Interview with Jennifer Mara DeSilva
Politics and Dynasty: Underaged Cardinals in the Catholic Church, 1420-1605
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. Read the full article in the Royal Studies Journal.
RSJ Blog: 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.
RSJ Blog: 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.
RSJ Blog: 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.
RSJ Blog: 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).
RSJ Blog: 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.
RSJ Blog: 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.
RSJ Blog: Thank you again for you time and participation! What is next for you?
Jennifer: You are very welcome, Kristen, Cathleen, and Elena! This year I am one of the inaugural fellows of Ball State University’s Digital Scholarship Lab, where I am using timeline, mapping, and networking software to explore how Bolognese patricians competed for place and power. My current project is a digital study of how patrician families in Bologna, Italy, used offices, both ecclesiastical and lay, to compensate for limited access to executive civic authority. These tools offer exciting new insights and comparative opportunities for studying the past.
Interview with 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
RSJ Blog: Part of the festivities were tableaux vivants, living pictures, which represented the city’s history by highlighting important events. It was, in a way, a form of historiography “written” by the magistrates of the city – what can these living pictures tell us about sixteenth-century Lille, and how they saw themselves? How were they different from earlier representations or from other cities?
Ellen: Many cities in the Low Countries, France and England included living pictures in their festivities throughout the later Middle Ages. They were a wonderful way of making history come alive by forging a relationship between past events and the present viewers. Local people that one knew would dress up as the long dead Queen Mahaut or King Philip II surrounded by the conquered but happy people of his empire. It allowed people in cities like Lille to forge a personal relationship to far off or far distant events and implicitly acknowledge their legitimacy and relevance. Tableaux vivants were didactic forms of entertainment, but they also meant to display the learnedness of the local elite—sometimes with mixed results. In one memorable visit of Duke Charles the Bold to Lille in 1468, one of his counselors, a Lille native, thought he would honor the city by having three local women perform the Judgment of Paris. They were, according to a now-lost chronicle, apparently so far from Hera, Aphrodite and Athena in size and stature (one was nicknamed Grosse Juliette, another so thin that the author likened her to a herring) that upon seeing the scene the duke burst out laughing and was unable to stop! These classical or religious histories were popular subjects well into the sixteenth century, but during the fraught years of the 1570s and 1580s, their high-flown symbolism became weighted with barely-concealed allusions to Spanish tyranny. Lille’s Joyous Entry of 1600 pointedly avoided protest. The program focused less on religion or allegory than local events, shifting to what I would term a more prosaic kind of history. It indicated the increasing popularity of new forms of historical writing and the presence of humanist-educated men like Floris van der Haer, who published histories as well as fashioned the Joyous Entry. But it also meant that lillois magistrates wanted to introduce themselves to their new sovereigns by fashioning a different kind of narrative including their rulers’ imperial conquest, their own steadfast loyalty and a shared faith, Catholicism.
Example of a tableau vivant (Philip II of Spain)
RSJ Blog: You argue in your article that some of these tableaux vivants were already imagining Lille as part of the nation of Belgium, a territory which came into being as nation-state in 1830, more than 200 years later. How far were early proto-national sentiments already influential in the early modern period in Lille? And what did the contemporaries understand as “Belgian”?
Ellen: Although the focus of the Joyous Entry was Lille’s history, a number of the tableaux vivants and triumphal arches included references to the Belgian people and Belgium. These terms began to appear in reference to the whole Low Countries beginning in the 1550s, particularly in scholarly circles, and which both writers in the north and the south were using to describe their “Netherlandishness”. Some historians have argued that the shift from the plural les pays de pardeça to the singular, le pays de pardeça, or use of Nederlands or la Belge indicate a nascent nationalism. The Treaty of Augsburg in 1548 had made the Low Countries its own entity within the Holy Roman Empire (The Burgundian Circle) and the Pragmatic Sanction the following year ensured that the same ruler would inherit the seventeen provinces. During the Revolt, those references moved from the antiquarian to the political, when both sides made reference to the Low Countries in terms of fighting for their country, the patrie or vaterland. I think the frequent appearance of Belgian and Belgium in Lille’s Joyous Entry raises some interesting questions—did the organizers mean to be subtly political? Or did van der Haer, Lille’s celebrated organizer of the event, see Belgium as a concept highlighting the learnedness of Lille’s educated citizenry and nothing more? One can’t say for sure, of course, but the context of their use appears to indicate that the lillois organizers wanted to see themselves as part of a larger polity within the Empire of the Habsburgs and were trying to figure out a way to do it. Many were uncertain what that belonging meant in 1600, with ten provinces in the south under Habsburg rule and the seven in the north still rebellious. Belgium united them, within the city and regionally, without forcing them to define what exactly that meant. And while these references were entirely positive in the Joyous Entry, they may also have served as a subtle warning that Lille was not alone and could act with other provinces, as they had in the recent past.
RSJ Blog: The historiography in the sixteenth century experienced its own “spatial turn”, long before the more recent one in the last few years: chorography and cosmography found its way into early modern history writing. Could you expand a bit more on these ideas and their implementation?
Ellen: Yes, this idea of a sixteenth-century spatial turn was a really fun area to ‘think with’. While all kinds of historical writing was more common in the sixteenth century, the newfound interest among Europeans for places around the globe meant that chorography, or local description, became a popular way of pairing history with place. One of the most successful chorographies was Lodovico Guicciardini’s Description of All the Low Countries, which combined short descriptions of a number of cities and regions with maps and city views and includes their physical features, major monuments, events in history and celebrated figures. The focus of both the images and the written descriptions were on place, like a guidebook. Guicciardini and others described what happened in the past primarily through showing what could be seen—buildings, streets, oceans and fields. This emphasis on place created a particular kind of historical narrative. The peacefulness of chorographic descriptions contrasted with other kinds of history emerging during the period, like broadsheets that were published showing terrible events like the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. When reading chronicle accounts of Lille’s Joyous Entry, I noticed that several of the tableaux vivants were very similar to Guicciardini’s Description in both language and subject, and it made me think about how much Lille’s Joyous Entry reflected a chorographic sense of history. The sovereigns moved through the streets of the city and touched on the events of the past through seeing the institutions their ancestors had created. The place-based fashion it told local history allowed lillois and their visitors to avoid reminders of the recent turmoil that had torn apart the Low Countries.
RSJ Blog: Finally, could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now? What can we look forward to reading from you next?
Ellen: Something completely different! I am finishing up one project but embarking on a study of urban bathhouses in the francophone world during the late medieval and early modern periods. From the mid fourteenth to the mid sixteenth centuries in the major cities of France and the Empire—Paris, Marseille, Avignon, Nîmes, Lyon, Besançon, Geneva, Tournai, Valenciennes, and Lille, to name a few—bathhouses welcomed all kinds, from locals and travelers to married couples, singletons, magistrates and members of religious orders. Histories of water and hygiene have noted the ubiquity of these places in urban France, and important studies have described the role of bathhouses in the history of prostitution, but little has been written on their social and economic history—who owned them, in what parts of cities, and with what labor and resources. It is a rich topic that can serve as a framework for understanding urban sites of sociability and gender distinction, medieval entertainment and pleasure, health and hygiene, material culture and the economy of individuals, families and institutions.
RSJ Blog: This does sound interesting! We are looking forward to see what you discover in these urban bathhouses, and what it will tell us about late medieval/early modern urban culture. Thank you for doing this interview!
Interview with Charles Keenan
The Limits of Diplomatic Ritual: The Polish Embassy of Giovanni Francesco Commendone (1572-1573) and Criticism of Papal Legates in Early Modern Europe
Charles Keenan is the Assistant Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston College. Read his full article in the Royal Studies Journal.
RSJ Blog: Thank you, Charles, for your interesting article in the Royal Studies Journal! In your article, you follow the papal legate, Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Commendone, to Poland-Lithuania during the interregna and elections of the 1570s. Such a mission of a legate was uncommon, especially since the use of papal nuncios spread across early modern Europe. Could you tell a bit more about the context of this mission, and why the apostolic nuncio in Poland was not enough?
Charles: Thanks for inviting me to appear on this blog! The original purpose of Commendone’s mission was to help organize a defensive league against the Ottoman Turks, which was a priority of Pope Pius V (r. 1566-1572) and his successor, Gregory XIII (r. 1572-1585). (As context, this was the same period as the famous naval battle of Lepanto.) Commendone was instructed to travel to the courts of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to secure military support. This task could not have been entrusted to nuncios both because Commendone needed to speak to multiple rulers (nuncios were typically “in residence” at a single court and were only credentialed to function as a diplomatic representative there) and because of the delicate nature of negotiations regarding the league: this was a significant request that would entail substantial financial commitments, something that even the powerful Philip II of Spain balked at when asked. Of course, following the death of King Sigismund II Augustus in 1572 Commendone was instead instructed to oversee the election of the next Polish king, and the issue of the league faded from view.
RSJ Blog: So, his mission changed from gathering support to overseeing the election – and he failed, as you also stated in your article! How and why did Commendone fail?
Charles: I suggest there were two reasons for his failure. The first was related to the rituals surrounding diplomatic embassies, which were interrupted by the vicissitudes of the interregnum. As mentioned, the fact that Commendone was already in the middle of another embassy complicated the procedures for beginning a “new” mission to oversee the royal election, and, with no king in place, it was unclear who should receive him – the Polish diet, or only certain factions in the diet, or the one of several individuals claiming to be “leaders” of the commonwealth during the interregnum. The second, less obvious issue was Commendone’s authority as a papal representative to intervene in secular political affairs. As I try to show in this essay, there was widespread disapproval of the legate’s role in the Polish election, which points to a larger critique of the papacy’s involvement in secular government.
RSJ Blog: The close connection between a diplomat and whoever send him seems to be at the heart of Commendone’s failure. What can this failure of diplomatic ritual tell us about the bigger context of European politics, especially in a time of confessionalisation?
Charles: The rituals surrounding this particular diplomat – the legate a latere – derived their efficacy from the authority of the figure whom the legate represented, the pope. The failure of legatine rituals thus suggests a larger problem with papal authority in sixteenth-century Europe, which should come as no surprise. In many ways Commendone’s story points to a larger development, the secularization of European politics and the removal of the Roman papacy from international affairs, something that is evident during Commendone’s mission but which is unmistakable by the time of the Thirty Years’ War.
RSJ Blog: Going from the subject of research to the researcher himself: How did you get started working papal diplomacy, and how does it differ from other kinds of early modern diplomacy? Was the pope still regarded as superior to all kingdoms, or was he just another ruler?
Charles: Well, if you asked one of the popes from this period, I’m sure they would maintain their superiority! It’s an interesting question. Some of the earliest resident ambassadors in Europe were stationed in Rome, and the pope was among the first rulers to send ambassadors abroad. But from the sixteenth century onward, the respect and honor paid to papal diplomats began to wane sharply. In many ways that is my argument in this paper: that there was a growing disjuncture between the papacy’s conception of itself and its authority and how other European states viewed the papacy. I became interested in papal diplomats after exploring the College of Cardinals in this period. Most of the literature on the Sacred College after the Reformation focus on cardinals’ roles in the growing papal bureaucracy (especially after Sixtus V reorganized the Roman curia in the 1580s), but a significant number of cardinals did not reside in Rome and instead served as papal diplomats across Europe.
RSJ Blog: Finally, the events surrounding Commendone during the election of the new Polish king are described much like a game of Chinese whispers – what was the role of rumours, communication, representation, and so on?
Charles: Given the sheer distance involved, with diplomats active in courts stretching from Paris to Warsaw, it was inevitable that communication issues were an important factor in this story. Dispatches could be delayed or lost altogether, and competing diplomatic networks – papal, French, Polish, imperial, Spanish – picked up on different rumors and transmitted them to different locations at different speeds. One walks away with an appreciation for difficulties facing all the parties involved. Policy decisions were difficult to negotiate on their own, but the communication and implementation of those policies presented another set of challenges altogether.
RSJ Blog: Charles, thank you for showing us how diplomatic failure can actually expand historical research! What are you working on now? Any interesting new projects we might soon be hearing more about?
Charles: I just finished preparing a translation of a sixteenth-century Jesuit devotional manual, Gaspar Loarte’s Exercise of the Christian Life, which is now available, and an overview to the historiography of Jesuit devotional literature should be appearing soon. Besides revising my book manuscript, which examines Catholic responses to edicts of toleration in the sixteenth century, I’m also drafting two articles at the moment: one that explores the difficulties Catholic diplomats faced in gathering information about Protestant Britain, and another that traces the career of Vincenzo Lauro, a contemporary of Commendone who was nuncio to Scotland, Savoy, and Poland before being created cardinal.
RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for answering our questions, and good luck with your writing projects!
Interview with Cloe Cavero de Carondelet
Possessing Rome ‘in absentia’: The Titular Churches of the Spanish Monarchy in the Early Seventeenth Century
Cloe Cavero de Carondelet will be joining the Institute of Art History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as a Research Associate in April 2017. She recently obtained her PhD in History and Civilisation at the European University Institute in Florence with a dissertation entitled “Art, Piety and Conflict in Early Modern Spain: The Religious and Artistic Patronage of Cardinal Bernardo de Sandoval between Toledo and Rome (1599-1618)”. She is the author of several essays on the suburban villas of Spanish cardinals, and her articles are set to appear in Archivo Español de Arte and the Boletín del Museo del Prado. Her full article can be read in the Royal Studies Journal.
RSJ Blog: Thank you, Cloe, for a wonderful and thought-provoking article. We learned a great deal about early modern Rome. To begin, for readers less familiar with your topic, could you explain what a titular church is? Were cardinals known as Cardinal [their name] or Cardinal [name of church]?
Cloe: Curiously, even the most informed visitors that marvel at the churches of the city of Rome are often unaware that almost every one of these was – and still is – the titular church of a cardinal. In some way mirroring the pope’s association with San Pietro in Vaticano and the connection between a bishop and his cathedral, seventy churches located in the city of Rome and its surroundings were attached to the corresponding number of cardinals of the Sacred College. Although the foundations of the cardinals’ association with the Roman churches are multiple and not yet completely clear, we can say that one of its main objectives was to establish a spatial and material link between the cardinals and the papal city. It was a mutually advantageous situation. The cardinal obtained a residence and a ceremonial space in the papal court, and the church received a source of patronage, which included the always needed architectural renovations and artistic refurbishments.
Most interestingly, as you have well pointed out, the temporary ownership of a Roman church also provided the cardinal with a new, symbolic identity. This was reflected in a fundamental element – the cardinal’s name. As it happened with Cardinal Carlo Borromeo – also called the Cardinal of Santa Prassede – it was a frequent practice, in which cardinals simultaneously employed their surname and the name of their titular church. However, as there was no fixed rule for the cardinals’ naming, sometimes they were also known by the name of their dioceses. In the case of Cardinal Sandoval, the archival documents refer to him as “Cardinale di Toledo” as a general rule, occasionally as “Cardinale di Sandoval”, and almost never as “Cardinale di Sant’Anastasia”.
RSJ Blog: At one point your article mentions a lack of available titular churches. Were there usually more cardinals than churches? Would some cardinals never be assigned a titular church?
Cloe: The number of titular churches and indeed cardinals was not fixed until 1586, when Sixtus V made an effort to control the increasing number of cardinals, by imposing a limit of seventy cardinals within the Sacred College. Consequently, this decision was simultaneous with the adjustment of an equivalent of number of titular churches. In fact, San Pietro in Montorio was only established as a cardinalatial title after this decision. However, despite this numeric concordance between cardinals and churches, the churches were not automatically granted to the new cardinals. There was one necessary condition for the allocation of a titular church: attending the ritual of closing-and-opening-of-the-mouth with the pope in Rome or, as I have shown in my article for RSJ, ensuring that the ceremony took place by proxy. Nonetheless, the delay in the allocation of Cardinal Sandoval’s titular church suggests that other additional symbolic elements came into play, besides mere availability. Although there were available churches when Sandoval achieved the red hat, none of them corresponded with the churches traditionally granted to the Primates of the Spanish Monarchy. In my opinion, this was the main reason why it took almost two years to endow Cardinal Sandoval with Sant’Anastasia, a church of no particular importance or previous connection with the Spanish Monarchy.
RSJ Blog: How were cardinals chosen during this era?
Cloe: From a ritualistic point of view, the creation of cardinals took place throughout three consistories. After listening to the suggestions and opinions of the College of Cardinals on the most adequate candidates, the pope decided who should receive the cardinal’s hat. From a political point of view, however, the situation was far more complex and negotiated. The unique system of government of the Holy See determined a curious situation. While the creation of cardinals was one of the most important prerogatives of the pope, the pope was elected from the College of Cardinals by the cardinals themselves. Thus, it is not surprising that the pope, the Italian families and the sovereign rulers of Catholic Europe all invested considerable efforts in influencing the appointments of these prospective papal electors. As one can imagine, this significant power was rarely given to individuals devoid of means or of humble origins. In fact, only in the years immediately following the Council of Trent can we find several cardinals chosen for their piety and devoted spirit. Furthermore, the creation of crown cardinals entailed a previous level of negotiation. As I mention in my article for RSJ, the Spanish king was the one who suggested the Spanish candidates who were to be considered for the cardinal’s hat. Being shortlisted for the purple was therefore also the result of complex negotiations within the royal court.
RSJ Blog: Your article mentions that the cardinal creations of 1596 and 1599 negatively affected the Spanish monarchy. How so?
Cloe: Even if this affirmation may seem a bit excessive, I believe that it is safe to say that cardinal appointments were an important barometer of the political situation in early modern Europe. They indicated which of the main Catholic monarchies – the French or the Spanish – enjoyed the favour of a given pope in a given moment. From 1595, it is possible to see how the Holy See gradually moves away from its alliance with the Spanish monarchy and aligns with the French monarchy instead. The 1596 and 1599 consistories did not benefit the interests of the Spanish monarchy, either in the creation of cardinals aligned with their faction or with that of crown cardinals. The bitter complaints and numerous criticisms recorded in the correspondence maintained between the Spanish ambassadors in Rome and the court of Madrid in these years evinces the significant importance that cardinal creations had for diplomatic relationships between Spain and Rome.
RSJ Blog: It seems having cardinals from your kingdom was an important part of diplomacy. How did the Spanish monarchy compare with its rivals?
Cloe: Known as the teatro del mondo, early modern Rome was a sort of international setting where the rulers of Catholic Europe negotiated their power. Every ruler could have formal or informal agents in Rome, but only a few of them had resident ambassadors, and an even greater minority had cardinals from their own kingdom at the papal court. Between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, almost 75% of the Sacred College of Cardinals consisted of Italians. The rest was divided between French and Spanish cardinals, who had a steady 10% each, and by Germans, Austrian, Poles and other European territories. Therefore, both the French and Spanish monarchy enjoyed a valuable diplomatic privilege, which provided them with additional diplomatic agents and with valuable ceremonial spaces.
When in Rome, the French and Spanish cardinals acted as a sort of ambassadors; we may want to call them “ecclesiastical diplomats”. Similarly to resident ambassadors, they lived in lavish palaces and played a relevant symbolic role in the ceremonies and rituals of the monarchy that took place in the city of Rome. This was especially the case with the crown cardinals, who held the status of cardinal-protectors of a kingdom. Although there is still much to be done on this issue, I am certain that cardinals from the French and Spanish monarchies went through conflicts similar to those of their ambassadors. It is very likely that the cardinals argued about matters of precedence and status during papal ceremonies and informal encounters, apparently banal arguments that were instead regarded as important diplomatic tensions.
RSJ Blog: What are your current projects?
Cloe: Having recently obtained my PhD, I am at the moment focusing on two main projects. The first one, as you might anticipate, is the turning of my doctoral dissertation into a book. I will be working on the manuscript in the coming months, and hope to have it completed as soon as possible. My second project, which I will be carrying out at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, is the examination of the visual normativity of childhood sanctity in early modern Europe. I will scrutinise images of child saints to consider how the emotional qualities of infancy shaped the construction of these saints’ visual representation and the reception of their cult during the Catholic Reformation. This new research project stems from one of the outcomes of my dissertation, that is, the fundamental role that art patronage had for the conformation, shaping and forging of sacred history in early modern Spain. In connection with some of the issues discussed in my article for RSJ, an essential part of the project will be to analyse how the lay and ecclesiastical authorities negotiated the contested dimension of childhood sanctity between Spain and Rome, paying special attention to the ceremonies of canonisation and other rituals.
RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for answering our questions. We look forward to reading your work in the future!
Interview with Talia Zajac
Gloriosa Regina or “Alien Queen”?: Some Reconsiderations on Anna Yaroslavna’s Queenship (r. 1050-1075)
Talia Zajac is a PhD Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto and newsletter editor for the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA). She is currently completing revisions on her dissertation, “Women Between West and East: the inter-rite marriages of the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty, ca. 1000-1204” (co-supervised by Isabelle Cochelin and Allan Smith). As its title indicates, the dissertation analyzes the marriage alliances of the Riurikids, the Orthodox rulers of Rus’ (the ancestor state of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), with Catholic rulers. Drawing on studies of medieval queenship, her research focuses on the individual experience of cultural displacement and continuity of elite women in these marriages. Her article appears in issue four (2016) of the Royal Studies Journal.We recently caught up with Talia to chat about her article and her research.
RSJ Blog: Thank you for a great article! To get started, could you tell us some basic information about Anna of Kiev?
Talia: Anna was the daughter of prince Yaroslav “the Wise” of Kiev (d. 1054) and princess Ingigerd (d. 1050), the daughter of King Olof Eirikson Skötkonung of Sweden (d. 1021/1022). Sources do not record Anna’s birth date, only those of her brothers, but we can estimate that she was born in the early 1020s. The French embassy led by bishops Roger of Châlons-en-Champagne and Gautier of Meaux arrived in Kiev in 1049 to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage on behalf of the French king Henri I. They returned to France between 1050 and 1051. Subsequently in 1051, Anna was the first queen of the Capetian dynasty to be crowned and married in Reims Cathedral, which could be indicative of the special prestige attached to her marriage.
When her eldest son Philippe was born in 1052 he was the first member of the Capetian dynasty to be given this name, which was still very rare in France. A name of Greek origin for the heir to the throne was highly unusual and points to Anna’s influence. In addition, a few charters suggest that Anna participated in the patronage of local ecclesiastical institutions in the Ile-de-France during her husband’s lifetime. Her participation in governance increased after her husband’s death in 1060, when she ruled as co-regent with her brother-in-law Count Baldwin of Flanders on behalf of her eight-year-old son Philippe. Twenty-three surviving charters from the years of Philippe’s minority (1060-1067) indicate that Anna played a key role in ruling France during this period and in confirming the rights and privileges of monasteries and churches, including such important abbeys as Saint Martin-des-Champs and Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.
In 1061, however, Anna remarried with Count Raoul of Crépy-en-Valois (d. 1074). This hasty remarriage a year after her husband’s death may suggest that Anna was still, to a certain degree, an outsider at the French court, in need of a local protector. As a result of this second union, Anna also became Countess of Valois, and ruled likewise as a seigniorial lady.
In the early 1060s (probably 1063), Anna, or a chaplain acting on her behalf, signed one charter in favor of the abbey of Saint-Crépin-le-Grand in Soissons in Cyrillic script as “ANA PЪHNA” (Ana rьina, i.e., Anna regina). This remarkable document, which survives in the original in the Bibliothèque nationale, testifies to Anna’s ability to maintain ties to her natal Rus’ culture after a decade in France. It also indicates that the effects of the “scandal” of Anna’s second marriage on her queenship has also been somewhat exaggerated in secondary literature. The charter is issued in her son’s name, but the consent of her second husband Raoul is also noted in the charter. Despite her second marriage, Anna continued to participate in the life of the royal court and did not become a persona non grata.
RSJ Blog:What was the significance of this east-west marriage, and how did it come to be (especially during a time of growing distance between the east and west churches)?
Talia: This is an excellent question! Since no primary source directly discusses the motivations for this long-distance marriage alliance, to a certain degree any answer must rely simply on speculation. We can make a few informed guesses, however, as to the benefits that both Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and King Henri of France could hope to gain from such a marriage.
Political concerns probably led Henri to make his choice of a long-distance alliance. It is helpful to remember that the Capetians were still a relatively new dynasty in the mid eleventh century: Henri I was only the third king of this new line. As parvenus, who had ousted the Carolingian dynasty, the Capetians needed to make marriage alliances with established ruling houses in order to legitimize their reign. Marion Facinger and Constance Bouchard have shown that, although later Capetians would be content to marry the daughters of counts, the early Capetians in the tenth and eleventh centuries sought to marry the daughters of kings. Nevertheless, it grew increasingly difficult to find suitably elevated women who were also not related to them within the seven prohibited degrees of consanguinity.
In 988, Hugh Capet, Henri’s grandfather, had searched for an eastern marriage alliance. He had Gerbert of Aurillac (later pope Sylvester II) write to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, asking him to send a bride for his son Robert. We do not know if the Byzantine court even bothered to reply, but the letter indicates that the Capetian court had no qualms with seeking an eastern Christian bride. In doing so, Hugh Capet may have hoped not only to abide by consanguinity regulations, but also, perhaps equally importantly, to legitimize his dynasty by marriage into the Byzantine imperial house.
Robert was ultimately threatened with excommunication by Pope Gregory V by taking as his second wife Bertha of Blois to whom he was related within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity (the couple were anathematized in 998 and finally divorced in 1001). By marrying Anna of Kiev, Henri I may likewise have sought not only to satisfy consanguinity regulations that had plagued his father, but also to find a woman of royal blood to marry.
Anna of Kiev satisfied the demand for a bride of noble blood as she was related to the Byzantine imperial house: upon his conversion to Christianity in 988/989 her grandfather Vladimir (Volodymyr) Sviatoslavich, had married the Byzantine princess Anna, sister of Basil II (after whom she could likely have been named). Henri may also have heard about Anna of Kiev through his previous wife Matilda of Frisia (d. 1044), because Matilda’s niece, Oda of Stade, was married to Anna’s brother, Sviatoslav.
Finally, Anna of Kiev was part of the first generation of the rulers of Kiev to grow up in a Christian setting, since official conversion had only occurred late in her grandfather Vladimir’s reign. The growing liturgical and theological differences between Latin Christianity and Orthodoxy must not yet have seemed so great in newly-Chrisitanized Rus’ as the basic difference in belief between Christianity and paganism.
Anna had at least two other sisters who also became western queens: Elizabeth, who married King Harald Hardraada of Norway in 1044 and Anastasia, who married King Andrew I of Hungary around 1039-1050. Alexandr Musin recently (2014) has suggested that Henri I sought an alliance with Yaroslav the Wise, due to Yaroslav’s ties to Norway, in order to encircle William of Normandy. The theory is an intriguing one, especially since William of Normandy made a marriage alliance with Matilda of Flanders in 1049, the same year that Henri sent his marriage embassy to Kiev, but there are no primary sources that support the theory directly.
RSJ Blog: Wow, this marriage really gives insights into the complex international relations of this time! Your article mentions that earlier work often uncritically repeated legendary material. Any favorites among these fabrications?
Talia: One of my favorites is the story that her second husband Raoul kidnapped her on horseback while she was riding in the forest of Senlis and married her by force. One can find this story repeated in some English works on Anna, for example, in the entry on her life in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russia and Soviet History (1976), but it is not substantiated by any medieval source.
But the most widespread tale about Anna is that she was responsible for bringing into France the so-called “Reims Gospel Book” or Slavonic Gospels (Reims, Bibliothèque municipale Carnegie, MS 255) on which subsequently French kings swore their coronation oaths. This claim has been disputed multiple times in scholarly articles and yet continues to appear in publications. The Gospel Book appears for the first time in the treasury inventory of Reims Cathedral in 1622 which states that the manuscript was donated to Reims Cathedral in 1574 by Cardinal Charles of Lorraine (1524-1575). He might perhaps have picked it up during the course of his travels to the Council of Trent. We have no have no specific source references to the actual use of Reims MS 255 in French coronations. Even today, the Reims Municipale Library has a special section of its website in Russian solely for the purpose of demonstrating that this manuscript has no connection to Anna of Kiev.
RSJ Blog: The article notes in several places that some of Anna’s charters are only available in later copies. What is the story of these primary sources?
Talia: The royal demesne and centralized monarchical power was at its most limited extent during the reign of Henri I (1031-1060). Consequently, his reign is the least well documented of any Capetian monarch as the number of acts issued by the royal chancellery declined. Without further research it is difficult to say, however, why certain specific acts have survived in the original, while others are known only through later copies. Certainly, in some cases, only the beneficiaries of the acts (ecclesiastical institutions) have preserved copies of a given document.
RSJ Blog: What does Anna of Kiev tell us about medieval queenship? How did the “Capetian Trinity” of royal authority work?
Talia: The “Capetian Trinity” was a term first coined by Achille Luchaire (1846-1908) to describe royal government of the early Capetian dynasty: in which king, queen, and heir to the throne to a certain degree shared royal power and authority (auctoritas): the king is at the head of government, but the queen consort and heir to the throne also consent to and participate in royal decisions. The queen was subject to the king, but all were subject to God, who held the ultimate auctoritas. In this hierarchical and yet collaborative model of rulership, there was scope for the queen consort to exercise a role of intercessor and adviser in the royal court/council (curia regis). Her office was established ritually and publicly through her anointment, coronation, and marriage.
Indeed, Anna’s presence in the curia regis, her subscription to acts, her role as co-regent for her son, and as patron of monasteries and houses of regular canons, indicate that she took an active role in the court life of her new homeland, fulfilling the roles expected of her in her anointing as queen.
My article showed that it is not helpful to think of her as an “alien” or “exotic” queen; adjectives which are tinged with Orientalist overtones. Rather, Anna’s queenship exemplifies a fluidity of religious-social identity: she both adapted to the roles and expectations of western queenship conferred to her upon her crowning and anointing, and, at the same time, as seen in her Cyrillic signature or the Greek name given to her eldest son, continued to have some degree of contact and connection to the Orthodox land of her birth. Her reign can give us insight into the ways in which “foreign” medieval queens successfully negotiated these fluid identities.
RSJ Blog: It is quite surprising that Anna’s orthodoxy rarely plays a role in her life as French queen – could you maybe expand on this a bit? Is there an explanation?
Talia: This is a fascinating question and one which I am currently pursuing further in my dissertation on the other marriage alliances of the Riurikid dynasty, to which Anna belonged, with Latin Christian rulers.
Perhaps Anna’s adaptation to life in France as a married woman can be at least partly explained by the fact that she already was growing up in a court setting that was multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and open to ties with Latin Christendom. Anna’s father Yaroslav had relied upon Varangian (Viking) mercenaries to gain the throne of Kiev following the succession struggle that broke out after Vladimir’s death in 1015. During these military struggles, he had married the Swedish princess Ingigerd around 1019. As a result, Anna had a Latin Christian mother and an Orthodox Christian father. Prior to her marriage with Henri I, Anna would have seen Latin Christian mercenaries, merchants, as well as her own siblings married off to Latin Christian rulers. Anna’s brothers-in-law Harald Hardraada and Andrew I of Hungary both spent time as exiles in Rus’ so she would have met them directly. Thus, although she grew up in an Orthodox Christian setting, to a certain degree she was also exposed to the customs of western Christians prior to her marriage to Henri I.
RSJ Blog: Anna of Kiev came to the French court, and seemingly adapted very well to her new role. But what about her entourage? Are there any sources telling us what they did?
Talia: Anna would have surely been accompanied by an entourage befitting her high status as she set off on her long 2,000 km (1242 mile) journey between Kiev and Paris. Unfortunately, medieval sources preserve absolutely nothing about the number, gender, and status of the people who made up Anna’s entourage (did they include female attendants? Male nobles? clerics or lay persons?).
Based on the carefully formed uncial (Russian: ustav) script in which Anna’s Cyrillic signature on the charter for Saint-Crépin-le-Grand is executed, other charters extant in the original have a cleric signing on her behalf (in Latin), and the royal chancellery at the time was linked to the royal chapel, it is possible that a Rus’ cleric might have executed the Cyrillic signature at Anna’s request. Such a cleric might have been a member of Anna’s entourage. On the other hand, if that were the case, it is curious that no other source should mention his presence. The long-standing theory that the Cyrillic signature is Anna’s autograph remains equally plausible.
Although we do not have any information on Anna’s entourage, charters do preserve mention of members of her household. One charter issued between 1060 and 1067 mentions a certain Amalric, “the queen’s seneschal.” Ingeran, Philippe’s tutor, also appears in the witness-list in seven extant charters until Philippe’s majority in 1067. His name is French, but in some charters he is given a rather Greek title, pedegogus. Unfortunately, the occasional occurrence of this title is rather slim evidence on which to extrapolate any evidence concerning Anna’s role in educating her children.
RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for this interesting insight into the life of an Eastern queen in France in the 11th century. Two final questions: how did Anna spend her last days?
Talia: During her widowhood, Anna restored from ruin the church of Saint-Vincent in Senlis north of Paris, which she refounded as a house of regular canons sometime before 1069 (when her son Philippe issued a confirmation charter for the abbey). Thereafter, Saint-Vincent celebrated an annual obit (memorial service) for Anna on September 5th until the French Revolution. Based on the last charter in which she subscribes (1075) and a charter of Philippe I in which he gives a gift to Cluny in 1079 for the soul of his parents as well as the date of the obit, Anna must have died on September 5th, between 1075 and 1079. Her place of burial is unknown; one medieval chronicle, the early twelfth-century Historiae Franciae, states that Anna Yaroslavna returned alone to Rus’ after the death of her second husband, Raoul.
RSJ Blog: And what are your next projects? You already talked about tracing more Eastern-Western marriages in this time; anything else?
Talia: The presence of Rus’-born princesses in Latin Europe is a topic that has received relatively little attention in Anglo-American scholarship, but is one which offers rich avenues for further research. Besides investigating the neglected role of Rus’ princesses as queen consorts of Latin Christian lands, my research also focuses on the social-political roles played by elite women within Rus itself. Currently I am working on an article tracing the material objects circulated by Rus’ princesses upon their marriages to Western European rulers and what happened to these objects as they entered royal and ecclesiastical treasuries.
My longer-term research goals include expanding upon my dissertation to write a monograph on Rus-born queen consorts of Europe and what their reigns can tell us about the social effects of the “Schism” between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the lives of medieval elites.
In the future, I also intend to pursue a more in-depth comparative investigation of Anna Yaroslavna’s place in the national imagination of French, Ukrainian, and Russian historiography from the early sixteenth to the twentieth century. Her life has been the subject of two operas, multiple novels, as well as a Soviet film, each of which offers a different vision of the relations between Rus’ and the Western Europe. The project will investigate Anna’s “post-medieval” image and what it can tell us about France, Ukraine, and Russia’s constructions of their intersecting history/histories, as well as the different ways in which relations between Eastern and Western Europe have been understood over time.
RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for a wonderful interview and great article! We are looking forward to reading your work in the future.
Interview with Philippa Woodcock
Living like a king? The entourage of Odet de Foix, vicomte de Lautrec, governor of Milan
RSJ Blog: Thanks for doing an interview with us! to begin, how did you get interested in history? especially the period you specialize in?
Philippa: Thank you, I’m flattered to be asked. It is entirely my mother’s fault that I became a historian. She read historical novels non-stop (Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond and Niccolo novels especially) and had the portraits of the six wives of Henry VIII above her bath (but not Henry VIII). Anne Boleyn was a clear favourite, but I always preferred Katherine Parr (ah, the admiral!)
RSJ Blog: Your latest article contribution to the RSNJ is fascinating. Is this a subject you’ve been studying for years?
Philippa: Thank you. The article is a bit of an aside to my PhD which I finished in 2006 and, to my shame have still to publish. I ended up studying French Milan thanks to my supervisor, Evelyn Welch, who advised me to work in very quiet archives – Milan, Mantua, Cremona etc – rather than Florence. When I started researching the de Foix family’s role in Milan, I realised that studying the governors would also give me an excuse to do research in Pau and Tarbes….
Each time I go to a new archive I always make a quick sweep of terms relating to French Milan before starting my other research. There’s a lot of unpublished material out there, even though Italian and French scholars have really revived interest in this period in the last twenty years.
RSJ Blog: What went into the research for this article?
Philippa: A long process and lots of travel! This article’s origins are in the Kings and Queens 3 conference in Winchester in July 2014. I remembered a contemporary Venetian observer remarking that Lautrec always maintained and fed a certain number of liveried servants and followers, so my contribution developed from that. Whilst teaching for Warwick in Venice I had the absolute luxury of being able to spend some time in the archivio di stato, where some references survive to the gifts given to Lautrec and his cronies by the Republic. I then gave the adapted paper at a researchconvegno, and was given some leads for future work from Italian scholars. Finally, when I submitted the article to the RSJ I got some really useful feedback about new research and publications that I had missed. This iterative editorial process is so important to ensure that work is representative of the state of scholarship, as well as including original archival research.
RSJ Blog: Was there anything that surprised you when conducting your research?
Philippa: I’m afraid that I get carried away in the archives and go off on tangents. I knew from Sanudo that Lautrec and Gritti had a difficult relationship, so I looked through the draft despatches of the Senate for 1515-20. I came across some lovely nuggets about provisions being made for Andrea Gritti to travel by litter on campaign, rather than horseback, owing to his age. This meets the idea of Venetian gerontocracy, but somehow goes against the idea of Gritti ‘man of action’. I was also interested to see how many references were made to the scars on Lautrec’s face which seemed to have affected his sinuses and made it necessary for him to frequently hawk up phlegm. He even adopted the panther as his emblem for it too had a ‘savage visage’.
RSJ Blog: Thanks again for letting us interview you! One last question: what are you working on next?
Philippa: Lots of things. I get distracted easily! I am working with my friend and former colleague, Matthias Range, to publish our post-doctoral work on Reformation rural religion, exploring the daily religious experience in isolated Catholic and Lutheran parishes. However, my main project (going slowly at present) concerns the experience of French mariners in the Venetian Stato da Mar. I have lots of juicy French complaints about the Venetians seizing French goods on rather flimsy pretexts. I aim to match this with Venetian enquiries into ‘misconduct’ and pre-consular diplomatic activity. I’ve looked at this in Paris, but I need to get down to Marseille. And one day, I will publish my PhD in some form or another….
Interview with Aidan Norrie
“Courageous, Zealous, Learned, Wise, and Chaste” – Queen Elizabeth I’s Biblical Analogies After Her Death
RSJ Blog: Thanks for doing an interview with us! to begin, how did you get interested in history? especially the Tudor era?
Aidan: Thank-you for having me! I have been asked where my interest in history comes from many times, and the honest answer is that it has always just been there. Except for a six-month period in my late teens during which time I wanted to be an accountant (dark days indeed), I have always been interested in the past, and finding out how people in the past lived. I do sometimes, however, attribute my interest in history to an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine I watched as a kid, in which an abandoned castle is discovered on the Island of Sodor. I instinctively knew that the castle was both old and important, so I badgered my parents to get me books from the library all about castles – and it has only snowballed since then!
Elizabeth has always fascinated me. The idea that a woman could successfully rule a country at a time when women had virtually no political or economic rights made me want to know all I could about her. History at school – and even university – is often skewed towards famous men; so reading about Elizabeth (as well as her half-sister Mary I, and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots) allowed me to address this imbalance. I should also confess that Queenie from Blackadder added to the fascination.
RSJ Blog: Your latest article contribution to the RSJ is fascinating. Is this a subject you’ve been studying for years?
Aidan: That’s very kind of you. I first started thinking about Elizabeth’s biblical analogies during my undergraduate studies, when I first came across the account of Elizabeth’s Coronation Procession – The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage. In the fifth pageant, Elizabeth is exhorted to behave like Deborah the Judge, and Elizabeth herself is recorded to have prayed before the procession began in thanksgiving that she was preserved during Mary’s reign, as Daniel was from the lion’s den. What struck me about the references to these biblical figures is that almost everyone who heard them would have known about them, and understood the connection that was being made. Attendance at Church was all that was necessary to know the story of these major biblical figures, rather than the formal education one would require to understand what was meant by an allusion to Astraea or Diana. The fact that Elizabeth herself also used the analogy meant that they were clearly useful. From there, it was simply a matter of reading as much of the scholarship I could that analysed the phenomenon.
RSJ Blog: What went into the research for this article?
Aidan: Almost two years’ worth, to be honest! Not only did I have to find the analogies in the primary sources – thank-you EEBO! – I also had to research what the context for the analogy was, and what the analogy was being used for. This was more challenging than previous work because the late seventeenth century is beyond my usual area of research, so it took some time to get up to scratch with the history of the period and with the historiography.
RSJ Blog: Was there anything that surprised you when conducting your research?
Aidan: There were two main things about my research that surprised me. The first was the longevity of Elizabeth’s analogies. I really did not expect them to continue appearing for a century after she died, especially after the Civil War and the Commonwealth. It highlighted to me the importance of not letting your assumptions get in the way of your research, and also how potent the combined use of religion and politics was in the Early Modern period. The second thing that surprised me was how so few of the primary sources I was locating had previously been analysed in the scholarship. While the concept of the analogies, and the theory behind them, has been well studied, there appeared to be a limited focus on the actual sources themselves. Hopefully, with the advent of EEBO, and the increasing access to these original sources, the analogies themselves will come to the forefront of analysis.
RSJ Blog:What are you working on next?
Aidan: I am currently researching some of Elizabeth’s analogies that are less analysed in the current scholarship – particularly those to Daniel the Prophet and the widow Judith. My major project, however, is an analysis of the analogies that were used by both Mary and Elizabeth, with particular emphasis on how the different religious beliefs of the two queens influenced the way in which the analogies were employed, and the way in which gender was factored into the analogy.
Interview with Cinzia Recca
Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette: Sisters and Queens in the mirror of Jacobin Public Opinion
Cinzia Recca is a research fellow in Modern History at the University of Catania. Her book “Sentimenti e Politica. Il diario inedito della regina Maria Carolina di Napoli (1781-1785)” regarding the personal diary of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples has just been published in 2014 and will soon be translated into English. Her current research is aimed at a re-writing of the biography of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples through the analysis of unpublished documents.
RSJ Blog: Hi Cinzia, thanks for doing this interview! You’ve just published an article in the first issue of the Royal Studies Journal about Maria Carolina of Naples and Marie Antoinette of France. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Cinzia: The historical figures of Marie Antoinette of France and Maria Carolina of Austria have been misunderstood for a very long time. Even after more than two hundred years since Marie Antoinette’s death, some history books still describe her as a silly and superficial woman, who with her fancies, quickened the end of the Ancien Régime and drove the Parisian people to rebel. Notwithstanding this wide spread opinion, Marie Antoinette was a strong and resolute woman, for this reason she still causes animated debates among scholars. The innumerable biographies edited between the nineteenth century and the present day, testify indeed, to a perennial interest in the last Queen of France. While the first Queen has been reconsidered inside the historiographical field, not completely defined yet, the second one hasn’t had a balanced, calm and impartial judgment yet.
The interest in Maria Carolina of Naples derives from the necessity to reopen a historiography, which in the past lacked influential interpretations and which needed to be more updated and up to the restored historiographical standards of the Reign of Naples. In fact, during the nineteenth century and part of the twentieth, this regnant Queen’s figure was judged according to two different stereotypes that were to influence the future historiographies of the Queen: the first one, nationalistic ( let’s think, for example, of the opposing interpretations by the “Central European” historians, like Baron Helfert and Earl Corti, the French ones like Gagniere e Bonnefons and the Italian Botta, Cuoco, Colletta, Pepe, Palumbo, Croce, and the more moderate ones by the English Jeafferson and Bearne); the second one, antifeminist, ante litteram, spread everywhere and strongly present in some works by the above mentioned authors.
The Empress Maria Theresa said of her that “among my daughters she is the most similar to me”, but about this Queen and this lady, it was necessary to rewrite her history to give the reader a less nationalistic and male chauvinist panorama.
RSJ Blog: Could you tell us more about all the Habsburg sisters? Did they all have a close relationship? Or just Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette?
Cinzia: Maria Carolina had a sincere and loving relationship with all her brothers and sisters: Maria Amalia, sweet and charming, was the mature and reassuring older sister who was an example to follow. Even throughout most of their lives as wives they remained on good terms: they used to exchange portraits, letters and gifts. Maria Carolina had also a good, confidential and durable relationship, with the Archduke Leopold whom she considered her favourite brother. Several were the letters that they exchanged after their respective marriages: a correspondence that testifies on the one hand to the confidence of Leopold towards his younger sister about the intelligence and the ability to educate their respective children, on the other hand a solid and long-lasting presence of an older brother to whom to refer in moments of indecision and crisis, both familial and institutional. However, there is a correspondence between Maria Carolina and her brother Emperor Joseph II which testifies to the family ties between the two, confirming the wise Habsburg policy implemented by the Queen who asked for recommendations and opinions on proposals and guidelines that came from the Spanish royal family and British ministers, in order not to make decisions contrary to the interests of Austria. Having been brought up with a sister who was three years younger, Marie Antoinette, almost like a twin, favoured the emotional relationships with the latter. And having shared their childhood, in fact, favored the establishment between the two sisters of a solid loving bond that accompanied them troughout their lives, as is testified by the letters through which they communicated even after they married. So that after the French Revolution and the execution of her sister Marie Antoinette, Queen Maria Carolina swore eternal hatred first for the French revolutionaries, and then for Napoleon.
RSJ Blog: In the article you discuss several hate pamphlets against Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette. Who were the author(s) behind these pamphlets against the two Queens?
Cinzia: It depends on the year of publication of the pamphlets. Before and during the Revolution, the majority of the authors of these texts were of course anonymous. Political enemies such as the Duke of Orleans could have sponsored them. Also booksellers and unscrupulous printers, greedy blackmailers (such as Boissiere who published, Image Des Amours Charlot and Toinette) offered their editions to discredit the King’s Finance. All authors had in common one purpose: to attack the most outrageously, filthy and obscene Monarchy, especially the figure of the Queen considered the cause of the ruin of the country in the interest of Austria.
RSJ Blog: Very interesting! Could you also tell us a bit more about the role the Habsburg family and their influence during the time of the French Revolution in Europe?
Cinzia: Well it is not easy to answer to this question with few lines, but I will try. The Empress Maria Theresa had extended family power in Europe with her marital diplomacy, the marriages of Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette are two examples. So after the death of their beloved mother, the Habsburg had inherited a position of power even leadership in Europe, which was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. The French Revolution of 1789 represented a mortal danger for them, during this period they were more worried than the most European dynasties by the need to defend their extensive territories. Therefore in the years immediately after the French Revolution and also after, during the Napoleonic period, the Habsburg were involved in a series of wars against their old enemy, France, that lasted almost a quarter of a century and finished with the Treaties of Vienna in 1815.
Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube
RSJ Blog: Quite a time of change! Is there anything new you are working on that you would like to share?
Cinzia: I have to confess to you that it is a quite busy time for me. I recently finished translating into English and up dating my book regarding the personal diary of Queen Maria Carolina which, I hope will soon be published. I am starting a monograph regarding the Habsburg shadow in the Kingdom of Naples, analysing and focusing the attention on the precious suggestions contained in un-published letters that Emperor Joseph II and Grand Duke Peter Leopold sent to their sister during the pre-French-revolutionary age. And in the meantime, I am starting to investigate the crucial role that ‘the Winspeares’ a noble family and native of the county of Scarborough had acquired in the Kingdom of Naples during the Eighteenth century.
RSJ Blog: And finally, will we see you this summer at the Kings & Queens IV conference in Lisbon? If so, what will you be presenting?
Cinzia: Yes, I will be very happy to join you at the next Kings & Queens conference in Lisbon, when I read a paper entitled ‘The reversal of dynasties’ during the era of the House of Bourbon in the Kingdom of Naples regarding the history of the Neapolitan branch of the Bourbons showing how the balance of power and alliances changed within the House before and after the arrival of Maria Carolina of Habsburg –Lorraine.
RSJ Blog: Thank you again, and see you in Lisbon!
Interview with Nadia Thérèse van Pelt
Teens and Tudors: the pedagogy of royal studies
RSJ Blog: Hi Nadia, thanks for doing this interview! First, your article presents us with results from an experiment in the classroom with a Tudor play. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
Nadia: The Teens and Tudors project came forth from my PhD on spectator risk management in early English drama, which I have completed at the University of Southampton in 2014. I was very keen to make part of a chapter of my thesis accessible to a wider audience through outreach, and decided on Heywood’s Play of the Weather as the project’s main focus, especially due to the fascinating socio-political context in which it was originally performed: the court of Henry VIII. Of course I’m not the first one to offer a staged reading of Heywood’s play; the Teens and Tudors project has been influenced by Staging the Henrician Court, an interdisciplinary project led by Professor Thomas Betteridge and Professor Greg Walker between 2008 and 2010. I was really excited about their project and website, which contains some very excellent teaching aids, such as video clips, articles and a discussion forum. With Teens and Tudors I wanted to contribute to existing studies by investigting how we can use staged readings or research performances as an exciting outreach tool for secondary schools, and of course as a teaching method at university level. The age of the actors in my project is relevant in that where staged readings tend to be performed by adult actors, I wanted to see whether the play, which was originally performed by schoolboys in 1533, would be better understood if the reconstruction were performed by teenagers in the same age category.
Linking Heywood’s play to the performance context of the Tudor court, meant that I could offer students a close reading tool that relied on getting to know the politics, gossip and lay-out of the Henrician court. I would project a lay-out plan of the Henrician great hall, and would use the actual space of the classroom (rid of tables and chairs) to help students decide where in the space lines from the play would be best uttered, and if the positioning in the room would have had any political implications in 1533. Furthermore, this set-up enabled us to discuss issues around gender, satire, and the dangers of performing drama that actors would have faced.
I have worked with 3 fifth form groups at a grammar school in The Hague, of which all students were non-native speakers of English. I was really impresed with how quickly they picked up on Heywood’s language, and especially the puns. I am very grateful for the school’s cooperation, and of course of the support and advice given by ICLON, the University of Leiden Graduate School of Teaching, and the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture at the University of Southampton.
RSJ Blog: Great! Now, you’re bridging the gap between gymnasium and university with this project – where is your focus? Is it more about bringing new pedagogy to the classroom? or about doing research on classroom dynamics for the university?
Nadia: That’s a good question! In fact, I find that addressing the bridge between school and university is very necessary and rewarding. I am a lecturer at the University of Leiden, so I usually teach university students. However, I do find that fifth and sixth form pupils are very capable of engaging with literature that it slightly more ‘out of the box’, in terms of the ‘standard’ curriculum for literature. I also found that certain prescribed authors tend to intimidate teenagers, for example, Shakespeare. The last thing I want to do is ‘freeze’ the students’ creativity of mind by offering them a text that that intimidates them before they have even started reading. The beauty of using Heywood of course, is that he is obscure enough for students not to have heard of his work, so that they enter the workshops more openmindedly.
In terms of method, my project has been two-fold. On the one hand I wanted to unite a theory used in language teaching called Total Physical Response Theory (TPR) in which the movement of the body is used to remember information, and Cognitive Theory linked to the late medieval and early modern ways of using drama as a teaching tool. At the same time I was very interested in testing how classroom dynamics could be changed and history and literature could be made more accessible to students who do not find it easy to use older sources, because they find themselves lost in the works, or easily distracted.
RSJ Blog: That sounds great. Could you recommend anything for teachers – be it at the university or the gymnasium for recreating this experience?
Nadia: Last month, I have given a workshop for teachers at secondary school and sixth form level at the national Good Practice Day hosted by the University of Leiden Graduate School for Teaching (ICLON). We discussed how TPR can be used in the classroom, not just for teaching playtexts, but also as an approach to novels and historical sources. For the latter it is good to keep in mind that although we historians are left with the written records of events, most aspects of medieval and early modern life were ‘played out’ in public. I am thinking of judicical matters, such as trials and executions; religious ritual or ceremony; educational, traditional, commercial, political, and festive activity. As such, situations such as these can be easily visualised for the classroom context, both at the university and at sixth form college level. For the latter group it is even more important to be made aware that historical records are not dull and difficult exercises of solitary reading, but rather a record of highly exciting public events that happened in past communities. Students need to be made more aware than ever, that persuing a degree in the Humanities is worth their while, and can open up new worlds.
RSJ Blog: Thanks so much for your time! and good luck with your research.
Interview with Carole Levin
Elizabeth’s Ghost: The afterlife of the Queen in Stuart England
Carole Levin is the Willa Cather Professor of History and Director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at the University of Nebraska as well as author of this article in the inaugural issue of our journal. She specializes in early modern English women’s and cultural history and has written extensively on the English Renaissance and Elizabethan England. At the moment she is a Fulbright Scholar at the University of York, UK.
We asked her to tell us a bit about the article and her current work.
RSJ Blog: Hi Carole! Thanks for doing this interview. First, please tell us a little more about the Elizabethan ghost story? It sounds fascinating.
Carole: In my essay, “Elizabeth’s Ghost,” that I am so honored was in the premiere issue of the Royal Studies Journal, I ended with a kind of ghost story about Queen Elizabeth that ironically was when she was still alive but on her deathbed. A lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth Guilford, who was sitting with her, decided to get up and take a break, given the queen was asleep, and walked into some other rooms. She was shocked to see Elizabeth walking in the room ahead of her but when she went on the queen vanished, and when she returned to Elizabeth’s chamber, the queen was still in bed.
But I had another ghost story about Elizabeth I did not use in the essay, as its source was later than the Stuart Age, the topic of my essay. A few centuries after Elizabeth’s death a Spanish monk wrote that after she died her ghost would wander about London, shrieking, “The sovereignty of the kingdom was for forty years, but hell is forever.” Either as a ghost Elizabeth forgot how long her reign was – or the monk did not have the correct information.
RSJ Blog: Spooky! Besides appearing as a ghost, how does a dead queen, such as Elizabeth I, influence politics long after her time on the throne? Also, seeing that you’re an expert on Elizabethan England, yet your article deals mostly with Stuart England, were there any particular difficulties you encountered?
Carole: I love this question, as it goes to the heart of the work I’m now doing.
As a strong unmarried woman ruling alone, Elizabeth is a great example even today of what women can do in terms of being powerful, and their involvement in politics, and her image really resonates. In the United States in 2008 the Washington Post reported that the presidential primaries were so intense people were dreaming about the candidates. One woman described a dream she had:
“I was at a Hillary Clinton press conference. When she appeared we were all stunned. She was wearing a gown reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth I — a tight bodice with bubble-like bustles completely surrounding her waist like petals on a flower, and voluminous sleeves.”
But I am also very interested in how her image was used in the century after her death to make contemporary political points about Protestantism and nationalism. And yes, before now my work has centered on Elizabethan England so in this new research project I am learning so much about the Stuart period. It is fascinating but a lot of work! The article is part of a larger project on how the representations of earlier queens such as Elizabeth – but others as well – were used in the Stuart Age.
RSJ Blog:So, all about empowering women!
Right on this topic: you are also an editor for the book series Queenship and Power (Palgrave Macmillian), could you please tell us more about it?
Carole: I am so proud of the queenship and power series with Palgrave Macmillan that I co-edit with Charles Beem. About a decade ago I started thinking that I would like to start a series on queenship and power as this was such a dynamic area of research, and one dear to my heart. I had read Charles’ book, The Lioness Roared, and thought it was superb so I asked him to be my co-editor, and it was the best decision I could have made. Charles is not only an excellent scholar but wonderful at working with authors and such a great collaborator on this project. Here is the description of the series:
This series focuses on works specializing in gender analysis, women’s studies, literary interpretation, and cultural, political, constitutional, and diplomatic history. It aims to broaden our understanding of the strategies that queens – both consorts and regnants, as well as female regents – pursued in order to wield political power within the structures of male-dominant societies.
We already have over twenty-five books in the series, and they are all first-rate.
RSJ Blog: Back to your article and Queen Elizabeth: Why do you find studying Elizabethan England so fascinating?
Carole: I have to confess that I do find Elizabethan England endlessly fascinating, and I have for many years and expect to for the rest of my life. Elizabeth herself is such a multi-faceted person and there is so much in this time period that is both strange and different and yet resonates strongly with today. That really came home to me when I did the book Dreaming the English Renaissance (Palgrave Macmillan 2008), and saw some dreams that are so universals while some ways dreams understood so different from today.
RSJ Blog: Multi-facetedness is sure an argument, but what other epoch would you like to explore when you want to take a vacation from early modern England?
Carole: There is still so much to explore in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, but there are aspects of medieval history that are fascinating to me as well.
RSJ Blog: We are coming to the end of this interview – so we would like to hear about what you are working on right now?
Carole: My new book project is called Boadicea’s Daughters: Representations of British Queens in Early Modern Nationalist and Religious Discourse and Fantasy. I am looking at how the first century Celtic queen who fought the Romans was rediscovered in the Tudor period, and comparisons made between her and Queen Elizabeth’s in Elizabeth’s reign, and how both they, Anne Boleyn, and Mary I were represented during the Stuart age. I’m fascinated in the ways these queens are used to promote Protestantism and the rule of queens.
RSJ Blog: Finally, will we see you at the next Kings & Queens Conference in Lisbon?
Carole: Alas, I will not be able to attend the next Kings and Queens Conference, which is a shame as the two I have attended are among the best conferences I’ve experienced in terms of fine papers, mutually valuable conversations, and a strong sense of community. I definitely am planning to attend this conference in future years.
RSJ Blog: Then we are looking forward to seeing you there!