New Histories of the Politics of Kingship

The history of royalty has been neglected for some decades as the symbol of old-style historiography of kings and battles. Since the 1970s, however, there unfolded a renewed interest in these problems which could be related to a number of factors. "Nouvelle histoire" and historical anthropology opened a new field in the interpretation of rituals of kingship, representation of power and the various symbols and insignia related to it. The revisiting of the work of Ernest Kantorowicz and Percy Ernst Schramm, and the combination of their insights with those by Marc Bloch allowed a new formulation of the concept of "sacral kingship". It also directed the attention to the historical context when these theories were formulated in the first place: the collapse of traditional or newfangled monarchies after WW I and the menacing emergence of a new type of charismatic leadership in Fascism and Communism. The influence of Norbert Elias placed royalty in the social context of courtly society, examined also from the point of view of informal, "behind the scene" political mechanisms, intrigues, coteries, and equally as a machinery of the "fabrication" of the public image of the king. The series of conferences on royal rituals, coronation, "sacre", dynastic cults allowed the understanding of the complexity of the power mechanisms and the political propensities engendered in royalty, effective far beyond the medieval and early modern period, in fact still operational in our times.

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