, and by Germans, Austrian, Poles and other European territories. Therefore, both the French and Spanish monarchy enjoyed a valuable diplomatic privilege, which provided them with additional diplomatic agents and with valuable ceremonial spaces.

When in Rome, the French and Spanish cardinals acted as a sort of ambassadors; we may want to call them “ecclesiastical diplomats”. Similarly to resident ambassadors, they lived in lavish palaces and played a relevant symbolic role in the ceremonies and rituals of the monarchy that took place in the city of Rome. This was especially the case with the crown cardinals, who held the status of cardinal-protectors of a kingdom. Although there is still much to be done on this issue, I am certain that cardinals from the French and Spanish monarchies went through conflicts similar to those of their ambassadors. It is very likely that the cardinals argued about matters of precedence and status during papal ceremonies and informal encounters, apparently banal arguments that were instead regarded as important diplomatic tensions.


A Cardinal’s Procession by Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City,

RSJ Blog: What are your current projects?

Cloe: Having recently obtained my PhD, I am at the moment focusing on two main projects. The first one, as you might anticipate, is the turning of my doctoral dissertation into a book. I will be working on the manuscript in the coming months, and hope to have it completed as soon as possible. My second project, which I will be carrying out at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, is the examination of the visual normativity of childhood sanctity in early modern Europe. I will scrutinise images of child saints to consider how the emotional qualities of infancy shaped the construction of these saints’ visual representation and the reception of their cult during the Catholic Reformation. This new research project stems from one of the outcomes of my dissertation, that is, the fundamental role that art patronage had for the conformation, shaping and forging of sacred history in early modern Spain. In connection with some of the issues discussed in my article for RSJ, an essential part of the project will be to analyse how the lay and ecclesiastical authorities negotiated the contested dimension of childhood sanctity between Spain and Rome, paying special attention to the ceremonies of canonisation and other rituals.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for answering our questions. We look forward to reading your work in the future!


Interview with Jennifer Mara DeSilva

Jennifer Mara DeSilva is an Associate Professor of History at Ball State University (Indiana, USA). Her research focuses on Renaissance Italy and the Papal Court, especially cultural, political, and social history of the Renaissance and Reformation movements. 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. She has also just edited the first thematic issue of the Royal Studies Journal on the topic of “taking possession”.

RSJ Blog: Hi Jennifer, thanks for doing this interview for our readers at the Royal Studies Journal Blog! Could you maybe first tell us a bit how this special issue of the Royal Studies Journal came to be, and what the idea behind the topic of “taking possession” is? Who takes possession of what?

Jennifer: Hi Kristen and Cathleen, it is a pleasure to speak about this exciting new issue of the Royal Studies Journal. This issue began life as a series of panels that I organized at the 2015 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The CFP invited scholars who work broadly on entry rituals and ceremonies of possession across the early modern world. I am a firm believer in the importance of conferences to bring scholars together who work on similar themes. Successful interactions create new communities that sometimes result in printed studies. A subset of the papers presented offered a conversation about the diversity of possession rituals in projecting messages about royal authority and identity, so I proposed a special issue on the topic to the RSJ editor-in-chief. One of the advantages of collections that emerge from conferences is that the contributors have already done the core research work, so working up an article-length study does not take too long. Conversations with other panelists and the audience help to expand their conception of the topic and its context. Also, big conferences like SCSC draw scholars from all career levels, which incorporates early career scholars into the conversation and helps to publicize their work. Keeping our field dynamic depends upon bringing new people and new ideas to the table.

The concept of “taking possession” has been around for a long time, but has mostly been explored in rather traditional forms: royal progresses by new monarchs, processions that affirmed the pope’s episcopal role, and New World territorial conquests. While these are the best-known examples of individuals and groups “taking possession” of communities, these studies only scratch the surface of the concept. The act of “taking possession” is a mechanism for asserting authority, reputation, and relationships. This has been done for centuries in a wide variety of settings and by far more people than princes, popes, and pioneers. RSJ Volume 3 Issue 2 is an opportunity to consider how early moderns applied the idea of “taking possession” to their own situations and means in order to project messages about their position in the local and global hierarchy and the privileges and responsibilities that their positions entailed. What we found was that the stratum immediately below monarchs was quite active on behalf of their royal masters. Ambassadors, cardinals, legates, agents, and even city fathers used entry ceremonies to negotiate reputations for themselves and the monarchs that they represented or greeted. Examining these events allowed us to consider how a monarch and state’s reputation for strength was constantly reinforced across a wide variety of sites, from the national cardinal’s titular church in Rome to congested city streets. The spaces that were possessed – communities, churches, squares, and intersections – are better understood as sites and opportunities for expressing strength based on relationships and resources. True possession was rarely had, but monarchs and their proxies avidly sought the local reputation and influence that resulted from these events.

Jean Bourdichon: Le Voyage de Gênes: entrée de Louis XII à Gênes

RSJ Blog:So, taking possession of a space was far more ceremonial, symbolic, and a representation of authority. But inhowfar are such ritual entries representations of already existing power relationships, and how do they contribute to a change in this relationship?

Jennifer: Up to a point these events reflect and display the extent of existing hierarchies. A minor state is not going to rise above a major state simply because it puts on an impressive show. However, these events are opportunities to publicly display relationships within those hierarchies, which involves a larger group in the reputation-making process and lays plain the composition, growth, and rivalry of factions. Accounts of ritual entries allow historians to see how witnesses quantified reputation and reacted to displays produced by monarchs and their proxies. These accounts offer a glimpse into the deeper effects of “mere ritual” and sometimes provide commentary on developments in political relationships, as John Hunt’s article shows.

RSJ Blog: You brought together authors concerned with entries in early modern Lille, Rome, and the Papal states. Are there any similarities across early modern Europe considering the actors of such entries, the ritual forms, or the expectations from local and distant audiences?

Jennifer: There are certainly broad similarities across ritual entries. Ellen Wurtzel’s study of the new monarchs, Archduke Albert and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, in Lille and Cloe Cavero Carondelet’s study of a proxy agent in Rome, standing in for King Philip III of Spain’s newest cardinal, reveal this clearly. Specifically, these articles show similarities in how the ritual expected participants to travel through spaces, greet specific people, perform acts, and thus have their identities, positions, and responsibilities affirmed by the ritual and the witnessing crowd. Nonetheless, this concept of “taking possession” through ritual action was applied in diverse ways and spaces. The frequent publication of accounts of entries through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows an interest in documenting and disseminating both ideal rituals and innovative developments across Europe. However, we must not forget that the tone, experience, and political results of these events could vary widely and depended on the individual context and the specific relations between organizers, “possessors”, and observers.

RSJ Blog:You said already a bit about the entries from the point of view of the possessor respectively how these entries were supposed to be viewed by the possessed. However, if we turn the perspective around, were such possessions also a sign of the need for the subjects to accept the authority; i.e. a symbol of power from the ruled over the ruler?

Jennifer: Yes, in many cases. The rituals established a relationship between the ritual actor/monarch/authority and the community. The well-known progresses that French kings made were similar in purpose to the pope’s possesso ritual that involved traveling with the entire Papal Court from the Vatican Palace across the city to his episcopal see of St. John Lateran. In both cases the rulers followed traditional itineraries through their cities in order to meet with distinct groups and ratify their privileges and relationships with the central authority. As with other aspects of social life in communities with low literacy rates, public memory played an important role in these events. The observing community was called on to affirm the historical roots of the ritual forms, the legitimacy of the actors involved, and the legality of the adopted roles. While it was possible to avoid witnessing these entries as a statement against the proposed authority, this was not always a profitable avenue of negotiation. In many cases the situation was more delicate. As Charles Keenan’s article shows, observers might accept the individual’s right to office, but have a conflict with his or her intended policy and future actions.

RSJ Blog: There is a huge emphasis on the rituals and spaces of these entries, which raises the question of sources – what kind of sources have survived to bring these entries to life? Is Geertz’s thick description possible from a 400-500 years distance? Or, in different words: how can we today understand the (symbolic) language of rituals?

Jennifer: There are a wonderful array of sources that have survived that help us understand the mechanism of and reaction to rituals of possession. These include published and personal accounts, images of events and apparati – see the British Library’s online collection of Renaissance Festival Books –, records of planning, construction, and payments, as well as the spaces themselves in some cases. While not all records survive for each event, enough do in cities, galleries, libraries and archives worldwide to reveal how there were global norms and patterns of action and interest on the part of both actors and observers. Geertz’s method of thick description is possible, but hinges on immersion in the sources, acknowledging the reality of festive labor, and using context to its maximal effect. The language of rituals, symbolic as it may be, has maintained certain core ideas over the centuries.

RSJ Blog: Finally, could you please tell us a bit about how these early modern rituals of taking possession are still influential today, e.g. todays importance of the keys of the city, or the Lord Mayor’s Show in London?

Jennifer: Modern communities continue to hold entry rituals to greet leaders and celebrities, and politicians seeking election participate in progresses across their electoral districts. They depend upon public observers to show support, negotiate relationships, and thus build their reputations. Our ability to record and manipulate these events has grown with the development of the modern media and especially with the proliferation of individualized digital platforms. Today we are more likely to see rituals of possession as an integral part of celebrity or political culture, but the presence of an important or popular figure riding in a parade waving to crowds – be it members of a champion local soccer team, a newly crowned or elected head of state, or pop singers performing on a float – remains the same. We continue to participate in the process by which messages of reputation based on office or achievement are publicly ratified by traveling to and through landmark spaces under the public eye. These events are wide ranging, from traditional royal or ecclesiastical progresses to the Olympic flame relay and Santa Claus parades. Even in the twenty-first century, we seek out opportunities to interact locally with political, religious, and cultural leaders, and share our communities with them. Perhaps it is a common human need that makes us want to stake a claim to visitors, just as they want to “take possession” of us.

RSJ Blog: Thank you very much for this interview, Jennifer! All of you who are now even more curious to read more about taking possession of a space, head over to the Royal Studies Journal, and enjoying reading the first thematic issue!

The very beginning of the Olympic Torch starting it’s entry into Rio de Janeiro in 2016

Conference Report “Saints and Sinners: Literary Footprints of Mary and Margaret, Queens of Scots”

Just at the beginning of this month, on October 6th&7th, the University of Edinburgh hosted the conference Saints and Sinners: Literary Footprints of Mary and Margaret, Queens of Scots, organized by Claire Harrill and Lucy Hinnie. This conference was supported by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH, University of Edinburgh), the Society for the Study of Medieval Language and Literature (MEDIUM ÆVUM), and the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA, University of Birmingham). Heta Aali from the University of Turku (Finland) kindly send us her conference report to share the discussions with all of you.
Have you been to an interesting conference lately? Send us your impressions!

Heta Aali: With eight speakers and two keynote lectures, by Dr Sarah Dunnigan (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Catherine Keene (Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX), the conference allowed for a productive discussion and a profound exchange of thoughts on representations created by and of the medieval queens in question. As the title of the conference indicates, the focus of the conference was on literary footprints of the two famous Queens of Scots, Mary I (died 1587) and St Margaret (died 1093). Yet, the topic was to be interpreted comprehensively, as could be seen from the wide range of approaches in the papers, and it was understood more in general as images of medieval queenship, gender, and women’s reading and writing. Noteworthy is that many papers focused on the literary representations of famous queens created by men. And moreover, as all the speakers were women, this also meant that at the conference, women explored the way men had examined famous medieval queens. This point did not escape the attention of the participants and in the final roundtable discussion the problem of gender segmentation between disciplines was brought up and the way literate studies (especially about queens) are so strongly identified as “feminine” field.

The conference started with two presentations on saintly medieval queens, and also a little bit on non-saints. My own presentation started the conference with a discussion on the representations of Merovingian queens created by early nineteenth-century French historians. Minji Lee (Rice University) continued by presenting Hildegard of Bingen’s and Birgitta of Sweden’s idea on childbirth. Mary Hardy from Aberdeen University focused in her paper on the way Queen Margaret was used by later authors to emphasise Catholic devotion in various European educational institutions whereas Amelia Heath from King’s College, London examined successfully how Margaret’s gender was presented as crossing the gender norms, or rather, as stretching the boundaries. Amy Hayes, also from the University of Aberdeen, discussed the problem of using sixteenth-century sources in studying the Middle Ages and the fifteenth century. The problem is relevant to all those studying the Middle Ages or any remote period with only few sources left and therefore the question in how far we can trust those later sources. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer since the sources are often difficult to replace even if their context of writing is known to be problematic. Allison Steenson (University of Edinburgh) presented her very interesting research project concerning the Hawthornden Manuscripts. The first keynote lecture, by Dr Dunnigan, focused on Mary, Queen of Scots, as a poet, a side of her which was very interesting though fairly seldom discussed in research. In Dr Dunnigan’s presentation, Mary was not only the object of male writing but she herself participated actively in the creation of her own image. The second keynote lecture, by Dr Keene, discussed the images and imagenary of Margaret and Virgin Mary holding and reading books, and more generally the association between women and books in the Middle Ages. The last two presentations, by Kate Ash-Irrisari (University of Manchester) and Anne Rutten (University of St Andrews) examined the Scottish queens’ later reputation and images especially during the Stuarts’ rule over Scotland, and later also England..

The conference concluded with a round table discussion with all speakers and other participants in which the general arguments and major themes of the conference were drawn together. Queenship and textuality was first brought up as a major theme since most speakers examined the textual images of the queens. Secondly, women’s writing was emphasised; either as queens who wrote or as historians writing about queens. What were these women permitted to write and what not? Thirdly, and most interestingly, it was discussed how women were remembered, who controls their representations, and the polarized opinions on politically significant women. It seems that historians, authors, and political thinkers used similar literate devices and models to either promote or derogate the queens depending on the political situation and on author’s affiliations at the time of the writing.

Female sovereignty, authority, and national identity were relevant questions in many presentations. The medieval, early modern, or nineteenth-century authors’ and historians’ opinions about female sovereignty and national identity played an important role in the creation of the representations despite the differences in time and place. What united the women discussed in the conference was that they were all somehow described as escaping the gender frame imposed by contemporary and later historians and authors. The gender frame(s) differed from one time to another, from one place to another, but the queens were often pictured as not quite fitting in.  In addition, several questions were raised concerning the current academic situation of studying medieval queens. For example, the question of how disciplinary boundaries, or strict separation of disciplines, affect the research was brought up. The strict boundaries were even seen as possibly hindering the research. Research of medieval queens calls for interdisciplinary approaches that would take into consideration textual and material cultures simultaneously. According to many participants, the relevant disciplines continue to be gendered which can also affect the outcome of the research. It was agreed that one should aim to overturn the preconceptions on and juxtaposition of “soft” and “scientific” history.

The conference participants also had the chance to enjoy a short presentation of the ongoing “Dangerous Women Project“. It aims to discover the different meanings of “dangerous women” by publishing every day for one year a blog of what it means to be a dangerous woman. Each day the blog has a different author and approach to the question, thus offering a wide range of answers.


Interview with Talia Zajac

Gloriosa Regina or “Alien Queen”?: Some Reconsiderations on Anna Yaroslavna’s Queenship (r. 1050-1075)

Talia Zajac is a PhD Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto and newsletter editor for the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA). She is currently completing revisions on her dissertation, “Women Between West and East: the inter-rite marriages of the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty, ca. 1000-1204” (co-supervised by Isabelle Cochelin and Allan Smith). As its title indicates, the dissertation analyzes the marriage alliances of the Riurikids, the Orthodox rulers of Rus’ (the ancestor state of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), with Catholic rulers. Drawing on studies of medieval queenship, her research focuses on the individual experience of cultural displacement and continuity of elite women in these marriages. Her article appears in issue four (2016) of the Royal Studies Journal.We recently caught up with Talia to chat about her article and her research.

RSJ Blog: Thank you for a great article! To get started, could you tell us some basic information about Anna of Kiev?

Talia: Anna was the daughter of prince Yaroslav “the Wise” of Kiev (d. 1054) and princess Ingigerd (d. 1050), the daughter of King Olof Eirikson Skötkonung of Sweden (d. 1021/1022). Sources do not record Anna’s birth date, only those of her brothers, but we can estimate that she was born in the early 1020s. The French embassy led by bishops Roger of Châlons-en-Champagne and Gautier of Meaux arrived in Kiev in 1049 to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage on behalf of the French king Henri I. They returned to France between 1050 and 1051. Subsequently in 1051, Anna was the first queen of the Capetian dynasty to be crowned and married in Reims Cathedral, which could be indicative of the special prestige attached to her marriage.

When her eldest son Philippe was born in 1052 he was the first member of the Capetian dynasty to be given this name, which was still very rare in France. A name of Greek origin for the heir to the throne was highly unusual and points to Anna’s influence. In addition, a few charters suggest that Anna participated in the patronage of local ecclesiastical institutions in the Ile-de-France during her husband’s lifetime. Her participation in governance increased after her husband’s death in 1060, when she ruled as co-regent with her brother-in-law Count Baldwin of Flanders on behalf of her eight-year-old son Philippe. Twenty-three surviving charters from the years of Philippe’s minority (1060-1067) indicate that Anna played a key role in ruling France during this period and in confirming the rights and privileges of monasteries and churches, including such important abbeys as Saint Martin-des-Champs and Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.

In 1061, however, Anna remarried with Count Raoul of Crépy-en-Valois (d. 1074). This hasty remarriage a year after her husband’s death may suggest that Anna was still, to a certain degree, an outsider at the French court, in need of a local protector. As a result of this second union, Anna also became Countess of Valois, and ruled likewise as a seigniorial lady.

In the early 1060s (probably 1063), Anna, or a chaplain acting on her behalf, signed one charter in favor of the abbey of Saint-Crépin-le-Grand in Soissons in Cyrillic script as “ANA PЪHNA” (Ana rьina, i.e., Anna regina). This remarkable document, which survives in the original in the Bibliothèque nationale, testifies to Anna’s ability to maintain ties to her natal Rus’ culture after a decade in France. It also indicates that the effects of the “scandal” of Anna’s second marriage on her queenship has also been somewhat exaggerated in secondary literature. The charter is issued in her son’s name, but the consent of her second husband Raoul is also noted in the charter. Despite her second marriage, Anna continued to participate in the life of the royal court and did not become a persona non grata.


Nineteenth-century statue of Anna Yaroslavna (c) Natalia Zajac 2013

RSJ Blog:What was the significance of this east-west marriage, and how did it come to be (especially during a time of growing distance between the east and west churches)?

Talia: This is an excellent question! Since no primary source directly discusses the motivations for this long-distance marriage alliance, to a certain degree any answer must rely simply on speculation. We can make a few informed guesses, however, as to the benefits that both Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and King Henri of France could hope to gain from such a marriage.

Political concerns probably led Henri to make his choice of a long-distance alliance. It is helpful to remember that the Capetians were still a relatively new dynasty in the mid eleventh century: Henri I was only the third king of this new line. As parvenus, who had ousted the Carolingian dynasty, the Capetians needed to make marriage alliances with established ruling houses in order to legitimize their reign. Marion Facinger and Constance Bouchard have shown that, although later Capetians would be content to marry the daughters of counts, the early Capetians in the tenth and eleventh centuries sought to marry the daughters of kings. Nevertheless, it grew increasingly difficult to find suitably elevated women who were also not related to them within the seven prohibited degrees of consanguinity.

In 988, Hugh Capet, Henri’s grandfather, had searched for an eastern marriage alliance. He had Gerbert of Aurillac (later pope Sylvester II) write to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, asking him to send a bride for his son Robert. We do not know if the Byzantine court even bothered to reply, but the letter indicates that the Capetian court had no qualms with seeking an eastern Christian bride. In doing so, Hugh Capet may have hoped not only to abide by consanguinity regulations, but also, perhaps equally importantly, to legitimize his dynasty by marriage into the Byzantine imperial house.

Robert was ultimately threatened with excommunication by Pope Gregory V by taking as his second wife Bertha of Blois to whom he was related within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity (the couple were anathematized in 998 and finally divorced in 1001).  By marrying Anna of Kiev, Henri I may likewise have sought not only to satisfy consanguinity regulations that had plagued his father, but also to find a woman of royal blood to marry.

Anna of Kiev satisfied the demand for a bride of noble blood as she was related to the Byzantine imperial house: upon his conversion to Christianity in 988/989 her grandfather Vladimir (Volodymyr) Sviatoslavich, had married the Byzantine princess Anna, sister of Basil II (after whom she could likely have been named). Henri may also have heard about Anna of Kiev through his previous wife Matilda of Frisia (d. 1044), because Matilda’s niece, Oda of Stade, was married to Anna’s brother, Sviatoslav.

Finally, Anna of Kiev was part of the first generation of the rulers of Kiev to grow up in a Christian setting, since official conversion had only occurred late in her grandfather Vladimir’s reign. The growing liturgical and theological differences between Latin Christianity and Orthodoxy must not yet have seemed so great in newly-Chrisitanized Rus’ as the basic difference in belief between Christianity and paganism.

Anna had at least two other sisters who also became western queens: Elizabeth, who married King Harald Hardraada of Norway in 1044 and Anastasia, who married King Andrew I of Hungary around 1039-1050. Alexandr Musin recently (2014) has suggested that Henri I sought an alliance with Yaroslav the Wise, due to Yaroslav’s ties to Norway, in order to encircle William of Normandy. The theory is an intriguing one, especially since William of Normandy made a marriage alliance with Matilda of Flanders in 1049, the same year that Henri sent his marriage embassy to Kiev, but there are no primary sources that support the theory directly.

RSJ Blog: Wow, this marriage really gives insights into the complex international relations of this time! Your article mentions that earlier work often uncritically repeated legendary material. Any favorites among these fabrications?

Talia: One of my favorites is the story that her second husband Raoul kidnapped her on horseback while she was riding in the forest of Senlis and married her by force. One can find this story repeated in some English works on Anna, for example, in the entry on her life in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russia and Soviet History (1976), but it is not substantiated by any medieval source.

But the most widespread tale about Anna is that she was responsible for bringing into France the so-called “Reims Gospel Book” or Slavonic Gospels (Reims, Bibliothèque municipale Carnegie, MS 255) on which subsequently French kings swore their coronation oaths. This claim has been disputed multiple times in scholarly articles and yet continues to appear in publications. The Gospel Book appears for the first time in the treasury inventory of Reims Cathedral in 1622 which states that the manuscript was donated to Reims Cathedral in 1574 by Cardinal Charles of Lorraine (1524-1575). He might perhaps have picked it up during the course of his travels to the Council of Trent. We have no have no specific source references to the actual use of Reims MS 255 in French coronations. Even today, the Reims Municipale Library has a special section of its website in Russian solely for the purpose of demonstrating that this manuscript has no connection to Anna of Kiev.

RSJ Blog: The article notes in several places that some of Anna’s charters are only available in later copies. What is the story of these primary sources?

Talia: The royal demesne and centralized monarchical power was at its most limited extent during the reign of Henri I (1031-1060). Consequently, his reign is the least well documented of any Capetian monarch as the number of acts issued by the royal chancellery declined. Without further research it is difficult to say, however, why certain specific acts have survived in the original, while others are known only through later copies. Certainly, in some cases, only the beneficiaries of the acts (ecclesiastical institutions) have preserved copies of a given document.

RSJ Blog: What does Anna of Kiev tell us about medieval queenship? How did the “Capetian Trinity” of royal authority work?

Talia: The “Capetian Trinity” was a term first coined by Achille Luchaire (1846-1908) to describe royal government of the early Capetian dynasty: in which king, queen, and heir to the throne to a certain degree shared royal power and authority (auctoritas): the king is at the head of government, but the queen consort and heir to the throne also consent to and participate in royal decisions. The queen was subject to the king, but all were subject to God, who held the ultimate auctoritas. In this hierarchical and yet collaborative model of rulership, there was scope for the queen consort to exercise a role of intercessor and adviser in the royal court/council (curia regis). Her office was established ritually and publicly through her anointment, coronation, and marriage.

Indeed, Anna’s presence in the curia regis, her subscription to acts, her role as co-regent for her son, and as  patron of monasteries and houses of regular canons, indicate that she took an active role in the court life of her new homeland, fulfilling the roles expected of her in her anointing as queen.

My article showed that it is not helpful to think of her as an “alien” or “exotic” queen; adjectives which are tinged with Orientalist overtones. Rather, Anna’s queenship exemplifies a fluidity of religious-social identity: she both adapted to the roles and expectations of western queenship conferred to her upon her crowning and anointing, and, at the same time, as seen in her Cyrillic signature or the Greek name given to her eldest son, continued to have some degree of contact and connection to the Orthodox land of her birth. Her reign can give us insight into the ways in which “foreign” medieval queens successfully negotiated these fluid identities.

RSJ Blog: It is quite surprising that Anna’s orthodoxy rarely plays a role in her life as French queen – could you maybe expand on this a bit? Is there an explanation?

Talia: This is a fascinating question and one which I am currently pursuing further in my dissertation on the other marriage alliances of the Riurikid dynasty, to which Anna belonged, with Latin Christian rulers.

Perhaps Anna’s adaptation to life in France as a married woman can be at least partly explained by the fact that she already was growing up in a court setting that was multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and open to ties with Latin Christendom.  Anna’s father Yaroslav had relied upon Varangian (Viking) mercenaries to gain the throne of Kiev following the succession struggle that broke out after Vladimir’s death in 1015. During these military struggles, he had married the Swedish princess Ingigerd around 1019. As a result, Anna had a Latin Christian mother and an Orthodox Christian father. Prior to her marriage with Henri I, Anna would have seen Latin Christian mercenaries, merchants, as well as her own siblings married off to Latin Christian rulers. Anna’s brothers-in-law Harald Hardraada and Andrew I of Hungary both spent time as exiles in Rus’ so she would have met them directly. Thus, although she grew up in an Orthodox Christian setting, to a certain degree she was also exposed to the customs of western Christians prior to her marriage to Henri I.

RSJ Blog: Anna of Kiev came to the French court, and seemingly adapted very well to her new role. But what about her entourage? Are there any sources telling us what they did?

Talia: Anna would have surely been accompanied by an entourage befitting her high status as she set off on her long 2,000 km (1242 mile) journey between Kiev and Paris. Unfortunately, medieval sources preserve absolutely nothing about the number, gender, and status of the people who made up Anna’s entourage (did they include female attendants? Male nobles? clerics or lay persons?).

Based on the carefully formed uncial (Russian: ustav) script in which Anna’s Cyrillic signature on the charter for Saint-Crépin-le-Grand is executed, other charters extant in the original have a cleric signing on her behalf (in Latin), and the royal chancellery at the time was linked to the royal chapel, it is possible that a Rus’ cleric might have executed the Cyrillic signature at Anna’s request. Such a cleric might have been a member of Anna’s entourage. On the other hand, if that were the case, it is curious that no other source should mention his presence. The long-standing theory that the Cyrillic signature is Anna’s autograph remains equally plausible.

Although we do not have any information on Anna’s entourage, charters do preserve mention of members of her household. One charter issued between 1060 and 1067 mentions a certain Amalric, “the queen’s seneschal.” Ingeran, Philippe’s tutor, also appears in the witness-list in seven extant charters until Philippe’s majority in 1067. His name is French, but in some charters he is given a rather Greek title, pedegogus. Unfortunately, the occasional occurrence of this title is rather slim evidence on which to extrapolate any evidence concerning Anna’s role in educating her children.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for this interesting insight into the life of an Eastern queen in France in the 11th century. Two final questions: how did Anna spend her last days?

Talia: During her widowhood, Anna restored from ruin the church of Saint-Vincent in Senlis north of Paris, which she refounded as a house of regular canons sometime before 1069 (when her son Philippe issued a confirmation charter for the abbey). Thereafter, Saint-Vincent celebrated an annual obit (memorial service) for Anna on September 5th until the French Revolution.  Based on the last charter in which she subscribes (1075) and a charter of Philippe I in which he gives a gift to Cluny in 1079 for the soul of his parents as well as the date of the obit, Anna must have died on September 5th, between 1075 and 1079. Her place of burial is unknown; one medieval chronicle, the early twelfth-century Historiae Franciae, states that Anna Yaroslavna returned alone to Rus’ after the death of her second husband, Raoul.


Saint Vincent in Senlis (c) Natalia Zajac 2013

RSJ Blog: And what are your next projects? You already talked about tracing more Eastern-Western marriages in this time; anything else?

Talia: The presence of Rus’-born princesses in Latin Europe is a topic that has received relatively little attention in Anglo-American scholarship, but is one which offers rich avenues for further research. Besides investigating the neglected role of Rus’ princesses as queen consorts of Latin Christian lands, my research also focuses on the social-political roles played by elite women within Rus itself. Currently I am working on an article tracing the material objects circulated by Rus’ princesses upon their marriages to Western European rulers and what happened to these objects as they entered royal and ecclesiastical treasuries.

My longer-term research goals include expanding upon my dissertation to write a monograph on Rus-born queen consorts of Europe and what their reigns can tell us about the social effects of the “Schism” between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the lives of medieval elites.

In the future, I also intend to pursue a more in-depth comparative investigation of Anna Yaroslavna’s place in the national imagination of French, Ukrainian, and Russian historiography from the early sixteenth to the twentieth century. Her life has been the subject of two operas, multiple novels, as well as a Soviet film, each of which offers a different vision of the relations between Rus’ and the Western Europe. The project will investigate Anna’s “post-medieval” image and what it can tell us about France, Ukraine, and Russia’s constructions of their intersecting history/histories, as well as the different ways in which relations between Eastern and Western Europe have been understood over time.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for a wonderful interview and great article! We are looking forward to reading your work in the future.

CCCU Article Prize Winner – Interview with Rocío Martínez López

The first winner of the Royal Studies Journal Article Prize is Rocío Martínez López, a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Madrid, Spain). She is also involved in the organisation of the next Kings & Queens conference which will take place in Madrid in September 2017.

Rocío has translated her article with the invaluable help of Ellie Woodacre and Jitske Jasperseand. It appears in the current issue of the Royal Studies Journal here.

I caught up with her to ask a few more questions about her article, and her research in general.

Cathleen: Hi Rocío! Thanks for doing this interview.
You recently won the Royal Studies Journal Article Prize, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for your article ‘La infanta se ha de casar con quien facilite la paz o disponga los medios para la guerra‘. Las negociaciones para la realización del matrimonio entre la infanta María Teresa y Leopoldo I (1654-1657) in the journal Revista de Historia Moderna 33 (2015). Congratulations!
First of all, could you tell us a bit about this article? What is it about?

Rocío: Hi, Cathleen! Thanks for your congratulations! I feel really honored and I want to thank the Royal Studies Journal, the Canterbury Christ Church University and the ECR and Young Researchers’ Article Prize Committee for it. Well, my article focuses on the analysis of the marriage negotiations between Felipe IV of Spain and the emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold to arrange the marriage between the King of Spain’s prospective heiress, infanta María Teresa, and the heir of the Imperial branch of the Habsburgs. These negotiations, which lasted more than a decade, can help us understand the complex relationship maintained between both branches of the House of Habsburg after the peace of Westphalia, in a moment in which the problem of the Spanish Succession was of capital importance in Europe. After the death of Prince Baltasar Carlos, Felipe IV’s only son and heir, in 1646, the question of the marriage of his only surviving daughter and heiress became a crucial point in the European diplomacy of the moment. María Teresa was the direct successor of her father for more than ten years in an especially difficult moment for a Spanish monarchy immersed in a grueling war against France. Wanting to assure the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy for his line, in case that Felipe IV would die without a male heir, Emperor Ferdinand III tried to arrange the Infanta’s marriage with his heir, first with King Ferdinand IV of Hungary and, after his death, with Leopold I. But these ultimately failed negotiations were anything but easy. Felipe IV wanted to assure the future of his daughter and his monarchy, arranging a marriage for her that would help him to put an end to the war with France and, also, that would follow his interests regarding a possible goverment of the Spanish monarchy. For his part, Ferdinand III wanted for this marriage to follow his own dispositions and refused to let his son and heir renounce to the Crown of the Empire to marry the Infanta and to live in Madrid, even when Felipe IV ended up offering the hand of his daughter in marriage to Leopold. Ferdinand III died without resolving this issue and Leopold I showed very soon his good disposition to travel to Madrid and renounce the possibility of being elected Emperor, even when he realized that he could end up with nothing if Felipe IV had a male child. They were negotiating this arrangement when Mariana of Austria, Felipe IV’s second wife, gave birth to a son, Prince Felipe Próspero. From that point onwards, María Teresa wasn’t the heiress of the Spanish monarchy anymore and her father had more freedom than before to arrange her marriage to his liking. This birth changed the rules of the game and Leopold I ended up losing the bride for whom he was ready to renounce the Crown of the Empire without any guarantees of getting the Spanish monarchy in return. It is a very interesting episode and shows us how the international politics could change drastically in connection with the dynastic problems and the crisis of sucession in Early Modern Europe.

452px-Retrato_de_la_infanta_María_Teresa_(3),_by_Diego_VelázquezInfanta María Teresa (by Diego Velázquez, 1652/53)

Cathleen: This question of the Spanish succession as well as the diplomatic negotiations regarding the marriage of María Teresa, daughter and heiress of Felipe IV, dominated the second half of the 17th century between the Thirty-Years-War and later the wars of María Teresa’s eventual husband, Louis XIV. How do these failed marriage negotiations relate to the War of the Spanish Succession a few decades later?

Rocío: This marriage is closely related to the War of the Spanish Succession. We need to take into account that the problem of the Spanish Succession isn’t a circumstance that emerged in the last years of the seventeenth century, but an issue that had a great importance in the European policy from 1646 until the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession. In the question of the Spanish succession, Felipe IV’s daughters and Carlos II’s sisters, María Teresa and Margarita, had a crucial importance, as the most immediate relatives of the childless King. The marriage of María Teresa with Louis XIV was preceded by a solemn renunciation, made by the Infanta, of all her rights to the Spanish Monarchy for herself and her descendants, but Louis XIV began to fight against its legality soon after the marriage took place. This renunciation made her little sister Margarita the legitimate heiress of Carlos II, following said renunciation and Felipe IV’s last will. Margarita ended up getting married to her sister‘s old suitor, Leopold I, and her line would be considered as the legitimate heirs of the Spanish monarchy until its extinction in 1699, despite France’s claims. Louis XIV‘s pressure regarding the Spanish sucession came from his marriage to María Teresa and the fact she was Felipe IV’s eldest daughter. If she had married Leopold I, as it was originally planned, and had had surviving issue, France would not have had the same claims to the Spanish succession and this process would have been very different. Felipe IV didn’t want his inheritance to leave the House of Austria. Both Felipe IV and Ferdinand III were very aware of the problems that could befall their dynasty if the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy were to end up in the hands of France and that belief was very present in this marriage negotiation. On one point, Felipe IV’s counsellors advised their King that he should marry María Teresa with the Emperor’s heir because they would need his help in case France claimed any territories of the Spanish monarchy in any instance. Felipe IV was aware that the marriage between María Teresa and Louis XIV was the most convenient possibility to end the war, but he couldn’t allow it while his daughter was his only heiress. It was the birth of two possible male heirs that made him feel secure enough about the future of his own line to choose another destiny for María Teresa. But its connection with the War of the Spanish Succession is very clear and can show us how the Spanish’s succession crisis influenced the European policy decades before its outbreak.

Cathleen: So, just as a thought experiment: What if this marriage between María Teresa and Leopold I, between the two branches of the Habsburg dynasty, came to be? How would that have changed the course of events in the late 17th and early 18th century?

Rocío: The easy answer to that question would be that the War of the Spanish Succession would never have happened. None of the infantas who married into the Imperial branch of the Habsburgs renounced to their rights of succession to the Spanish throne and it wasn’t expected for Maria Teresa to do so if she married Leopold, as she had to do when she married Louis XIV. The possible rights to the succession of the Spanish throne that Louis XIV claimed on María Teresa’s behalf since 1660 onwards were linked to the fact that his wife was the eldest daughter of Felipe IV and eldest sister of Carlos II. Without said marriage, he wouldn’t have any claims to the Spanish territories with three descendants of Felipe IV (Carlos II, María Teresa, and Margarita) alive and with the possibility of having their own descendants. Other international problems linked to the succession crisis, like the War of Devolution (1667-1668) would have had a very different nature as well. Also, the marriage of Maria Teresa’s younger sister, Margarita, who eventually married Leopold years later, would have to be with another person, something that would have altered the rules of the game once more. As you can see, the history of Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century would have been very different. But I also have to add that these changes would have taken place only if María Teresa and Leopold, as well as Margarita and the one who would have been her husband, had surviving issue. Without them or their descendants, the succession would have been disputed between the descendants of the infanta Ana, eldest daughter of Felipe III of Spain, married to Louis XIII and mother of Louis XIV, who renounced her rights to the Spanish throne before her marriage (as María Teresa had to do) and those of the empress Maria Anna, youngest daughter of Felipe III, wife of emperor Ferdinand III and Leopold I’s mother. So if they would have died without any descendants, we would have been back to square one. And the chances of that happening weren’t as slim as one could think. María Teresa had six children with Louis XIV, of which only one, the Dauphin Louis, survived into adulthood and Margarita had four children with Leopold I, of which only the archduchess Maria Antonia survived and her line became extinct before the end of the century. But, even taking this into account, we can assume that the history of Europe from 1660 onwards would have been very different if the marriage between María Teresa and Leopold would have taken place as expected and, with descendants of this marriage, the War of the Spanish Succession probably would have never taken place.

Guido_Cagnacci_005Leopold I who did not marry María Teresa

Cathleen: The level of interest of Leopold I in this marriage is very surprising – even against the wishes of his father, he pressed for the negotiations and was prepared to relinquish the election to be emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Why was he so keen on marrying the Spanish infanta?

Rocío: When we talk about this, we must remember that, at the time, Felipe IV’s inheritance was composed of the most vast and extensive monarchy in the world. It has its problems, without any doubt, but the power it entailed was far greater than the one Leopold could efectively hold as an emperor, especially after the peace of Westphalia and the negotiations surrounding it imposed important limitations on the powers of the imperial ruler. I think that the prospect of being the king of the Spanish monarchy was too tempting for Leopold to refuse, especially when almost everybody thought that the possibility of Felipe IV having a surviving male heir were slim and he was sure that he could mantain control of the patrimonial lands of the Habsburgs in Central Europe, as well as of Hungary and Bohemia. Ferdinand III wanted for his heir to remain linked to his patrimonial lands and to the crown of the Empire and was very aware that his son could end up with very little if María Teresa wasn’t finally the heiress of the Spanish monarchy. In fact, if Felipe IV hadn’t tried to convince Leopold to present himself as a candidate for the Imperial Crown and had come to Spain when he wanted, he would have ended up only with his patrimonial lands after his prospective wife was relegated to a secondary place in the line of succession. Leopold was prepared to take the risk to have the oportunity of becoming one of the most powerful monarchs of the time through his wife, even if that meant giving up the difficult crown of the Empire, for whose government he had to rely heavily on the difficult Imperial princes. From his point of view, it was worth the risk and he was ready to take it at that moment, but it wasn’t mean to be.

Cathleen: What are you working on right now?

Rocío: I am currently working on my dissertation. It is focused precisely on the problem of Carlos II of Spain’s succession during his reign and how it influenced its political relationship with the Empire and Bavaria, using as a common point the fact that Infanta Margarita, archduchess María Antonia of Austria and Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria were considered as the rightful heirs of the Spanish Monarchy by Madrid’s government. I had the opportunity of consulting documents of several archives of Spain and Vienna and I have been awarded a grant to conduct further research in Munich in autumn, so I am very happy with the results and I hope for my dissertation to be completed in winter 2017. Also, I am preparing two articles, one focused on the negotations for the marriage of Leopold I and Margarita of Austria after María Teresa’s marriage and the other presents an analysis of the rights of succession of the infantas and archduchesses of the House of Habsburg during the Early Modern period. And, finally, I am also working on the organization of the next King&Queens conference, who will take place in my hometown, Madrid, where I hope to see you all!

Cathleen: Good luck with your research and your PhD and thanks so much for doing this interview! Hope as well to see you all at the next Kings&Queens Conference in Madrid which we will later have more about!

CCCU Book Prize Winner – Interview with Carolyn Harris

The winner of the first CCCU RSJ Book Prize, Dr. Carolyn Harris, is a historian, author and royal commentator (and isn’t this a great job title) from Toronto, Canada. She completed her PhD in spring 2012 at Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada), and has been very busy since then. Her prize-winning book Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (Palgrave Macmillan: Queenship and Power Series) is already her second published monograph, the first one being Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law and Human Rights (Dundurn Press 2015), and the third is scheduled for 2017: Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting (Dundurn Press). Besides obviously spending her days researching and writing, she also teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and is a guest lecturer for museums, libraries, universities, and educational organisations. Occasionally, she even gives lectures at sea for cruise ship enrichment programs.

Find her also on Twitter @royalhistorian.

We got together with Carolyn to ask more about her research.

Cathleen: Hi Carolyn! Thanks for doing this interview!
You recently won the Royal Studies Journal Book Prize, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for your monograph Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette. Congratulations!

Could you first tell us a bit more about this book, especially for our readers who haven’t yet a chance to take a look inside?

Marie Antoinette 517px-HenriettaMariaofFrance02
Marie Antoinette (by François-Hubert Drouais) and Henrietta Maria (by Anthony van Dyck)

Carolyn: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe analyzes Queen Henrietta Maria, queen to King Charles I and Queen Marie Antoinette, queen to King Louis XVI in their roles as wives, mothers and heads of royal households during the years preceding the English Civil Wars and French Revolution respectively. I compare the two queens and the political cultures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is structured thematically, examining the contrast between how each queen viewed her domestic role and the expectations of her husband’s subjects. The final chapter compares the impeachment of Henrietta Maria by the House of Commons in 1643 with the Trial of Marie Antoinette by the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1793 then the book concludes with the lasting impact of the debates concerning each queen’s place in her family during periods of political turmoil.

Cathleen: While the comparison between Charles I and Louis XVI has often been made, their wives were usually a bit marginalized in the political history of the English and the French Revolution. How did you develop an interest in these two queens?

Carolyn: I have always been interested in the position of royal women in court culture and how these figures have been perceived by the public. My article for Canadian Slavonic Papers, The Succession Prospects of Grand Duchess Olga, examines the public role of Emperor Nicholas II’s daughters during the years prior to the Russian Revolutions of 1917. I also wrote a chapter about how Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise was perceived during her years as vice regal consort of Canada in the book Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy.

Examining Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, I found the parallels between their experiences fascinating. They were both youngest daughters in large royal families where their mother’s wielded political power. As queens consort, they were judged as wives, mothers and mistresses of royal households and scrutinized as foreign influences over their respective ruling husbands. Henrietta Maria was impeached by the House of Commons during the English Civil Wars and Marie Antoinette was executed during the French Revolution after being tried and sentenced by the Revolutionary Tribunal. I wanted to explore the parallels between these two queens and how they conducted their lives in the public eye during periods when the role of women in society was debated during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Cathleen: You certainly emphasize the role of public opinion in the treatment of these queens. Could you please expand a bit more on this?

Carolyn: Criticism of the queen was a method of critiquing the king’s policies without direct criticism the king himself. Both Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette were women and foreigners and there was enormous popular anxiety about the potential for them to exert political influence. Critics of the queen could present themselves as loyal subjects who wanted to neutralize foreign influences. There was a long tradition in both England and France of critiquing advisors to the monarch and criticism of Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette became part of this tradition.

Critiquing the queen as a wife and mother was also a means for people of diverse social backgrounds including women to engage with the political process. High politics was the preserve of the elites but people of all social backgrounds could discuss the queen through their own experiences and observations of marriage and motherhood. Henrietta Maria’s critics included female writers who questioned the sincerity of harmonious imagery of the queen’s marriage and women arrested for seditious speech who spoke aloud of how they influence the king if they were the queen. Marie Antoinette was a patron of female writers and artists but women were divided in their opinions of the queen as a wife and mother. During the childless early years of her marriage, Marie Antoinette was criticized by Parisian market women because she had not given France a Dauphin. During the French Revolution, Olympe de Gouges dedicated the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen to the queen but the historian Louise de Karalio placed Marie Antoinette within a centuries long tradition of supposed crimes committed by Queens of France.

Cathleen: After having read your book, it seems quite clear that between the times of Henrietta Maria (mid-seventeenth century) and of Marie Antoinette (end of eighteenth-century) not only the role of women in society was debated, but also quite a few changes happened concerning the role of women in their families and marriages as well as a different political culture in regards to (informal) counsel at court. How does this relate to these two queens?

Carolyn: Both Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette became wives and mothers in the public eye during times periods of ideological debate concerning the role of women in their families. During Henrietta Maria’s lifetime, there was enormous concern among Protestants in England and Scotland regarding recusant wives and mothers who might influence their families toward Roman Catholicism. Henrietta Maria was a Roman Catholic princess married to a Protestant king and the terms of her marriage contract gave her both her religious freedom and authority over her children. Henrietta Maria therefore became the highest profile example of this phenomenon of recusant wives and mothers.

In late eighteenth century France, Enlightenment scholars debated the role of women within their families, especially whether the position of women arose from laws created by man or the conditions found in nature. Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that women were naturally inclined to the domestic sphere while the public sphere was a male realm. Marie Antoinette adopted certain elements of the late eighteenth century conception of natural childrearing including breast feeding and allowing her young children freedom of movement but she also expected to exert political influence in the public sphere. Marie Antoinette therefore became part of wider French debates about the proper role for women in their families and society.

Cathleen: This interest in early modern English and French queens seems quite different from your first book on the Magna Carta, especially its reception in Canada. Could you also tell a bit more about this?

Carolyn: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette arose from my PhD research at Queen’s University. The manuscript was under development when I began working with Magna Carta Canada, writing historical articles about King John and Magna Carta for the exhibition that toured in Canada for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. In 2014, the co-chairs of Magna Carta Canada invited me to write the companion book for the Magna Carta Canada exhibition, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada. The two book projects came together around the same time: Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada was published by Dundurn Press in May 2015 and Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe was published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2015. There is common ground between the two books: the legacy of Magna Carta informed both the English Civil Wars and the French Revolution.

Cathleen: That is true – Magna Carta had a renaissance in seventeenth-century England as well as inspiring revolutionaries from all times. Besides writing prize-winning books, you are also quite active giving lectures and interviews as well as teaching and writing – honestly: how do you manage all this? What got you started?

Carolyn: The past five years have been extremely busy. During my PhD at Queen’s University, one of my professors recommended me to the media for interviews about royal history during weeks prior to the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011. I became the university’s royal expert, undertaking a diverse range of media work in print, online, radio and TV. In 2012, the year I completed my PhD and began teaching at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, I established my website and twitter account @royalhistorian and continued to expand my media work. I am involved in a variety of projects in addition to teaching and providing royal history commentary for the media. I write regularly for the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia, fact check documentaries and consult on museum exhibitions. I have guest lectured about history and royalty in a variety of settings including universities, libraries, retirement residences and cruise ships!

Screenshot HPScreenshot of Carolyn’s website with a glimpse of her book on Magna Carta

Cathleen: This sounds amazing! And you still find time for your own research! What are you working on right now?

Carolyn: I’m currently working on my third book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, which will be published by Dundurn Press in 2017. The book will profile 25 sets of royal parents and the challenges they faced from fending off Viking attacks to fending off the paparazzi! I am also working on a scholarly article about Queen Henrietta Maria’s reputation during her widowhood. She continued to be an active and controversial political figure for twenty years after Charles I’s death but this period in her life has received comparatively little attention.

Cathleen: That is true. Much like for other queen consorts, there also seems a lot to learn about Henrietta Maria. Best luck for your new projects and thanks so much for doing this interview!

For more see our upcoming issue where you can read about why Carolyn’s book was selected and read Courtney Herber’s review of her prize winning book.

Conference Report “Dynasty and Dynasticism, 1400-1700”

Not long ago, on March 16th-18th 2016, the ERC funded project at the University of Oxford The Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Memory and Identity in Central Europe hosted a conference on Dynasty and Dynasticism, 1400-1700.
We asked Milinda Banerjee (Presidency University, Kolkata), Hélder Carvalhal (CIDEHUS, University of Évora) and Jonathan Spangler (Manchester Metropolitan University) to send us their impressions from this conference!

Thanks to Milinda, Hélder and Jonathan for their reports on the conference! Just drop us an email if you are also interested in sharing your thoughts about a conference you’ve been to!

Milinda Banerjee: The conference operated at the intersections of three scales of enquiry, bridging histories of Central and Eastern Europe (in the Jagiellonian sphere of control or influence), of late medieval and early modern European monarchies in general, and of global (including extra-European) dynastic polities. The introduction by the project leader Natalia Nowakowska (Oxford) sketched some of the main historiographic shifts in thinking about early modern dynasties and dynasticism over recent years, across disciplinary (historical, anthropological, and sociological) strands. The plenary lectures by Jeroen Duindam (Leiden) and Craig Clunas (Oxford) highlighted the need to think about early modern monarchies in global frames, in terms of parallels, connections, and divergences between different royal-dynastic polities from China to the Islamic world to Europe and Africa, while the plenary lecture of Paula Sutter Fichtner (CUNY/Brooklyn College) focused on the more specific case of the Habsburgs to draw out broader questions about the links between kinship, affective languages, and political power. The plenary lectures as well as the many individual papers all highlighted a certain common theme: that dynasty and dynasticism has not received adequate conceptual and critical recognition in historical scholarship, given that the presence of royal dynasties has often been taken for granted as a historical background, rather than rigorously analysed as a framing category in its own right for both historical actors and modern scholars. A majority of the papers focused on questions of representation and contestation, in the sense of how the royal (or even, non-royal, such as papal or aristocratic) dynasties represented themselves in terms of political thought and categorization, artistic and ceremonial language, and emotive vocabularies, and how their articulations were complicated,  challenged, and destabilized by a plurality of social actors.  Many of the panellists investigated how such self-consciously articulate dynastic languages interacted with other political idioms, including those provided by various religious systems and various sorts of patriotic, republican, or even (proto-) nationalist conceptual systems. Issues of gender were highlighted by several papers which focused on the gendering of power and the scope of female agency. Papers on China, West and Central Asia, and India brought new interesting extra-European perspectives into dialogue with early modern European frames of analysis. The concluding roundtable summarized some of the overarching discussion themes, even as the diversity of voices in the roundtable as well as in the preceding panels made it quite clear that ‘dynasty’ is better seen as a heuristically useful tool of analysis rather than as a monolithic category that can erase other social and spatial diversities.

Hélder Carvalhal: It is hard to encapsulate three very productive days in just a few words. As a result, this brief report is based on the sum of two aspects. First, I will generally approach how participants faced the central theme of the congress. In a parallel way, I will introduce some elements of what and how much I learned in those three days. Thus, the following lines are necessarily biased by my personal experience and interest. Apart from keynote speakers, individual papers will be addressed together regarding their respective themes.

Despite of being organized by an ERC-funded project dedicated to the study of Jagellonians, the congress was rather open and inclusive. With a set of papers approaching various issues concerning the major European dynasties at the period, although not exclusively, Dynasties and Dynasticism did accomplished its main goal –  to reassess what exactly we known as “dynasty”. Conceptual debate became quite clear right since the beginning. Initial interventions of Natalia Nowakowska and Jeroen Duindam underlined the need of exploring dynasties on a more profound way, therefore overcoming static definitions and pre-established common-places. The latter’s recent comparative work about this subject (Dynasties: A Global History of Power: 1300-1800, 2015) also drew attention to certain aspects which eventually came around during parallel sessions. Concretely, I am referring to issues as legitimacy (including competition for the throne and the destiny give to siblings/collaterals) or models of ruling (with particular interest on how rule of women affected dynastical power, among other phenomena dealing with diffusion/concentration of power).

Obviously, with such diversity of themes and geographies, comparative perspectives with other continents (especially Asia and Africa) did appear sporadically. In fact, such exercise has its merits, one of them being the general impression that European monarchies during the studied period are extremely homogenous and arguably much closer to its Asian and African counterparts than we initially thought. Interest discussion raised by Craig Clunas in his keynote approached the upwards of studying Asian dynasties, as well as the existence of several “Asias” in opposition to an image of a nearly homogeneous continent. This last debate, promoted by the most recent Sanjay Subrahmanyam´s piece on Asian connected histories (“One Asia, or Many? Reflections from connected history”, Modern Asian Studies 50, 1, 2016, pp. 5-43) brings food for thought regarding not only Asia, but other regions. If one neglects the Eurocentric perspective, perhaps a similar question can be asked: is there one Europe, especially regarding dynasties? There are some distinctive features, particularly in what concerns marriage, succession and primogeniture. Apparently, something happened within numerous European political units and respective dynasties during the late medieval and early modern period. The conference showed that in many cases we do see legitimacy urges on the behalf of the monarch, projecting a constructed image for political purposes. Used mechanisms were usually confined to the creation  and maintenance of the memory (genealogies, often forged; spaces and buildings, etc), the refinement of old-fashioned court rituals (ceremonials and etiquette, but also military/chivalric orders) and to a careful considered matrimonial policy. Several presentations explored these aspects (among others, Brero, Zupka, Coman, González Cuerva). In the same vein, dynastic consciousness as an issue was perhaps the most common aspect during the presentations. It is curious to verify that dynastical image construction could serve for internal political purposes (dynasty as a “family corporation”)  – as Piseri and Van der Steen contributions showed – but also when the time for affirm sovereignty regarding external intentions came round. Another popular concept, connected with the latter and raised numerous times during the sessions, was competition. It was not a particular surprise, since – as the initial keynotes noted – rivalry and antagonism usually happened when dynasties face diverse problems. Hence, many of the presented case studies referred themselves to competition within the same or between two or more dynasties.

In sum, it was a very pleasant, intense and rewarding event. As an early career researcher, I learned and benefitted immensely. Not only because of the content itself – note that Eastern Europe historiography not always receive a lot of attention in this “fringe” of Europe, nor post-graduation programmes contemplate reasonable input about the said region – but especially in what concerns the main debates within the study of dynasties as a space of observation per se.

Jonathan Spangler: It would be difficult to summarise three days of stimulating papers in a few short paragraphs.  And on top of the value of such a breadth of shared comparative research, there is the warmth of collegiality to be commented upon.  For three days, scholars from all over the world congregated in Somerville College, Oxford, brought together by the team of the Jagiellonians research project, led by Natalia Nowakowska, and shared their research but also their passion for history with one another.  I’ve been to many conferences, and this was among the better of them in terms of a spirit of shared endeavour, over coffee breaks, in the dining hall over breakfast, in the pub, and in the final discussion that rounded off the conference.  All I can do here is offer a few highlights, and share some of the insights I took away with me.

In terms of comparative research and experience, this conference did two things, bridging the gap between European and non-European specialisations, but also the divide that often runs between medievalists and early modernists.  This divide has been smoothed over quite a bit recently, for example by groups such as the Royal Studies Network, and it is certainly a trend that should continue.  Amongst French historians in particular, there has often been a curious division between the reigns of Louis XII and François I, as if the Renaissance suddenly burst forth in an instant, banishing the darkness.  It was unfortunate, therefore, that French academics were quite under-represented at this conference.  In contrast, it was a wonder to share so many discussions with eastern European scholars, naturally brought together by the theme of the Jagiellonians, the amazing dynasty that at various points ruled over Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia and Hungary.  We were also privileged to learn more about dynasties outside Europe: Turks, Mongols, Manchus.

In general, I can summarise the larger points taken away by delegates through points raised by two of the keynote speakers and by the leaders of the concluding roundtable discussion.  Jeroen Duindam (Leiden), as usual, delivered a broad-ranging talk full of stimulating illustrations drawn from his recent book (Dynasties: A Global History of Power, 1300-1800), that demonstrated that dynasties across the early modern world shared many characteristics. Duindam offered three concise thinking points about dynasticism: that it can be divided roughly into two systems (concentrated or diffuse); that legitimacy was a concern shared by all ruling families; and that Europe did seem to have an exceptionalism (a ‘Sonderweg’) that made its dynasties distinct (mainly monogamy and primogeniture). Craig Clunas (Oxford) then helped draw in several points from the conference for further discussion, notably what exactly was meant by a dynasty in historical terms, and whether the study of dynasties is useful to the historian. As a Chinese specialist, his talk was particularly convincing, coming from a historical field in which ‘dynasty’ defines almost everything about a period, rightly or wrongly. His conclusion was that we can use such a term meaningfully, but that it must also be seen as fluid and changeable, and that ‘trans-dynasticism’ is equally valid.  Senior historians who participated in the round-table, notably John Morrill (Cambridge) and Martyn Rady (University College London), stressed the nature of cultural transfer across dynasties (as alluded to by Clunas in his keynote address); the role of dynasties in state building (and the incorporation of other elites into dynastic identity beyond those connected by blood); the shared culture of dynasticism that extended far beyond the ruling families into villages and households of ordinary people; and the reception of this culture by those same ordinary people.

Conference Report “Seals and Status 800-1700”

Jitske Jasperse shared her conference report with us on “Seals and Status 800-1700” at the British Museum from December 4th to 6th, 2015.
Have you also been to an interesting conference in the field of Royal Studies? Send us your conference report!

The conference Seals and Status 800-1700, held in London’s British Museum from 4-6 December 2016, was an engaging conference. This was largely due to the variety of topics addressed: from the well-known seals of kings and queens to those of the lower classes, from seal matrices from Anglo-Saxon England to Chinese seals on paintings and lead seals in Byzantium, and from saints and seals to the manufacturers of seals and their production process. In addition, the multidisciplinary approach, with speakers presenting material from different perspectives, certainly stimulated the exchange of ideas and was inspiring for those who would not label themselves sigillographers. While no justice can be done to all individual contributions, some general observations can be made.

Materiality turned out be an important theme. While this might not come as a surprise, that many seals survive as fragments and are often detached from the documents they were originally attached to can make us forget that these wax of lead objects were originally related to matrices, parchment, cords and other seals. Moreover, they were of specific dimensions, shape, colour (green, red, brown/black, and natural) and material, as Elke Cwiertnia and Paul Dryburgh demonstrated. Markus Späth’s paper on city seals from the Upper Rhine region cleverly showed that iconography of German wax seals attached to a charter of 1284 in which the towns of Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Strasbourg agreed to a two-year peace (Landfrieden), instigated by King Rudolph I of Habsburg, is just one element that aids to our understanding of the function and meaning of the seals. Size and the sequence of the seals as attached to the parchment charter (of which three copies exist, originally one copy for the five party involved) were and are equally important for our understanding of the seals’ use, function and the status of the parties involved.

Späth’s research is part of a project ‘Verkörperung kommunaler Identät’ in which fingerprints that are left in Speyer’s wax seals are forensically investigated. Brigitte Bedos-Rezak emphasized that fingerprints found in the wax are life size and that through these imprints the body was incorporated in the seals. Fingerprints are thus part of the sealing process and offer an extra level of identification. While we do have little information on the actual sealing of documents, it is evident – amongst other from fingerprints – that seals were not merely markers of an agreement, but that they also were part of gestures and ritual. The relation between ritual and seals was investigated by Laura Whatley who studied the iconography of lead seals in the Latin Kingdom. She argued that the depicted architectural features and liturgical objects, such as censers and lamps, were not simply meant to refer to an actual building (with the Holy Sepulchre as the most famous), but also to evoke the place and its rituals. These objects were thus about the active imprinting of (past) experiences.

These social aspects of seals – the way people interact with them – were also addressed by Mei Xin Wang in her paper on Chinese seals as stamps of status on Chinese paintings and calligraphy. The so-called Admonitions Scroll (fifth to early seventh century AD) from the British Museum are a fine example of Chinese art collectors who stamped their seals on paintings in order to proof their ownership, as well as to demonstrate their status and taste. In addition, the seals add to the value of an artwork since they are proof of its provenance. As a result both art and seals were collected. Seals became an integral part of painting and even a scholarly form of art. The use of seals was, however, not restricted to the happy few, as became evident from Elizabeth New’s discussion of the seals below the nobility and knightly classes in medieval England and Wales. Even though these seals offer more challenges than those of the nobility because of their (sometimes) poorer quality and absence of legends, this should not withhold us from investigating them, as Judith Bennet’s research on medieval working women reminds us of. Thinking about the relation between seals and status, can – and should – also include the way women interacted with seals. Louise Berglund, in a paper on illustrious ladies in Sweden, pointed out that sealing is a social practice since it involves consent and participation of several persons. Overstepping the social boundaries related to sealing practices could lead to problems of authority. Turning to royal women, such as Birgitta of Sweden, Berglund reminded us that the absence of seals, as is the case for Birgitta although charters survive, must not be taken as straightforward evidence that women played no part in matters of state.

Although the mentioned examples leave much unsaid there’s no doubt that seals, even when small, in poor condition and often are detached from their original material surroundings, trigger many questions and offer inspiring food for thought.

Jitske Jasperse, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas