Category Archives: Interviews

Interview with Jennifer Mara DeSilva

Jennifer Mara DeSilva is an Associate Professor of History at Ball State University (Indiana, USA). She has written several articles about the papal Masters of Ceremonies and edited collections examining the reformist behaviour of early modern bishops and the coercive process of sacralizing of space in the premodern world. Her current research focuses on how individuals and groups at the Papal Court established identities through office-holding, rituals, and relationships with groups and sites. Please see our previous interview with Jennifer at https://royalstudiesjournal.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/interview-with-jennifer-mara-desilva/.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Zita Rohr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


El Escorial (top) and Prado (bottom)

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

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

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

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

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


Impressions of Madrid

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

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

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

Conference Report and Interview Realms of Royalty

Imke Polland and Christina Jordan have just organized the successful conference on Realms of Royalty (20/21 April 2017) in Gießen, Germany, which questioned the role of royalty and monarchy in today’s societies. Bringing Royal Studies to the modern day is also part of their on-going doctoral research on Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee as Staged Media Events: A Case Study in the Production of Collective Memories (Christina), and Plurimedial Representations of the British Royal Weddings 2005 and 2011 as Ritual Media Events (Imke). We caught up with them to learn more about the discussion of the conference (see conference report by Max Bergmann here), and their research on modern monarchy.

Cathleen and Kristen: Thank you for doing this interview! To start, could you please tell our readers a bit about the conference, and how it started?

Christina and Imke: Right from the outset of doing research on contemporary monarchies, we noticed a significant lack of scholarly attention to this topic, as most studies dealing with royalty pursue historical research interests. Monarchies post WWII are usually only treated marginally at conferences and there are very few publications dedicated to researching their contemporary representations and standing in society. We think that current monarchies pose special challenges to researchers, which differ from the demands that historical research on monarchies has to face. Their role as post-political institutions[1] and their adaptation to ever-changing media environments turns them into a dynamic and rich object of research, which requires interdisciplinary analytical perspectives. Monarchies offer many starting points for exploring aspects that are of crucial interest to scholarly fields as varied as cultural, media and literary studies as well as sociology, law, political and economic science. The conference’s aim was to further this interdisciplinary dialogue on contemporary monarchies by raising questions such as, how do monarchies adapt to change, reinvent themselves and navigate between past, present and future to ensure the continuity of the institution? What are the possibilities of contemporary monarchies facing the loss of (political) importance, power, space, relevance, and popularity? How are the relevance and the roles of these seemingly anachronistic institutions negotiated? Where does the perpetual interest in monarchies stem from? During the two days of the conference we discussed, among many other topics, the role of contemporary European monarchies in national and transnational contexts, the British monarchy’s post-war public relations strategies, royal representations in (fictional) media products (such as radio broadcasts, TV series, and films) and (re-)appropriations of monarchical symbols in popular cultural contexts such as wrestling, comics, or alternative music.

Cathleen and Kristen: The conference was not only focused on European monarchy but also colonialism, transnationalism, and the global entanglements of royalty, maybe discussed most prominently by Cindy McCreery. Could you tell us a bit more about this? Are modern monarchies by definition more of a global actor?

Christina and Imke: European monarchies have been global actors for a long time. The most prominent and obvious example might be the role of the British or Spanish Crown within their respective Empires. As Cindy McCreery showed at our conference, when discussing ways in which royalty matters to people overseas, monarchy and imperialism are intricately entwined. She argued for a research on monarchies that extends the gaze to the view on royalty from abroad.

With the end of Empires, the role of monarchies has, however, not been diminished. Processes of decolonisation resulted in an increasing mobility of members of the European royal families that still continues today. The royal tours are a striking example of how people and royals interact. These tours work as a stage on which not only the monarch can be displayed and paraded, but they also allow for local responses. A recent example is constituted by the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Germany in July 2017, during which they intended to “reinforce the strong and wide-ranging ties between Britain and Germany”and thus acted as cultural ambassadors – especially in the face of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Because of the increasing relevance of social media as well as recent celebrations of royal events as global media events, contemporary monarchies are definitely increasingly globally engaged. The global popularity of, especially, the British monarchy goes hand in hand with their high degree of visibility and availability in global consumer culture (only think of various films, documentaries, TV series etc. produced about the British royal family in recent years). At the same time, however, one has to emphasize the ongoing importance of monarchies as national icons.


Impressions from Realms of Royalty

Cathleen and Kristen: One of the core themes of the conference (and both your theses) is the use of media by royal dynasties which is also one emphasis in medieval and early modern royal studies – do you see any changes compared to the use of media in pre-modern times, or more of a continuity?

Christina and Imke: We are convinced that monarchies undergo processes of change and self-fashioning while at the same emphasising and drawing on their own constancy. The use of media is essential for conveying these (self-)images. Traditional forms of media usage for the distribution of images, e.g. painted portraits or the likeness of the monarch on coins, persist and are complemented by new and digital media uses as monarchies and their public relations offices have to adapt to new media environments. Monarchies always exploit the media, which are both available and popular at the respective time. Although John Plunkett (2003) termed Queen Victoria the first “media monarch”, earlier monarchs can also be viewed as media monarchs. A prime example is Queen Elizabeth I whose portraits were both censored and widely circulated. When celebrity culture developed and the collection of memorabilia became popular in the 19th century, new forms of distributing royal images, e.g. the cartes de visite, emerged. These cartes opened up a whole new way of personal engagement with royal images, as they depicted less formal moments than former portraiture, thus inviting emotional reactions. These kinds of depictions were sold in large numbers and were collected and highly valued by their gatherers.

As Deirdre Gilfedder and Ed Owens mentioned in their conference presentations, in the 1930s and 1940s, radio was a popular medium to address the public, e.g. during war speeches and the inception of the famous Christmas broadcasts. In 1953, the coronation of Elizabeth II was the first royal media event broadcast on TV. The medial omnipresence of monarchies still seems to increase steadily. Nowadays, monarchies permeate people’s lives not only in the (yellow) press and on TV, but they also make use of social media channels and networks – on 24 October 2014, Elizabeth II sent her first Tweet. The British royal family embraces the possibilities offered by new media and actively participates in the digital world via various Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr accounts.

Cathleen and Kristen: Everything to do with royal families, esp. the British one, is today being commercialized. How important is this commercialisation, and does it work only (or foremost) on a national scale, or even in an international market?

Christina and Imke: Commercialisation plays a very important role for contemporary monarchy. When looking at the British monarchy in particular, one can say that the whole institution is ‘managed’ as a global brand that caters to consumer demands and has to be beneficially and strategically placed on the market to be successful. Recent studies (especially Balmer 2011, Otnes/Maclaran 2015) have analysed this brand management and the role that the British monarchy plays in global consumer culture. There has also been an increase in societal pressure for the monarchy to actively and significantly contribute to the British economy. In this sense, former political pressures have yielded to commercial (and media) interests.

Understanding the British monarchy in marketing terms, Pauline Maclaran has suggested, means conceptualising it as a brand complex, involving different brand components, which speak to and potentially enhance the consumer’s (emotional) bonds to the brand. She explained that these different components are the global brand, the human brand, the family brand, the heritage brand, and the luxury brand, which all cater for different consumer demands and, thus, make the royal family brand complex so successful.

The monarchy can be consumed in various ways: There are a great variety of popular cultural products like books, films and TV series. Royal media events and memorabilia produced on the occasion of these events offer forms of interaction and participation. The monarchy also makes available touristic experiences, e.g. by opening state apartments and palaces to visitors. Furthermore, granting royal warrants for products supplied to royal family members is a long-established practice of royal engagement in commercial activities. Several members of the royal family have also created consumer brands, such as Duchy Originals, the organic food brand selling local products established by the Prince of Wales, or companies protecting the personal brand and intellectual property rights of royal family members, like the ones William and Catherine created. The Royal Collection Trust, which manages the royal collections and the opening of the palaces as well as the production of merchandise, is one key company involved in making the monarchy available for consumption. In her lecture, Pauline Maclaran pointed out the interesting paradox of ‘accessible mystique’ which results from the PR efforts of the monarchy. The royal family has to provide previously unavailable levels of access in order to engage in these marketing activities, while at the same time retaining an upmarket appeal and sustaining narratives of the institution’s past and present mystique. Even though the prime market for the consumption of the royal family brand concentrates on the national context, it is important to consider global dimensions, for example concerning tourist experiences and souvenirs or royal media events and memorabilia.

Cathleen and Kristen: What were your impressions of the discussions on the conference? Which new directions in research were emphasized, and how do they fit into the wider field of contemporary history?

Christina and Imke: The conference presentations and discussions showed clearly that the changes monarchies have undergone in the past century and that they are still undergoing are mirrored in changing interests and perspectives of research on these monarchies. Two major aspects were emphasised recurrently in the course of the conference: Firstly, the impact that monarchies have on people’s everyday lives has changed from political decision making to an omnipresence of sovereigns and monarchical topics in popular cultural contexts, ranging from films and TV series to exhibitions of royal dresses and even wrestling. Consequently, these new “realms of royalty” deserve scholarly attention and promise valuable insights beyond historical perspectives. Secondly, the increasing importance of emotional connections between monarchy and the people was highlighted. Ed Owens discussed efforts to redefine the monarchy’s place in the nation and to endear the royals to their subjects by strategic media usage and the formation of a new royal public language throughout WWII. Very recent developments include the propagation of narratives on the side of the monarchy that suggest accessibility and middle-class values and thus serves to enable the people to emotionally connect to members of the institution, e.g. when Princes William and Harry openly discussed their psychological struggles dealing with the early death of their mother in a video available on various online platforms in April 2017.

The most productive aspect of the conference, we find, was the interdisciplinary exchange, which linked diachronic perspectives with synchronic, and national with transnational ones, thus providing new insights on European monarchies as the common object of research. In this way, the conference explored monarchies beyond historical perspectives and succeeded in its endeavour to discuss, evaluate and make sense of the cultural phenomena that contemporary monarchies confront us with. By looking at the present state of monarchies as a space of negotiation, we were able to map out and open up new perspectives and understandings of the domains of royal studies that focus on contemporary transnational interactions.

Cathleen and Kristen: Thank you for these insights into your conference! Now, finally, could you tell us a bit more about your own research, and how royal studies fit into this?

Christina and Imke: We are both doing research on media events of the British monarchy that took place in the new millennium – the latest royal weddings and Elizabeth II’s crown jubilees. Our research continues traditional strands in the study of (modern) monarchies, e.g. by focussing on ceremonial events following David Cannadine’s seminal work on the re-invention of the British monarchy. Central for our research are media-related aspects, such as the analysis of TV broadcasts of the events and the medial prelude and aftermath of the events in the press. We hope to add to existing research on monarchies and answer to a recent surge in royal studies by bringing in new theoretical perspectives, first and foremost from the fields of narratology, cultural memory studies and the study of media events, and by analysing recent developments that have barely been in the focus of scholarly attention so far.

Cathleen and Kristen: Thank you both so much, and good luck with your research!

[1] Cf. Higson, Andrew. (2016) “From political power to the power of image: contemporary ‘British’ cinema and the nation’s monarchs.” In: Merck, Mandy (ed.). The British monarchy on screen. Manchester University Press, 339-362, here: 360.

Interview with Alexander Brondarbit

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.

Kristen and Cathleen: What is a signet warrant? How does it differ from other types of documents?

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.

 Kristen and Cathleen: Had scholars largely ignored this document before, aside from including it in histories of Eton?

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.

Kristen and Cathleen: Briefly, what happened to Eton under the Yorkist kings?

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.

Kristen and Cathleen: Was Edward taking advantage of Provost Westbury or was it just good politics?

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.

Kristen and Cathleen: Is this part of a larger project? What are you up to next?

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

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 

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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))

 

Cathleen and Kristen: 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)

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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

Charles Keenan is the Assistant Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston College. He is also author of the article The Limits of Diplomatic Ritual: The Polish Embassy of Giovanni Francesco Commendone (1572-1573) and Criticism of Papal Legates in Early Modern Europe in the special issue of the Royal Studies Journal on Taking Possession

Cathleen and Kristen: 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

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

Cathleen and Kristen: 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.

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