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Image Wars

Image Wars: Kings and Commonwealths in England, 1603-1660

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    Image Wars
    Book Description:

    Spin and photo opportunities may appear to have emerged onto the political scene only recently, but in fact image and its manipulation have always been vital to the authority of rulers. This book, the second in Kevin Sharpe's trilogy exploring image, power, and communication in early modern England, examines its importance during the turbulent seventeenth century. From the coronation of James I to the end of Cromwell's protectorate, Sharpe considers how royalists and parliamentarians-often using the same vocabularies-sought to manage their public image through words, pictures, and performances in order to win support and secure and enhance their authority.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16490-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Henry VIII had encountered an age-old problem, but one which had destroyed a number of kings for over a century: that of siring an adult male heir who would secure an undisputed succession. The course he embarked upon to solve it led to a revolution in church and state which he had clearly not originally desired and which, if anything, presented him and the monarchy with greater challenges and dangers still: religious division, the threat of invasion from abroad, and rebellions at home. Henry accomplished his first priority: his son, albeit only nine, succeeded without challenge and outlived his protectorate...

  6. I A New Dynasty and a New Style:: Representations of James I

    • CHAPTER 1 Writing Divine Right
      (pp. 11-57)

      After a century of rule, the Tudor dynasty had effected – if not (as scholars now agree) a revolution in government – a revolution in the style and image of monarchy. Indeed, they had made the representation of their rule as vital as institutions, policies and practices to the stability and success of regal government. Some concern with image, of course, long pre-dated the Tudors. But, as I have argued, the Reformation necessitated a greater personalization of monarchy in England, an emphasis on the sovereign as the embodiment of the nation, and on the image of the ruler as the...

    • CHAPTER 2 Figuring Stuart Dynasty
      (pp. 58-88)

      For all the queen’s skill as an orator, for all the importance of her prayers and poems, Elizabeth is probably better remembered for her portraits, which were a principal representation of her monarchy. Figuring the queen as legitimate Tudor successor, classical goddess, virgin and sacred icon, portraits of Elizabeth, on canvas, medals and engravings, represented the queen as a mystical sacred object of worship, a godly ruler rather than an unmarried childless woman whose body was increasingly manifesting old age and mortality. While portraits had always been a vital medium for disseminating the royal image – abroad and at home...

    • CHAPTER 3 Staging Stuart Dynasty
      (pp. 89-123)

      The attention James gave to the Banqueting House, theraison d’êtreof which was to provide a ceremonial space, must lead us to question the assertion that, unlike his Tudor predecessors, the first Stuart had little regard for state ceremonial or public display.¹ James’s royal entry and coronation were among the most magnificent of those of the early modern monarchs; and while, after a second civic entry in 1606, there was some decline in the king’s participation in public civil ceremonies, public pageants for, and visits by, members of the extended royal family ensured the Stuarts remained very much in...

    • CHAPTER 4 Contesting the King
      (pp. 124-134)

      The reign of James I was once characterized as the period that witnessed the rise of the opposition to monarchy. The first Stuart indeed faced not only more turbulent parliaments, but new genres and forms of criticism which circulated in print and in the public sphere: the satire, verse libel, newsletter and the coranto, or first newspaper. Traditionally it has been assumed that the virulent opposition to King James was a reaction to his attitudes and behaviour: to his absolutist views, his homosexuality, his pacifism; latterly we would add his Scottishness. A longer view complicates any such simple picture. As...

  7. II Remystifying Monarchy:: Representations of Charles I, 1625–40

    • Prologue: A Failure of Image?
      (pp. 137-143)

      As we come to the middle of the long historical period of this study, we confront a conundrum that goes to the centre of our subject. Perhaps no early modern monarch paid as much attention to image as King Charles I, who is instantly identifiable to most; yet the king’s reign ended in political failure, civil war and military defeat; and his death came not after advanced age or illness but by axe on the executioner’s block. The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that, since he took care over his representation, Charles I either projected the wrong image or...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Words and Silences of a King
      (pp. 144-189)

      On the day of the regicide Charles’s political testament, theEikon Basilike, was published – and went into thirty-six editions the same year.¹ Two years later, in 1651, the first collected works of the king, theReliquiae sacrae Carolinaepublished not only theEikon Basilikebut Charles’s papers and discussions about Presbyterianism with Alexander Henderson, his papers regarding the Treaty of Newport, his prayers for blessings on the treaty at Uxbridge, and, as well as the speech he delivered on the scaffold, speeches and letters to parliament.² On the one hand, this substantial volume discredits any statement that Charles I...

    • CHAPTER 6 Depicting Virtue and Majesty
      (pp. 190-229)

      Though we may need to qualify the view that Charles I took little trouble over his representation in words, it remains the case that, by the standards of his father, he was a reluctant speaker and writer. Quite unlike James I, the image of Charles has passed into history as a visual representation – of a king powerfully present on the canvases of Anthony van Dyck. Since Henry VIII’s patronage of Hans Holbein and importation of a new style of portraiture, no early modern English ruler had shown as much interest in continental artists and styles.¹ Through much of the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Performing Sacred Kingship
      (pp. 230-266)

      As well as the dazzling collection of paintings, on his visit to Madrid Prince Charles was undoubtedly attracted to the formality and decorum of the Habsburg court which contrasted with the easy familiarity of his father’s. As we shall see, one of his earliest acts on succeeding as king was a reformation of court ceremony and of the rituals of kingship. In his court, as in his church, Charles placed the greatest importance on rituals and public performances as the outward signs of divine power and presence, and as the means by which reverence for authority was sustained and enhanced....

    • CHAPTER 8 Demystifying Majesty
      (pp. 267-276)

      A narrative of the opposition to Charles I cannot be attempted here and is anyway familiar enough as the stuff of countless Whig histories, some of them recently revived. However, after a review of the representation of the king in a variety of media and modes, one must briefly examine other more critical portrayals and counter-presentations, not least to begin to gauge how official and other favourable representations performed and were received in the broader political culture. As we have already seen, praise and panegyrics of the king by no means all emerged from court circles; those published by commercial...

  8. III The Contest for Legitimacy

    • Prologue: The Civil War and the Contest for Representation
      (pp. 279-284)

      In any polity, the exercise of authority is inseparable from the forms and media through which that authority is represented. While changed circumstances and the developments of new media and technologies might alter the predominant forms of representation, at any time there were, and were perceived to be, texts, words, signs and performances which conveyed, as well as communicated, authority. Those therefore who challenged authority were usually led to deploy (at least initially) the same forms and languages rather than to announce a radical rejection of them. The political process, we might say, was – and remains – a series...

    • CHAPTER 9 Wars of Words and Paper Bullets
      (pp. 285-338)

      When Charles I recalled parliament in November 1640, he was led back from the silence of the 1630s to a principal mode of royal representation: speech. Interestingly, even after relations with parliament broke down, the king continued to make carefully crafted speeches – to committees of the Long Parliament, to parliaments called to Oxford, and to assemblies of the gentry in several counties and towns. Whatever his earlier reluctance, or alleged disability of speech, during the 1640s Charles discovered an eloquence along with an evident new appreciation of the power of the royal word uttered in person. His speeches at...

    • CHAPTER 10 Visual Conflicts and Wars of Signs
      (pp. 339-369)

      More than any English monarch before him, Charles I had given his attention to the visual representation of his kingship. Van Dyck rendered on canvas a philosophy of government, in fulfilment of the king’s passionate belief that artistic forms and representations did not only advertise his own personal and divine authority but might lead viewers to reason and self-regulation. Copied, engraved, reproduced on seals, medals and coins, images of Charles I disseminated the king’s representation as ruler, just as James I’s folioWorkshad represented the king in print; and it is on canvas that Charles is today best remembered....

    • CHAPTER 11 Rival Rituals and Performances
      (pp. 370-384)

      Perhaps the most conspicuous visual monument of Stuart rule in times of peace had been the Banqueting House at Whitehall, which, commissioned by James as a theatre for the Anglo-Habsburg marriage he sought, became under his son the stage of the masques that enacted Charles I’s philosophy of kingship.¹ The Banqueting House and Stuart majesty were inseparable. In 1642, however, they were separated, when Charles left London; and, though there is little to say of new developments before the palace became the scene of his execution, the absence of the king from Whitehall was seen to be a signifier of...

  9. IV Representing Republic

    • Prologue: Representing Republic
      (pp. 387-390)

      Though parliament had closed the theatres in 1642 there can be no doubt that the army leaders and radical Rumpers staged the trial and execution of Charles I as a dramatic public spectacle, the first act that presented as well as represented the new Commonwealth born on 30 January 1649. The regicides boasted that, where earlier English kings had been deposed or assassinated by underhand means, Charles Stuart was arraigned, convicted, sentenced and executed in the public eye. Moreover, the sites of the trial and execution were both regal sites. Hitherto, Westminster Hall had been the locus of royal justice,...

    • CHAPTER 12 Writing Republic
      (pp. 391-426)

      It may seem strange, even perverse, to open a chapter on the representation of the new Commonwealth and republic with an examination of the book published within days of Charles’s death as the king’s own authorship. TheEikon Basilike, however, was synonymous with the birth of the republic and set the agenda for constructing images of authority even before the new regime had found its own voice. Though there was a bitter and enduring controversy about who had actually authored it, theEikonwas often described as the ‘King’s book’ and was broadly received as Charles I’s own last words...

    • CHAPTER 13 A Republican Brand?
      (pp. 427-444)

      From Henry VIII on, the visual representation of the monarch, on canvas or copperplate, on seals, medals and coins, was vital to the dissemination of the authority of the person of the ruler and often to the promotion of specific values or programmes of rule. Though, especially in Elizabeth’s case, portrayals might be allegorical, the principal medium of representation was the portrait – of the ruler him- or herself or of the royal marriage or family. Figures of singular rule and of dynasty shaped visual representations of authority as much as those visual representations served to promote dynasty and regality....

    • CHAPTER 14 Staging Republic
      (pp. 445-452)

      Throughout the early modern period, public spectacles had presented and represented to the people new rulers, their spouses and their offspring. More than words, ritual performances – state entries, coronation processions, funerals and the like – involved subjects in the process of representing and legitimizing the sovereign.¹ The mere presence of the audience signified acquiescence and allegiance; and the shouts of welcome or ‘God save the King’ echoed to the monarch and back to the spectators the accord between ruler and ruled that it was the purpose of ritual and ceremony to cement – and to represent. Public display and...

    • CHAPTER 15 Subverting the Commonwealth
      (pp. 453-462)

      Recent scholarship, though it has exaggerated their effectiveness, has helpfully brought to light the modes and media through which the Rumpers sought not only to represent but to ‘invent’ a republic. But any final re-evaluation of the success of these representations must involve a brief examination of the many voices (and signs) of opposition that so often seemed to overpower official scripts. Curiously, a full study of Royalist polemic and propaganda during the Commonwealth (and Protectorate) has yet to be written. But such studies as we have and a sample of the pamphlet literature make immediately obvious how everything the...

  10. V Representations and Reactions:: Images of the Cromwellian Protectorate

    • Prologue: ‘Bring Crownes and Scepters’
      (pp. 465-467)

      December 1653 marked a revolutionary – or rather a counter-revolutionary – moment. Though historians have rightly cautioned against simply characterizing the shift from Commonwealth to Protectorate as a conservative reaction against radical revolution, what it did effect was the end of the fact, and even of the idea, at least in official circles, of collective rule, of an executive responsible to parliament – or a republic properly conceived.¹ Oliver Cromwell may have continued to support, even embody, the desire for social and godly reformation that many in parliament and outside had hoped for. But after December 1653 it would be...

    • CHAPTER 16 Proclaiming Protectorate
      (pp. 468-492)

      On 16 December 1653, something happened that was (quietly) revolutionary: England had its first written constitution – or what was described as ‘articles for the future government of the Commonwealth’.¹ From 1649 to 1653, as we saw, the English republic struggled to find a name and an identity or to secure allegiance. The Instrument of Government, we now know, was the creation of Major-General John Lambert, who introduced it to the Council of Officers on 13 December.² Though he had, as he told them, been working on it for two months, and had probably discussed it with a few officers,...

    • CHAPTER 17 Painting Protectoral Power
      (pp. 493-511)

      One of the things best known about Oliver Cromwell’s visual image is known through words: that is Oliver’s supposed instruction to the artist Peter Lely, who was about to execute his portrait:

      Mr Lely I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me & not flatter me at all. But (pointing to his own face) remark all these roughness, pimples, warts & everything as you see me. Other wise I never will pay a farthing for it.¹

      The ‘warts and all’ Cromwell has passed into history: as the plain man, the plain speaker and plain captain...

    • CHAPTER 18 Protectoral Performances
      (pp. 512-525)

      Within the walls of the refurbished palaces, at Whitehall and Hampton Court, Oliver Cromwell re-established a household and court that at least imitated those of royal predecessors. The Protectoral court as re-established did not appoint a Lord Steward; but the household below stairs was run along similar lines to that of the Stuarts, with a privy kitchen and cellar, spicery and wine cellar, slaughterhouse and scullery.¹ Unlike monarchs who had been expected to ‘live of their own’, Cromwell was granted an annual sum to finance household expenses, in recognition, perhaps, that the court of a Protector was public as well...

    • CHAPTER 19 Contesting and Commemorating Cromwell
      (pp. 526-537)

      ‘The multitude’, wrote Richard Flecknoe inThe Idea of His Highness Oliver, Late Lord Protector(1659), is ‘more taken with one satire than twenty elogiums’ – epitaphs, or perhaps here eulogies.¹ From the creation of the Protectorate, Cromwell and the government were the targets not only of satires but of opposition writings of various genres that contested official representations. Though an apologist for the Instrument sought to disparage the ‘opinionators’ who protested against the new regime, far from fading with time, the attacks on Oliver personally and the regime generally increased in number and intensity.² Where Old Commonwealthsmen objected strongly...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 538-543)

    Historians have disputed the consequences of the civil war almost as much as they have fought over the origins of the conflict. Indeed, those who prefer the term ‘revolution’ usually believe that the society, church and state which emerged after the period 1642–59 were fundamentally different, for all that the monarchy and indeed the Stuarts were restored. Others see the troubles of the period between the Restoration and 1688 as a continuation of precivil-war problems and struggles which two decades of conflict and constitutional experiment had failed to resolve.

    What then, we must ask, was the legacy of the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 544-644)
  13. Index
    (pp. 645-666)