Royal Poetrie is the first book to address the
significance of a distinctive body of verse from the English
Renaissance-poems produced by the Tudor-Stuart monarchs Henry VIII,
Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, and James VI/I. Not
surprisingly, Henry VIII is no John Donne, but the unique political
and poetic complications raised by royal endeavors at authorship
imbue this literature with special interest.
Peter C. Herman is particularly intrigued by how the monarchs'
poems express and extend their power and control. Monarchs turned
to verse especially at moments when they considered their positions
insecure or when they were seeking to aggregate more power to
themselves. Far from reflecting absolute authority, monarchic verse
often reveals the need for authority to defend itself against
considerable, effective opposition that was often close at
In monarchic verse, Herman argues, one can see monarchs
asserting their significance and appropriating images of royalty to
enhance their power and their position. Sometimes, as in the cases
of Henry and Elizabeth, they are successful; sometimes, as for
James, they are not. For Mary Stuart, the results were disastrous.
Herman devotes a chapter each to the poetic endeavors of Henry
VIII, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I, and James VI/I. His introduction
addresses the tradition of monarchic verse in England and on the
continent as well as the textual issues presented by these texts. A
brief postscript examines the verses that circulated under Charles
I's name after his execution. In an argument enhanced by carefully
chosen illustrations, Herman places monarchic verse within the
visual and other cultural traditions of the day.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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