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Mystifying the Monarch

Mystifying the Monarch: Studies on Discourse, Power, and History

Jeroen Deploige
Gita Deneckere
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Mystifying the Monarch
    Book Description:

    The history of kings and queens has always appealed to popular imagery. Monarchy is also a central theme to classic surveys of political history. The present volume approaches the relation between imagery and authority of the monarchy from a cultural historical angle. The authors focus on the different discourses produced since the Middle Ages aiming at the symbolic construction of royal power in Western Europe, as well as at its subversion. The history of monarchy is not a linear process from sacralization to banalization. Throughout premodern, modern and postmodern times, the mystification and demystification of the monarch remain inextricably intertwined. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0543-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    Jeroen Deploige and Gita Deneckere
  4. Introduction The Monarchy: A Crossroads of Trajectories
    (pp. 9-22)
    Jeroen Deploige and Gita Deneckere

    After the invasion of the humanities and the social sciences by the ‘linguistic turn’ in the 1980s, a book in which the three concepts of discourse, power, and history are combined can no longer cause surprise. Particularly the work of Michel Foucault has placed its stamp incontrovertibly on this triangle. And it still does so, even after the heyday of the linguistic turn. As Gabrielle Spiegel pointed out recently, Foucault’s use of the termdiscourseand his elaboration of the notion of knowledge/power also fostered new currents of historical work in which especially questions of ‘practices’ come to the fore.¹...


    • 1 How Christian Was the Sacralization of Monarchy in Western Europe (Twelfth-Fifteenth Centuries)?
      (pp. 25-34)
      Alain Boureau

      In the old French romanceMerlin, composed in about 1220, a long passage is devoted to the question of King Uther Pendragon’s heir. All the barons are convinced that no land or city can survive without a leader. However, the legitimacy of the new king, Arthur, seems to them very doubtful. And yet, according to the romance, this choice is the will of God, who through his prophet Merlin caused the young Arthur to be begotten and reared to manhood. Arthur’s eventual success after a long, hard struggle requires miracles and immediate divine intervention.¹ This episode demonstrates that the office...

    • 2 Political Assassination and Sanctification. Transforming Discursive Customs after the Murder of the Flemish Count Charles the Good (1127)
      (pp. 35-54)
      Jeroen Deploige

      It is in the famous diary of Galbert of Bruges that we can read this colourful and dramatic account of how the childless Charles, Count of Flanders, ended his life on 2 March 1127, during Lent, in the Bruges church of St Donatian. The description is pregnant with symbolic meaning, of which three particular aspects touch at the core of this chapter. By referring so explicitly to the ‘good life’ of the count who, while praying and giving alms, received the ‘palm of the martyrs’, this fragment most overtly deploys a discourse recognizable as religious and, more specifically, as hagiographic....

    • 3 ‘Et le prince respondit de par sa bouche.’ Monarchal Speech Habits in Late Medieval Europe
      (pp. 55-64)
      Elodie Lecuppre-Desjardin

      Although Alice’s adventures offered a wonderful subject for lovers of surrealism or students of Sigmund Freud’s theories, we must not forget that these stories were written as a children’s book in which children expressed their frustration at always being brought under the yoke of adults’ authority. This conversation extracted from the meeting between Alice and Humpty Dumpty perfectly reflects one of Lewis Carroll’s favourite leitmotifs, which suggested the relationships between words and power. In his work, by turns, words are authorized, forbidden, broken off, given, and so on, according to an incredible hierarchy headed by queens and kings. The characters...

    • 4 Ideal Kingship against Oppressive Monarchy. Discourses and Practices of Royal Imposture at the Close of the Middle Ages
      (pp. 65-76)
      Gilles Lecuppre

      On Ascension Day, 24 May 1487, in the aftermath of the War of the Roses, the Dublin cathedral of Christchurch became the unusual setting of a magnificent royal ceremony, imbued with local colour. Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare and Governor of Ireland, supervised the proceedings and acted in a sense as a ‘kingmaker’. Around him were gathered the upper crust among Anglo-Irish lords and prelates, including the Archbishop of Dublin and four of his suffragans. ‘German’ armoured captains, that is to say Flemish mercenaries, completed the concerted dramatization and reminded everyone that, thanks to the elite of modern armies, victory...


    • 5 The Art of Saying ‘No’. Premonitions of Foucault’s ‘Governmentality’ in Étienne de La Boétie’s Discours de la servitude volontaire
      (pp. 79-98)
      Jürgen Pieters and Alexander Roose

      In 1562, the French King Charles IX (1560-1574), then aged twelve, was introduced at a meeting of his court in Rouen to three ‘cannibals’. The anecdote is documented in Montaigne’s beautiful essay of that name (I, 31).¹ The strange creatures, members of the Brazilian Tupinamba tribe so famously described by the sixteenth-century French traveller Jean de Léry and, later, by Claude Lévi-Strauss,² had been imported from the New World that Charles’s grandfather, Francis I (1515-1547), had once hoped to lay claim to.³ The cannibals were in a way staged in Charles’s court and subsequently put up for inspection. They were...

    • 6 Sacralization and Demystification. The Publicization of Monarchy in Early Modern England
      (pp. 99-116)
      Kevin Sharpe

      The defining terms of our volume have, until recently at least, seldom appeared in the same sentence, even the same book. Indeed ‘discourse’ and ‘monarchy’ have for the most part been separated by disciplines and by the separate, often antagonistic, approaches of critics and historians. For more than two decades, critics and theorists have drawn attention to the relationships among languages and signs and power and authority from a variety of perspectives. Working from entirely different positions and faculties, scholars as different as Michel Foucault and Clifford Geertz have powerfully argued that authority, even power, is and was not constituted...

    • 7 King for a Day. Games of Inversion, Representation, and Appropriation in Ancient Regime Europe
      (pp. 117-138)
      Marc Jacobs

      New computer and video games enable us to become mayor of Sim City, to be a ruler in the Age of Empires, to be Caesar or Louis XIV for a few hours. By just entering the computer shop we already hope to experience that the ‘customer is king’. Children celebrating their birthday are crowned in the classroom or in a McDonald’s outlet. In kingdoms like the United Kingdom, Belgium, or Spain there are hundreds of reigning queens today: beauty queens for instance. In France or the Low Countries, there were, in any given year of the early modern period, many...

    • 8 Fiction, Kingship, and the Politics of Character in Eighteenth-Century France
      (pp. 139-158)
      Lisa Jane Graham

      Historians and literary scholars agree that the relationship between politics and literature acquired unprecedented force during the reign of Louis XIV.¹ The literary field that emerged in the late seventeenth century shaped itself through and against royal authority. The Sun King promoted literature as part of an aggressive cultural project to extend and consolidate his rule. By mobilizing authors to craft his image, the king ceded control to writers whose output he then attempted to police. Moreover, literary activity in France inherited traditions of resistance from the sixteenth-century tracts of the Huguenots to the pamphlets that flooded the streets during...


    • 9 Staging Modern Monarchs. Royalty at the World Exhibitions of 1851 and 1867
      (pp. 161-180)
      Maria Grever

      In 1792 Thomas Paine compared the monarchy with something kept behind a curtain, ‘about which there is a great deal of bustle and fuss, and a wonderful air of seeming solemnity; but when, by any accident, the curtain happens to be open – and the company see what it is, they burst into laughter’. According to Paine, a passionate republican who was involved in the American Revolution, nothing of this could happen in the representative system of government. Like the nation itself, this kind of government ‘presents itself on the open theatre of the world in a fair and manly...

    • 10 The Emperor’s New Clothes. The Reappearance of the Performing Monarchy in Europe, c. 1870-1914
      (pp. 181-192)
      Jaap van Osta

      In recent years the Dutch monarchy has attracted public attention through a series of impressive ceremonies. Both the marriage of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and the funerals of Prince Claus and Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard, in 2002 and 2004, respectively, were spectacular events, brilliantly staged and skilfully handled. They demonstrated that in the Netherlands the ‘theatre of the state’ is being well conducted under Queen Beatrix. However, in the meantime, a quarrel¹ within the Dutch royal family, which revealed by accident the secret powers of the Crown, caused much of the recently gained respect to be lost. The conclusion that...

    • 11 Cannadine, Twenty Years on. Monarchy and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain and the Netherlands
      (pp. 193-204)
      Henk te Velde

      David Cannadine’s article about the British monarchy and the invention of tradition has been the single most influential article on the history of monarchy since at least the 1960s. His contribution to the volume on invented traditions edited in 1983 by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger paved the way for a new cultural approach to the history of monarchy.¹ But it also played a part in the redirection of political history that was going on at the time. The present essay will concentrate on the beneficial as well as the detrimental effects Cannadine’s article has had in this last respect....

    • 12 The Impossible Neutrality of the Speech from the Throne. A Ritual between National Unity and Political Dispute. Belgium, 1831-1918
      (pp. 205-222)
      Gita Deneckere

      The historical and anthropological study of rituals brings the link between ritual and power to the fore and interprets rituals as a form of strategic social behaviour.¹ Where royal rituals are concerned, the premise is all too often that the political role of the monarchy declined in favour of the ceremonial role during the second half of the nineteenth century. That perception must be ascribed to Walter Bagehot, who distinguished between the ‘efficient’ and the ‘dignified’ parts of the constitutional monarchy, with the parliament and the government taking part in real politics on the one hand and the monarchy serving...

    • 13 Public Transcripts of Royalism. Pauper Letters to the Belgian Royal Family (1880-1940)
      (pp. 223-234)
      Maarten Van Ginderachter

      In the last few years, the writings of ‘ordinary people’ have been at the centre of scholarly attention, the most notable example being Thomas Sokoll’s edition of 758 Essex pauper letters from the period 1731-1837.¹ This renewed interest in sources from ‘ordinary people’ is part of a recent reaction against one of the central assumptions of the field of discourse studies, viz., that analysing theproductionof a certain discourse amounts to studying itsconsumptionin society. According to Jonathan Rose, one cannot judge the impact of a discourse on ‘ordinary people’ by merely studying the discourse as such, because...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 235-284)
  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 285-288)
  10. List of Illustrations
    (pp. 289-290)
  11. Index
    (pp. 291-296)