Category Archives: Royal Studies Journal

Interview with Carolyn Harris

Canadian Women’s Responses to Royal Tours from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Dr. Carolyn Harris is a historian, author and royal commentator. She obtained her PhD in history at Queen’s University at Kingston and is currently teaching history at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.Carolyn is the author of several successful books and articles. Her most recent book is Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting. She is also a prolific guest lecturer and works as a historical consultant, writer, presenter and contributor to television, radio, print and online media. Carolyn is the winner of the first CCCU Book Prize on which occasion we published another interview with her on our blog.

RSJ Blog: Welcome Carolyn and thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with us.

Carolyn: Thank you, I am delighted to discuss the long and interesting history of Canadian women’s responses to royal tours.

RSJ Blog: You have written a very fascinating article highlighting Canadian woman’s reactions and points of view regarding British royal presence in their country over a period of about 200 years.

In your opinion, how much personal impact did those royal visitors and representatives have on swaying Canadian women’s impressions and views on British Monarchy and rule?

Carolyn: The presence of members of the royal family in Canada, especially for extended periods of residence, contributed to the perception of the monarchy as distinctly Canadian. Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (the father of Queen Victoria) gave his name to Prince Edward Island and was one of the first public figures to describe both French and English inhabitants of British North America as Canadians. Princess Louise, along with her husband Lord Lorne was instrumental to the founding of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Her niece Princess Patricia of Connaught became honourary Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. Long before the 1931 Statute of Westminster laid the groundwork for a Canadian Crown that was politically distinct from the British Crown, the Canadian monarchy was already culturally distinct from the British monarchy because of the presence of royalty in Canada for extended periods of residence as well as shorter tours.

For Canadian women, royal tours of Canada were not only rare opportunities to catch a glimpse of members of the royal family but opportunities to express their concerns and seek patronage for philanthropic institutions that benefit women’s health, education and professional development. When the future King William IV visited what is now the province of Newfoundland in the late 18thcentury both men and women brought their grievances to his attention and sought legal redress. When Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise arrived in Canada as vice regal consort in 1878, one of the first requests that she received was to become the patron of the Montreal Ladies’ Educational Association. Louise’s sister-in-law the Duchess of Connaught was the patron of the first solo exhibition by the Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton in 1912.

The association of female members of the royal family withcauses benefiting women continues to the present day. When William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited British Columbia and the Yukon in 2016, their itinerary included a visit to Sheway, an organization that benefits vulnerable mothers in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, attracted particular attention in Canadian media because Meghan had resided in Toronto for a number of years during her career as an actress and was involved in local charities such as World Vision Canada. The Duchess of Sussex describes herself as a feminist and has a long history of speaking up for women’s equality, which will shape her philanthropic endeavours in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth.

princess_louise_and_lorne_engagement

The engagement photo of Princess Louise and John, Marquess of Lorne and 9th Duke of Argyll

RSJ Blog: Despite the differences between the portrayal of women’s participation in Canada and the USA, the romantic notion is apparent on both sides. Would it be too big a cliché to say that women just liked that aspect very much?

Carolyn: There are distinctive differences between Canadian and American press coverage of royal tours that have remained constant from the 19thcentury to the present day. Royal tours of Canada often prompt discussions of the future of the constitutional monarchy in Canada and the involvement of members of the royal family in Canadian philanthropy and institutions in addition to coverage of royalty as famous people and leaders of fashion. In the United States, however, the celebrity aspect of the royal family’s public image dominates the press coverage. In 1860, when Queen Victoria’s son Albert Edward toured British North America and the United States, there was some acknowledgement of the political significance of King George III’s great-grandson enjoying a successful American tour but the majority of commentary, especially coverage intended for women readers emphasized the fairy tale aspect of the presence of a Prince on American soil, dancing with American women at balls in his honour. American women were encouraged to view the Prince as a romantic figure rather than a political personage.

In his landmark work The English Constitution, Walter Bagehot assumed that the spectacle of royal weddings was of more interest to women than the political role of the constitutional monarch, noting that “The women — one half of the human race at least — care fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry.” Bagehot’s analysis ignores the wider social context for the intense scrutiny by 19thcentury women of royal weddings and other events in the life cycle of the royal family. The wedding of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the future Edward VII, which Bagehot singled out as a particular focus of women’s’ interest, meant the arrival of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, a young woman who would become the second most prominent female member of the royal family after her wedding. Alexandra’s interests, friendships, background and approach to public engagements, especially at a time when Queen Victoria was living in comparative seclusion as a widow, would influence which charities benefiting women would receive royal patronage and which women would be appointed to the royal household. The new Princess of Wales was not simply being welcomed as a fashionable young princess but as one of the most prominent women in the United Kingdom at a time when roles for women in public life were becoming increasingly circumscribed.

RSJ Blog: You are mentioning that the 1791 Constitutional Act provided an unusual amount of political autonomy for property-owning women. Could you perhaps elaborate on the origin of this Act and why it was later abolished? Did the personal, more conservative views of Queen Victoria have any influence?

Carolyn: Prior to the nineteenth century, there were individual examples of propertied women voting throughout the English-speaking world. These women were generally unmarried women or widows as until the married women’s property acts of the 19thcentury, the property of married women was owned and controlled by their husbands and they therefore did not meet the requirements for the franchise. The position of married women in propertied households differed under the Coutume de Paris, which had formed the basis of the law in New France.  Property was jointly owned by both spouses under the administration of the husband, circumstances that allowed married women in propertied households to be voters in theory if not always in practice. Under the Quebec Act of 1774, French civil law continued to be in force in Lower Canada (modern day Quebec) following the British conquest of New France. Women voted in 15 districts of Lower Canada between 1791 and 1854, when a specific law was passed prohibiting female suffrage in all circumstances. A similar process had occurred under English common law where the rare cases of widows and single women voting were proscribed by law in the 19thcentury. The prohibition of all forms of women’s suffrage at the same time as the expansion of the male franchise provided an impetus for the late 19thand early 20thcentury campaign for women’s suffrage.

Queen Victoria served a role model for women seeking a greater role in public life, including the Canadian suffragist Nellie McClung, but the Queen did not support women’s suffrage. Her daughters were more interested in increased roles for women outside the home. Princess Helena supported the professionalization of nursing as a career for women while Princess Louise encouraged education and vocational training for women of all social backgrounds. Louise’s sister-in-law supported women’s suffrage publicly and Louise met privately with suffragists but did not champion their cause in the public arena out of respect for the views of her mother Queen Victoria.

RSJ Blog: For some, Princess Louise as viceregal consort and daughter of the ruling monarch signified too much royal presence in Canada. What was the reaction of Canadian women to this particular criticism? Did it have any importance at all?

Carolyn: Louise became viceregal consort in 1878, just eleven years after Canadian Confederation at a time when Canada was defining its place in the world in comparison to Britain and the United States. Canadians prided themselves on their loyalty to the monarchy as this was a key political and cultural trait that differentiated them from Americans. Queen Victoria’s birthday was a popular holiday and it remains a statutory holiday and the monarch’s official birthday in Canada today. Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, wrote about how images of Queen Victoria were displayed at home and the Queen was viewed as a role model for young women to emulate. A number of her literary heroines express admiration for royal women. Queen Victoria’s public image emphasized her role as a loving wife then a grieving widow and the mother of nine children. She was frequently photographed in comparatively simple attire, wearing a bonnet instead of a crown, even on grand occasions such as her Golden Jubilee in 1887. This domestic image allowed women from a variety of social backgrounds to view the Queen as a woman with a great deal in common with themselves as well as the sovereign.

Although Queen Victoria was held in high personal regard in Canada and loyalty to the monarchy was a key aspect of Canadian culture during her reign, royalty who visited Canada, especially those who resided there for extended periods of time were expected to behave differently than they did in the United Kingdom. Royalty in Canada were expected to cultivate an approachable manner toward people of a variety of social backgrounds and relax the customary court etiquette. The news that Princess Louise would reside in Canada prompted concerns that Canadians would be expected to wear court dress in her presence or back out of rooms when royalty was present. Louise’s refusal to insist on ceremony in this manner attracted widespread approval in Canada. Like previous viceregal couples, Lord Lorne and Princess Louise were also expected to embrace Canadian pastimes, especially outdoor activities. The couple were praised in the newspapers for taking up skating, curling, tobogganing and sleigh riding in the winter and camping and fishing in the summer.

princeofwalescanoeing

Edward, Prince of Wales with two Ojibwe guides, canoe on the Nipigon River during his 1919 royal tour.

RSJ Blog: What was the reaction among Canadian women to Princess Louise’s philanthropic engagements especially concerning her progressive views? Did they generally embrace them or were there any critical voices?

Carolyn: There is circumstantial evidence that Princess Louise received some quiet disapproval from certain members of the English Canadian elite in Canada. There were persistent rumors of feud between the Princess and the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife, Lady Macdonald. Both women were bothered by these rumors and were determined to present a show of unity in public and express their regard for one another. During the term of the previous Governor General, Lord Dufferin, English and French-Canadian high society often socialized separately but Louise, who spoke fluent French, befriended French Canadians and these friendships attracted comment within English Canadian society who expected the Princess to socialize within their own ranks rather than branching out in this manner.

Louise’s philanthropy and views regarding women’s place in society received a variety of responses. In her role as viceregal consort, she was expected to become patron of charities that benefited women. Louise’s encouragement of women pursuing professional careers as artists certainly stood out at a time when art for women was often viewed as a feminine accomplishment rather than a professional endeavor. In her promotion of women’s education, however, some of Louise’s views were considered not progressive enough in certain circles. In her patronage of the Montreal Ladies’ Educational Association, she emphasized the importance of domestic science and vocational training, which disappointed some women who hoped that she would champion higher academic standards in women’s education.

The majority of the criticism concerning Princess Louise’s time as vice regal consort, however, concerned her extended absences from Canada during her husband Lord Lorne’s time in office. Louise was injured in a sleigh accident in 1880, which prevented her attendance at the inaugural Royal Canadian Academy of Arts exhibition, which eventually formed the basis for the National Gallery of Canada. Lorne minimized the extent of Louise’s injuries and so her extended periods of convalescence in Europe and Bermuda attracted widespread speculation. There were rumours that she disliked Canada or that her marriage was in jeopardy. The perception that Louise neglected her duties because of her lengthy absences continues to be the most prominent critique of her time as viceregal consort.

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The Marquess of Lorne, accompanied by Princess Louise, opening the Canadian Parliament in 1879

RSJ Blog: Thank you very much for this deeper insight into your topic. What other projects are you pursuing at the moment? Are you perhaps working on a new book?

Carolyn: I am currently writing articles for a variety of publications including the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia and the BBC History Magazine. Links to my writing are available on my website royalhistorian.com

Regarding my next book project, I am co-editing a forthcoming four volume book series, English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty with Joanna Laynesmith, Danna Messer, Aidan Norrie, and Elena Woodcare as part of the Palgrave Macmillan Queenship and Power series. The English Consorts series aims to provide short, focused, well-researched, and refereed biographies of all of the English consorts since the Conquest.

The Call for Contributors for English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynastyis available here. 

 

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Interview with Barbara J. Messamore

Barbara J. Messamore holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is an associate professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in Canada. She specializes in Canadian political, constitutional and migration history. Barbara is also on the board of directors at the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada at Massey College, University of Toronto. A list of her publications and other projects can be found on her homepage. Read the full article in the Royal Studies Journal.

RSJ Blog: Good day Barbara and thank you for doing this interview with us.

Barbara: Thanks for your interest. It’s my pleasure.

RSJ Blog: You mention that the 1939 Royal Visit to Canada was the first by a ruling Monarch. Could you sum up the national and international circumstances that eventually led to it?

Barbara: Yes, I’d be happy to. Incidentally, it’s a subtle point, but I think it is better to say “reigning—rather than ruling– monarch” in the era I’m describing. The genesis of the 1939 tour seems to have been a 1936 meeting between Edward VIII and Canada’s prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. But after Edward VIII’s abdication and George VI’s accession to the throne, circumstances made a successful tour even more important. There are a few reasons for that. One was directly tied to the institution of the monarchy. It had arguably been damaged by the abdication crisis. A tour could restore the image of the royal family and strengthen Canadian ties to the Commonwealth. And Canada’s position within the Commonwealth had also recently changed with the 1931 Statute of Westminster, as had that of other Dominions. The tour would be a chance to demonstrate that, while Canada was autonomous, the tie to the monarch was still strong. The tour organizers arranged to have the King conspicuously carry out some of the duties of the Crown while in Ottawa, duties that were normally carried out by the governor general, such as giving royal assent to legislation. It was a chance to show that Dominion autonomy did not sever the link to the Crown.

Perhaps paradoxically, given this focus on George VI’s role as King of Canada, an even more important aspect of the tour was its function in bolstering Canada’s tie to Britain. This is the thing that made the tour especially urgent in 1939. There was every reason to believe that war with Germany was on the horizon, and Canadians had given little assurance that they would lend support. Canada’s Mackenzie King had been unwilling to make any commitments at the 1937 Imperial Conference and was deeply sensitive to isolationist sentiments in Canada; Quebec’s opposition to European entanglements was clear, as was that of a new and rising socialist party in Canada, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The British were mindful of this political pressure on King and, if it could be demonstrated that love for and loyalty to the mother country was strong in Canada, King could be swayed.

RSJ Blog: Are Royal Visits to Canada significant in comparison to visits to other parts of the commonwealth or the dominions?

Barbara: I think the essentialobjective is common to each. How such a tour is going to be received is likely to be a function of the circumstances of the moment. So, for example, the article touches on the fact that the 1964 Canadian tour, coming at a time of resurgent Quebecois nationalism, was fraught with difficulty. Similarly, while there had been a durbar in Delhi in 1911 to mark George V’s coronation, the atmosphere of Indian nationalism in 1937 when George VI came to the throne made the accession contentious, so it was thought better not to risk it.

In the particular context of the 1939 tour, a chance to enhance Canada’s loyalty was especially valuable. Cultivating a better tie with Mackenzie King might pay dividends in case of war and Canada’s prime minister would have a chance to observe that many Canadian subjects felt that sense of loyalty. It would show him that it would be impolitic to turn his back on Britain in their hour of need. Spending time in Quebec was also an important part of the tour for that same reason. The brief visit across the border to the United States was not in itself going to shift American isolationist sentiment, but it certainly provided a vital human connection that gave a face to the British struggle to confront Nazi aggression. And while Roosevelt was faced with an intransigent Congress, he did wish to offer what help he could.

RSJ Blog: And they needed all the help they could get. How would you describe the relation between the legal constitutional position of Canada within the Commonwealth and the representation of said position by Canadian politicians especially towards the Royal Family?

Barbara: The 1931 Statute of Westminster made Canada’s role in the Commonwealth with respect to the Crown more explicit, but I’ll readily concede that it’s far from simple. It had gradually evolved that the dominions had autonomy in foreign as well as domestic matters, and in reality, the 1926 Balfour Report and the 1931 Statute of Westminster only recognized that evolved state of things. In both the UK and the dominions, it was well understood that the Crown would act on the advice of responsible ministers—hence, my preference for the term “reign” over “rule.” There were—and are—still reserve powers that might be exercised by the Crown in emergency situations, for example, if a head of government attempts to hang on to power when faced with a loss of Parliament’s confidence. Because Mackenzie King had had a famous clash with a previous governor general, Lord Byng, in 1926, he was acutely sensitive about the role of the Crown and about any potential encroachment on Canada’s self-governing status. By this time, though, it had been long established that the governor general was not dictated to by British authorities; he carried out his duties entirely with reference to Canada. Mackenzie King had an unfounded suspicion that British partiality to the Conservative party had informed the governor general’s actions in 1926. But Mackenzie King also had a kind of reverence for the Crown and was deeply drawn to the royal family. The challenge for George VI was to demonstrate that he was not in Canada as the “British” monarch, but as king of Canada, one of his most important dominions, and that there was no wish to curtail Canada’s autonomy. I think this is why the symbolic gesture of him carrying out the sovereign’s duties in Ottawa, using Canada’s royal seal, was so important. He was acting, not as the British king visiting Canada, but as the king of Canada. Having said this, George VI would have certainly been mindful of the fact that, for Britain, Canadian support would be essential to a successful war effort and I’m sure his British cabinet looked at the tour in that light. So, this vital British objective could hardly have been absent from his mind.  For many Canadians, the king represented a British empire to which they still felt a keen personal loyalty.

RSJ Blog: Talking about loyalty, what significance did the filming of the event have at that time and was it rather exceptional or already a usual procedure to have British royal visits accompanied by a camera team? Where were these films broadcasted to?

Barbara: I think in any royal tour, commemoration was a given. Books commissioned to depict the tours were a standard way to do this, as were photographs. For example, there are some great photographs and sketches of the Prince of Wales’s 1860 visit to Canada, including one of him riding a timber slide. The commemoration would take the form available in the day. In 1939, the daily radio broadcasts and a commemorative film provided a way to both broaden the reach of the tour and to preserve it. The 1939 film was produced by Canada’s National Film Board, so it would be widely circulated, and it really provides a way to frame the narrative in an optimal way. The film is meant to convey a message of loyalty to the Crown, including among French Canadians, aboriginal Canadians, and veterans of the Great War. Military inspections are featured prominently in the film.

RSJ Blog: Thank you very much for deepening our insight into the topic! What other project are you pursuing at the moment?

Barbara: I’m happy to share these thoughts with you. My newest project is a study of Canada’s pre-Confederation upper house. We have perennial debates in Canada about whether our appointed Senate should be elected or eliminated altogether. But few Canadians know that we actually had an elected upper house between 1856 and 1867, so I’m investigating the reasons why that short-lived experiment was abandoned.

RSJ Blog: A very opportune question concerning the actual debate. We are looking forward to reading about your results!

the unveiling of the national war memorial, ottawa 1939_margaret fulton frame

The Unveiling of the National War Memorial, Ottawa 1939 by Margaret Fulton Frame

 

Interview with Stella Fletcher

Cardinals and the War of Ferrara

Stella Fletcher is a graduate of the University of Warwick, where she specialised in Italian Renaissance history.  Her doctoral thesis examined Venetian cardinals in Rome between 1471 and 1492.  Since then she has taught for various universities, most recently the University of Manchester.  She has also served as editor of the Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies and as honorary secretary of the Ecclesiastical History Society. Read the full article in the Royal Studies Journal.

RSJ Blog: Welcome Stella and thank you for agreeing to this interview with us!

Stella: I’m flattered to have been asked.

RSJ Blog: In the Royal Studies Network we are interested in cardinals because they are ecclesiastical princes, but your account of the War of Ferrara (1482–4) reveals that some of them were royal or noble by birth as well, so we are particularly interested in those individuals.  Were cardinals of noble birth expected to be equally knowledgeable about worldly and spiritual matters?

Stella: My suspicion is that you are thinking principally of Cardinal Giovanni d’Aragona, who was the son of King Ferrante of Naples, making him a prince by birth and by profession. Giovanni was dynastically connected to Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza of Milan, so perhaps you are thinking of him as well. Other names come to mind, but those will do for now. There is one rather useful distinction that can be observed concerning cardinals of elite birth in the later fifteenth century. Just as the clerical body is formed of a hierarchy of bishops, priests and deacons, so there were – and are – cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. If you look at each cardinal in turn you can see a distinction between the venerable cardinal bishops, who were effectively a short list of candidates for the next papal election, the more numerous cardinal priests, who had a lifetime of ecclesiastical service and often much learning behind them, and the cardinal deacons, who were often younger, less learned and – yes – of noble birth. Sure enough, Giovanni d’Aragona and Ascanio Maria Sforza were both made cardinal deacons, as was the young and apparently irresponsible Giovanni Colonna. It seems to me to be a tacit acknowledgement that they were not quite the thing. Fortunately for them, they could be cardinals without even being in holy orders, which is a bit like the president of France being a canon of the Lateran basilica in Rome in spite of being a layman.  All sorts of rules can be tweaked for persons of such distinction. There are certain responsibilities that fall to the most senior of the cardinal deacons. They include making the ‘Habemus papam’ declaration when a new pope has been elected, but do not happen to involve cure of souls. In the century of Bernardino of Siena, Girolamo Savonarola and any number of other notable preaching friars, there was no shortage of men to teach the faith, hear confessions and so forth. For practical purposes, it didn’t make any significant difference if a small number of prelates did not possess the faculties to do that sort of thing.

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Pope Sixtus IV, Titian ca. 1545

RSJ Blog: How much was the education of future cardinals as political assets part of a noble family’s long-term planning?

Stella: That depends on which generation you have in mind, though it is something we can see coming into focus in the decades around the War of Ferrara.  If you look at earlier generations, there was no shortage of cardinals from ‘noble’ families, though we could be here for some time if we try to identify precisely what counted as noble status and whether it meant precisely the same thing in different regions of Christendom.  I remember sitting round a table in the Jesuit headquarters in Rome with a diverse group of people from around the globe. Each one declared him or herself to have noble blood, leaving me to comment that I was the only person present who came from a country where noble birth actually entitled certain individuals to have a seat in parliament – the rules have changed slightly since then – and I was pleased to say I had no noble blood in my veins whatsoever.  If nobles can apparently outnumber non-nobles in a random group of people, how much has the term been stretched over the centuries?  In the fifteenth century a handful of cardinals came from the higher nobility but, like many of the bishops throughout Christendom, a much larger proportion was recruited from the minor nobility.  The novelty came when close relatives of ruling princes – who perhaps had no overlord other than the distant and ineffectual emperor – were made cardinals.  Think of it as beginning with Pius II’s promotion of the seventeen-year-old Francesco Gonzaga in 1461.  That opened up all sorts of possibilities.  If the ruling family of Mantua could have its own cardinal, families of similar or higher status wanted them too.  It paralleled an inflation of secular titles in the same period, an inflation that can also be illustrated by the Gonzaga. Thus, the cardinalate became politicised in a way that it had not been previously.  You ask about ‘long-term planning’.  The clearest case of that in the fifteenth century comes not from a noble family at all, but from one that chose to marry into noble families and live the noble lifestyle.  In the Florentine republic Lorenzo de’ Medici positively groomed his son Giovanni for great things in the Church, and it worked: he was a cardinal at thirteen and pope at thirty-seven.  In the following centuries it became the norm for elite families to have a cardinal in each generation as a matter of course, regardless of whether their candidates were intellectually suitable for it or had illustrious careers behind them.  That’s the ancien régime for you!

RSJ Blog: In view of the political divisions among the Italian states, how much self-regulation and compromise was involved in the creation of cardinals and papal elections?

Stella: The creation of cardinals was and remains entirely in the gift of the pope, so it is up to him whether he chooses to create balances of one sort or another, geographical, theological or whatever might be relevant.  I would rather not generalise but, instead, suggest that you look at the precise circumstances behind each creation.  In the article I account for Sixtus IV’s creation of five new cardinals in 1483 and emphasise the balancing acts that went into that.  The political context surely influenced his decisions.  Similar patterns can be found among his earlier promotions, but there is also evidence of a certain lack of caution, not least in his choice of Giovanni d’Aragona. The existing cardinals advised against it precisely because Giovanni was the son of the king of Naples and would retain that allegiance.  More broadly, they sought to block increases in their number because each individual cardinal enjoyed more authority and significance if the college was smaller and found his personal authority diminished by each addition to their number.  There was a financial dimension to this because certain sums of money were divided between those cardinals who were resident in Rome: the fewer of them there were, the greater the income each one received. The sums didn’t increase to match a larger number of cardinals.  Think of it as a cake being divided into pieces.  There was no possibility of baking a larger one.  On the other hand, it was in the pope’s interest to promote a greater number of cardinals because that meant none of them were too powerful to be any sort of threat to his authority. Sixtus IV was a strong pontiff who created many cardinals.  His successor, Innocent VIII, was much weaker and created fewer in proportion to the length of his pontificate.  It is well known that cardinals voting in conclaves have often reacted against the previous pontiff and gone for a deliberate contrast for the next pope. Sixtus was so strong a character that there was much to react against though, as you saw in the article, in 1484 Giovanni Battista Cibo was not necessarily chosen because he was meek and mild in comparison, though it must have helped his chances. The nature of conclaves means that compromise is almost inevitable. It is part of how the world works.

RSJ Blog: Did Sixtus IV’s experience of the Ferrarese war influence the way in which subsequent popes dealt with the secular powers?

Stella: You might be forgiven for thinking so, especially because the next four pontiffs – Innocent VIII, Alexander VI, Pius III, and Julius II – were among those cardinals featured in the article, men who had direct experience of the conflict.  However, that would be to assume that the War of Ferrara was somehow exceptional. It wasn’t, even during Sixtus’s pontificate. Not long before the Ferrarese war there had been the Pazzi War, in which papal and Neapolitan forces encountered those of Florence and Venice.  Tensions were usually high, and the pope employed soldiers as a matter of course. The War of Ferrara was part of a continuum of conflicts among the states of later fifteenth-century Italy, so it made no decisive difference to how any of the major political players operated, including the popes.  Between 1454 and 1494 the Italian states were pretty much always jostling with one another in such a way that we can look back at it now and see that what they did had the effect of maintaining a balance of power. Relations between the popes and the secular princes did change from 1494 onwards and that was because non-Italian powers – France, the Spanish kingdoms, the emperor, the Swiss – began using Italy as a convenient battlefield on which to fight each other, which challenged the popes in unprecedented ways.  Back in 1482 the fear was that Venice had become too dominant and, indeed, it is a measure of Venetian strength that most of the Italian states were in league against the republic and yet failed to defeat it in two years of conflict.  As we have seen in the article, that was a measure of the League’s weakness as much as it was a sign of Venetian strength.  Venice was not defeated and continued to be conscious of its vulnerability to attack from the south, which it countered by seeking influence down the coast south of Ferrara … in the Papal States.  One of the cardinals who appears in the article, Giuliano della Rovere, became Pope Julius II in 1503 and effectively took up where his uncle, Sixtus, had left off, being determined to drive the Venetians out of papal territory.  That is just one example of continuity, of the Ferrarese war marking no obvious difference in relations between the states.  As long as the popes were territorial princes as well as spiritual leaders of Christendom they had no option but to defend their state.  How could they have done otherwise?

RSJ Blog: The bellicose Pope Julius was roundly condemned in the satire Julius exclusus, so how did his uncle’s involvement in the War of Ferrara affect the reputation of the papacy a generation earlier?

Stella: Just because we have the Julius exclusus does not mean that it should be allowed to speak for anyone except its author – presumably Erasmus – and his learned circle of friends.  Just because you know what happened in the sixteenth century does not mean that it should be allowed to colour appreciation of the fifteenth.  The sixteenth gets us into a world of polemical tracts and therefore into something we can regard as public opinion. The fifteenth-century printers were busy educating and currying favour with patrons, rather than stirring up trouble and biting the hands that fed them.  What the pope did at a political level was therefore communicated by ambassadors in their dispatches to their princes, so who knew what depended on the quality and quantity of information they received from Rome and was limited to the princes and their ministers. The pope belonged to their world: they took up arms to defend their territory, so there was no reason for secular princes to be surprised if he did likewise. He was, of course, expected to inspire men to take up arms against the infidel, and the Venetians were not slow to point out the irony when that enthusiasm was directed against fellow Christians, but they were playing politics when they did so. The political elites knew what was happening and why it was happening, so the pope’s reputation was not really an issue.

Pope Julius II_Raphael

Pope Julius II, Raphael ca. 1511

RSJ Blog: Thank you very much for giving us these fascinating insights into your topic. What is your next project?

Stella: I have a list of potential projects, ranging from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, most of which deal with some sort of cross between religion and diplomacy. It would be satisfying to do all of them in due course, but the precise order will have to be dictated by whatever circumstances happen to arise.

Interview with John Murphy

Cardinal Reginald Pole: Questions of Self-Justification and of Faith

John Murphy is a historian and writer. He studied at the University of Leeds, where he also taught as well as at Westfield College and Exeter University. Today, he works as an independent scholar specializing in the Tudor Age. Next to his work in fiction he also writes articles such as “Cardinal Reginald Pole: Questions of Self-Justification and of Faith” that recently appeared in the Royal Studies Journal. Among his many talents he also creates tasty recipes which you can find on his blog. Read the full article in the Royal Studies Journal.

RSJ Blog: First of all, thank you John for doing this interview with us!

John: After those kind comments about my recipes how could I be less than delighted to answer your further questions?

RSJ Blog: In your article you argue that “Pole and his contemporaries would not have understood human sexuality in modern terms”. Could you elaborate on that a little bit more?

John: Gay Studies and Gender studies are new intellectual disciplines and many of them have rested on the extraordinary work of Professor John Boswell. His thesis is set out in broadest terms in Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago, 1980). It establishes the idea that gay history is hidden in plain sight but although Boswell established a pedigree for adopting the term “gay” over “homosexual”  in historical narrative he remained sensitive to the fact that “homosexuality” is itself only an intellectual construct based on a nineteenth century understanding of human sexuality and gender. Therefore, whether or not Pole might be thought to be homosexual or homosocial or gay – which in my view stretches evidence beyond where it goes – he could not have considered himself in terms of possessing such a sexual identity. In the sixteenth century certain physical sexual acts were placed under legal prohibition in both in ecclesiastical and secular jurisdictions because of Biblical injunction – which is why for example “buggery” becomes a matter of treason under statute in England after Henry VIII’s separation from Rome. Platonic or non-sexualised same-sex love was in fact generally well-regarded, almost attaining the status of a higher form of intimacy than conjugal love.  Here, Christ’s injunction: “greater love no man can show than to lay down his life for his friend” dignified this understanding of love’s better nature.

Cardinal Reginald Pole

Cardinal Reginald Pole (Sebastiano del Piombo, 1540)

RSJ Blog: You say that Pole left a large written heritage. Did he express himself on the accusations of being a hidden Lutheran?

John: He does not debate the matter quite in those terms. The accusation of Lutheranism rested rather on how the first big question of the Reformation emerged into the public sphere – the question Luther raised of how Christians are saved by Christ’s death and resurrection. Luther’s answer to this question was the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone –  alone being essentially the novelty that was later accepted as the “protestant” position. This rejected the notion that good works by the individual were meritorious in any way. This not only attacked the theology behind Indulgences but the theology behind what had long been considered the greatest of good works – the Mass itself. However, other humanist reformers were also reflecting on what St Paul had meant in his Epistles (Romans and Galatians). It was a question of wider scholarly interest and Cardinal Contarini (Pole’s patron), for example, saw both the Catholic tradition and Luther’s position as more fluid and thus more as a difference in kind, one that might be bridged by a form of words acceptable to both sides. If that was ever really possible, events made it an impossible dream whose time went as quickly as it came. By the time Pole wrote his will, in 1558, there is no longer any ambiguity and it is clear that Pole accepted both the notion of Purgatory and the efficacy of Masses for the Dead. Both are essentially totems of the idea that good works are efficacious in themselves, as asserted in the Epistle of St James, although their efficacy is ultimately entwined with the Justification of humankind bought by the ultimate sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross. The fact that Pole’s final testament and will commissioned priests to pray for his soul demonstrates his total rejection of Luther’s position and ultimately his own doctrinal orthodoxy.

RSJ Blog: You mention that Pole’s elevation to the Sacred College in 1536 was clearly an act of provocation to King Henry VIII. Did Pole’s family situation influence his career in Rome? In other words, did their fall from grace in England trigger Pole’s success abroad?

John: Pole was prominent in the world of sixteenth century nobility because of his family –  he was himself a (Yorkist) prince of the blood. That gave him an entrée to courts of Europe in his own person – it is the sort of social status often played with in Shakespeare. Thus, Pole’s elevation to the Sacred College in an important sense only confirmed his natural pedigree whereas with a Wolsey it bestowed a pedigree.

Pole’s rapid promotion and later prominence reflected his own gifts of scholarship and acuity as much as his birth. This is in part what makes him so special in the history of the sixteenth century. He was already a cardinal before his family fell and their fall was linked to the first great crisis of the English reformation – the Pilgrimage of Grace. Here, given what happened to More and Fisher, Pole must have understood that his willing part as papal legate to Francis I and Charles V against Henry VIII immediately endangered the lives of his family. From our perspective it would seem obvious there would be no limits to the extent of Henry VIII’s revenge. Pole, however, was not equipped with our hindsight and he may still have clung to his own delusions about how far Henry would go; and perhaps he believed the king’s previous affection for his mother, Margaret Pole, would protect her. If Pole had owned such hopes they were to be disappointed.

Whether as a consequence Pole was driven to apply himself to his spiritual endeavours cannot be asserted from any single piece of documentary evidence. What history can observe is that the most productive phase of his career follows the catastrophe his family suffered in England.

Pope Paul III by Titian, ca.1543

Pope Paul III, who appointed Pole cardinal in 1536 (Titian, ca.1543)

RSJ Blog: You say that Pole might not have anticipated the extent of Henry’s retribution against his family. Pole’s biography by  Ludovico Beccadelli states that Pole allegedly thanked God for making him the son of a martyr. Was this perhaps an attempt to deal with his hidden guilt about putting his family in constant danger by criticizing Henry so openly from afar?

John: We speculate to accumulate and I am in danger of speculating too much. I think we can say that it was not until the second half of the sixteenth century that the resistance of the Henrician martyrs became such unequivocal heroic emblems of Catholic identity. Those closest to the martyrs – family and affinity – from the moment of their deaths certainly regarded them as heroic martyrs. Therefore, Pole would have believed his mother’s execution was in the same noble lineage as those of John Fisher and Thomas More. I conjecture that one of the reasons Pole so often reexamines all the events leading to his breach with Henry in his subsequent correspondence must partly have been shaped by the consequences for his family of his decisions to contest the king’s Supremacy – consequences which Pole had to live with for the rest of his life. Any man of conscience would inevitably ask himself over and over if there was another, safer way to have pursued his course.

RSJ Blog: Pole sometimes appears as a rather ambiguous character, being self-assured, calculatingly diplomatic and ambitious at one moment, true to his convictions, humble and even insecure in the next. How do you explain these inconsistencies and what difficulties do subjective sources on Pole pose – including his own writings – to making an astute assessment of his character?

John: Character is a tapestry. Every biographer pulls at the handful of threads he or she believes to be important. We are none of us wholly consistent and throughout most of our lives we all demonstrate the remarkable human ability to happily live with our own contradictory selves. Differing characteristics often come to the fore in different situations. Just as Pole acquired the language and forensic skills of a humanist intellectual in Padua, so, after 1537 as cardinal he certainly acquired the diplomat’s way of overlooking inconvenient facts and working only with the convenient ones. This was a skill set most legates a latere needed.  Personally, Pole could certainly be prickly, aloof, grand perhaps – even to the extent of being slightly pompous – but he could also be suave and persuasive, kind, thoughtful and even self-deprecating. He was most relaxed with a small coterie of trusted intimates. This however is a sign more of awkwardness, born of shyness and a matter of how his princely class behaved in this age rather than a sign of anything more sinister or repressed.

Pole had the flare to see the need for a spiritual awakening in the church that spoke to the sensibilities of his time; he had the “nous” to understand the elements such a reinvigoration of the mission of the Western Church might contain. He also had the skill to conceive a plan for a thoroughgoing reform of the English church but he lacked the time to deliver on the latter and perhaps even the administrative aptness to make it happen. Unlike many of his age, he has left us with a wide-ranging correspondence and literary works of varied character.

At the day’s end, I think he is less ambiguous than scholars have thought him – partly because they have often seen him through the prism of their own prejudices and these have been often informed by a confessional viewpoint. The real Pole is complicated, and his positions evolved with the events of the Reformation in the first fifty years of the sixteenth century.  Pole’s problem – as for all the Catholic Reformers of that time – was the fact that their program of spiritual renewal was partly hijacked by Luther and the later diaspora of ideas of the other emergent protestant churches.

The project of Catholic Reform for spiritual enlightenment bore fruit less in its own time than in the second half of the sixteenth century but by then Christendom was irretrievably divided and the unity of the Western Church was already lost.

Possibly Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

Portrait of an unknown woman traditionally thought to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury                                   (artist unknown)

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for you time! What is your next project?

John: I have been looking at the Chapel Royal in the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I and how it was used to change the direction of the Reformation.

History has long discounted Edward VI and Mary I as no more than interludes between the mythic reigns of Great Harry and Good Queen Bess. Therefore, my next big project is a daring reconsideration of the political and religious history of the central decades of the Tudor period –  c. 1546 to 1562 –  offering a perspective that challenges presuppositions about how Minority Government worked in Edward VI’s reign; and how well prepared a monarch Mary I really was; and why it is, History has found it difficult to tell the real story of their two reigns. In retelling that story many questions will need to be re-asked about Elizabeth and her long reign; and the real inheritance she left the Stuart kings.

Interview with Glenn Richardson

The King, the Cardinal-Legate, and the Field of Cloth of Gold

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

RSJ Blog: Good day Prof. Richardson and thank you for taking some time to do this interview!

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

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


Banner of Cardinal Wolsey

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RSJ Blog: These sound like some ambitious and interesting projects. We wish you good luck with your endeavors!


Cardinal Thomas Wolsey

 

Interview with Alexander Brondarbit

‘Into our defense and saveguarde’: Eton College and the Good Lordship of Edward, Duke of York

Alexander Brondarbit is an Academic Planning Analyst at UC Santa Cruz and Instructor for the E-Campus at Oregon State University. His research focuses on the high and local politics of late medieval England with particular emphasis on the Wars of the Roses.  His teaching interests include the history of high and late medieval Europe, the Church in the Middle Ages, and medieval sex, gender, and culture.  You can read his article in the Royal Studies Journal, Issue 6 here.

RSJ Blog: What is a signet warrant? How does it differ from other types of documents?

Alexander: The signet warrant was a means of connecting the king with the ordinary operations of his government. It was produced by the third type of writing office which arose after the other two writing offices (e.g., the chancery and privy seal office) had left the royal household to be housed permanently in Westminster. This change had occurred by reason of the high workload of those offices and the sheer volume of letters that were being produced. Obviously, the king was not always in Westminster and still needed a means of transmitting his will on official business regardless of his location. The signet office was thus formed in the early fourteenth century to meet this demand.

It differed from the Westminster offices in several ways. It was much smaller, less bureaucratic, and less solemn than the chancery. The signet was kept by the king’s secretary who was often a clerk based about the king’s person rather than say a bishop with public duties like the chancellor. A particularly interesting difference is the suspicion that often arose over the use of the signet. Initially used sparingly, the signet was seen as a method by which Richard II abused his royal prerogative as he bypassed the privy seal office in warranting the issue of letters under the great seal. The signet seal disappeared for a time when the Lords Appellant were victorious in 1388, yet it eventually reemerged in a more muted fashion afterwards as it definitely had its uses despite the concern it engendered.

RSJ Blog: Had scholars largely ignored this document before, aside from including it in histories of Eton?

Alexander: I’d say many scholars do seem to have been unaware of it. The Duke of York’s signet letter was first examined by the English historian and archivist, Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte in his A History of Eton College produced in 1875. Aside from some minor errors in his transcription, Maxwell-Lyte also did not fully appreciate the significance of the document as he focused entirely with the Yorkist regime’s treatment of Eton. This emphasis has been replicated by later historians of the college as one might expect as they were not as interested in what the document told us about this critical, and somewhat opaque, stage of the Wars of the Roses. Cora Scofield did quote a snippet of the signet warrant in her biography of Edward IV, but she relied on Maxwell-Lyte’s book and it is doubtful she ever consulted the record in person. The same goes for Charles Ross’s biography which quotes an even briefer portion of the document without any citation suggesting again that he may have been repeating the quote from Scofield’s work. I believe what we have here is a case of a great document that was known in the late nineteenth century, but sadly was forgotten except by historians of Eton College.

ECR 39 124

ECR 39/124. Reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College.

RSJ Blog: Briefly, what happened to Eton under the Yorkist kings?

Alexander: Edward ultimately proved vindictive toward Lancastrian institutions in the early years of his reign. It was hardly impolitic to do so given that he still did not have full control of his own realm and a constant reminder of his more scholarly predecessor whom many still believed to be the rightful king could not have been a welcome proposition. This is all the more likely given the high survival rate of propaganda that attests to Edward’s right to rule. After he became king, Edward commanded King’s College Cambridge to pay its revenues to the exchequer and many of its estates were resumed in 1461. Eton received an even harsher sentence as Edward considered suppressing the college and annexing it into St George’s Chapel at Windsor. That Edward was committed to this course of action is without doubt as he secured a bull from Pope Pius II authorizing the abolition of the college in 1463 and we see this order taking effect two years later when its moveable goods (furniture, jewels, bells, clothing etc.) were removed to Windsor. Many of Eton’s original endowments were lost to resumption as the king dispersed the lands to his supporters. The impact of this initial royal policy is quite evident in the sharp decline of revenue as the annual income fell to a mere £321 at its lowest point in 1466-7. This is quite a fall as Eton received an average annual income of £1,200 under Henry VI. The diminished income prevented operations from continuing at Eton although the provost remained living on site.

For reasons unknown, Edward softened his stance toward Eton after 1467. At the king’s request, Pope Paul II revoked the bull annexing the college to Windsor. The tale that the school was saved by the charms of Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore, is an amusing one that even the college enjoys telling today, but there is no evidence to support this. I find the timing quite surprising given that the Lancastrian threat was far from over at this stage of the reign.

Unfortunately, Richard III’s attitude toward Eton is difficult to determine. The lone account roll for his reign does show that the college’s revenue had improved to an annual income of £565 in 1483-4, but this was largely by the minor grants Edward allowed the college in the latter half of his reign. If Richard harbored plans for Eton (which I doubt he did) they were never realized by the time he was killed at Bosworth Field.

RSJ Blog: Was Edward taking advantage of Provost Westbury or was it just good politics?

Alexander: Largely strapped for cash, Edward was certainly pressing his advantage here as he was raising funds to pay the troops needed for his campaign against the Lancastrian army in the north. This exchange with Eton was simply one avenue at his disposal to get the resources he needed, but it was merely a drop in the bucket. The bulk of money the Yorkists acquired came from London; within a few days of his reign Edward and his allies had received some £8,700 from the city dating back to the prior year. It is also worth noting that the quid pro quo arrangement between Edward and Provost Westbury was far from unique, particularly in the opening days of his fledgling regime. In 1461, Winchester College presented gifts to earn an exemption to the act of resumption in the king’s first parliament. In that same year, Canterbury paid nearly £300 to the king for a charter granting perpetual county status to the city and confirming its pre-existing civic liberties. Had Eton not been so closely associated with the House of Lancaster it is much more likely Edward would have kept his promises to protect the institution.

RSJ Blog: Is this part of a larger project? What are you up to next?

Alexander: At present, I am currently reshaping my thesis into what I hope will be my first monograph. My book will examine the Yorkist political power-brokers in operation in the reigns of Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III. Power is its major theme as I utilized records held throughout several local archives in addition to the national archive in order to develop a picture of how the politically active men and women mediated and expressed royal power. So often historians make the determination of influence by listing the patronage one acquired from the Crown. I sought to bring in other avenues by which to see their influence at work both at court and in the shires.

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!