Sacral Kingship Between Disenchantment and Re-enchantment

Sacral Kingship Between Disenchantment and Re-enchantment: The French and English Monarchies 1587-1688

Ronald G. Asch
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Sacral Kingship Between Disenchantment and Re-enchantment
    Book Description:

    France and England are often seen as monarchies standing at opposite ends of the spectrum of seventeenth-century European political culture. On the one hand the Bourbon monarchy took the high road to absolutism, while on the other the Stuarts never quite recovered from the diminution of their royal authority following the regicide of Charles I in 1649. However, both monarchies shared a common medieval heritage of sacral kingship, and their histories remained deeply entangled throughout the century. This study focuses on the interaction between ideas of monarchy and images of power in the two countries between the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and the Glorious Revolution. It demonstrates that even in periods when politics were seemingly secularized, as in France at the end of the Wars of Religion, and in latter seventeenth- century England, the appeal to religious images and values still lent legitimacy to royal authority by emphasizing the sacral aura or providential role which church and religion conferred on monarchs.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-357-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In an important work on the secularization of politics and society in early modern and modern Europe, the French historian and sociologist Marcel Gauchet wrote in the 1980s: ‘La prose des bureaux se substitue à la poésie du prince’ (the prose of bureaucracy replaces the poetry of the prince). Gauchet argued that as the state’s administrative structures became more efficient and their coercive power greater, the need to integrate society through symbolic acts and rituals and a shared religious system of meanings and practices became less pronounced, and political culture changed accordingly.¹ This is a familiar thesis, and one that...

  5. I The Anglo-Gallican Moment: The French and English Monarchies from the Death of Mary Queen of Scots to James I’s Remonstrance for the Right of Kings 1587–1615
    (pp. 13-58)

    In the late sixteenth century the European political landscape was deeply transformed by religious divisions between the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant churches. Monarchs who had traditionally relied on religion to give their authority legitimacy could easily find themselves in a treacherous no man’s land between competing religious groups and movements. The French monarchy was especially strongly affected by this religious upheaval. It not only threatened to undermine thereligion royale, the royal religion, which so far had formed the basis for the king’s status as a sacral ruler, but also called into question the rules of inheritance...

  6. II Kingship Transformed – Kingship Destroyed? The French and English Monarchies in the 1630s and 1640s
    (pp. 59-103)

    As was demonstrated in Chapter I, the English and the French monarchies underwent a process of resacralization at the beginning of the seventeenth century. In reaction to the threat posed by religious radicals and a theocratic, clerical vision of government, both Henry IV and James VI and I emphasized the divine origin of royal authority and its essentially sacral character. Nevertheless, there were important differences in how the sacral nature of kingship was conceived. In France there was a tendency going back to the political theology of the Middle Ages, revived and reinforced by the new principles of divine right...

  7. III In the Shadow of Versailles: Stuart Kingship and the French Monarchy 1678–1688
    (pp. 104-153)

    Any attempt to establish a comparison between the Stuart and the Bourbon monarchies in the later seventeenth century may, at first glance, seem hazardous. In France, there was a monarchy which, for this period, was the epitome of strong, if not absolutist, government. Royal authority there faced hardly any major domestic crises after 1660. In England, by contrast, there was the restored monarchy of an exiled dynasty, resting on unstable and fragile foundations, as a series of crises from the late 1660s on, and the final overthrow of James II’s rule in 1688, were to show. What can a comparison...

  8. Outlook and Conclusion
    (pp. 154-166)

    The common heritage of sacral and sacerdotal monarchy shared by France and England continued to be of central importance for the political culture of both countries well into the late seventeenth century. Because of this common heritage and a number of other factors, neither English nor French political culture was self-contained; political crises or seemingly successful modes of exercising royal authority in one country often had a profound impact on the other. Such interactions were especially strong during the first period discussed in this book, the late sixteenth and the early seventeenth centuries. At this time the French and English...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 167-234)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-272)
  11. Index
    (pp. 273-278)