Festive Traditions in Castile and Aragon in the Late Middle Ages

Ceremonies and Symbols of Power

Authored by: Teofilo F. Ruiz

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


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The extent (and limits) of royal power throughout medieval and early modern western Europe rested, to a large degree, on the adroit deployment of a variety of rich ideological discourses and symbols of power. These representations of power, whether solemn or festive, were easily identifiable by those in the position to challenge the power of kings and by the population as a whole. Ceremonies and symbols helped create what Joseph R. Strayer, Ernst Kantorowicz, and others have described as “the religion of monarchy.” Sometimes, however, such discourses of power failed to impress the Crown’s adversaries or worked, in perverse fashion, to undermine or delay the full exercise of regal power. Such was the case in France in the first decades of the fifteenth century when the English (and putative French) king Henry VI (1421–1471), and Charles VII (1403–1461), the so-called king of Bourges, struggled to legitimize their rights to the French throne. While the former king ruled Paris (and was crowned king of France at Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame de Paris) and the latter had an uncertain hold on Bourges and southern France, neither of the two had access to Reims – then in the hands of the Burgundians interested in weakening both rulers. Without Reims there could be no formal crowning and, far more important, no anointment with holy oil which, by the fifteenth century, had become fully associated with Clovis’ miraculous baptism in 496. When Charles VII was able to enter Reims and undergo those rituals of monarchy peculiar to France, the claims of Henry VI became defunct.

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