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  • Aspiration, Representation and Memory: The Guise in Europe, 1506–1688 eds. by Jessica Munns, Penny Richards, and Jonathan Spangler
  • Susan Broomhall
Munns, Jessica, Penny Richards, and Jonathan Spangler, eds, Aspiration, Representation and Memory: The Guise in Europe, 1506–1688, Farnham, Ashgate, 2015; hardback; pp. xv, 201; 9 colour illustrations; R.R.P. £70.00; ISBN 978747219347.

It is fitting that a striking portrait of Henri II de Lorraine, fifth duke of Guise, graces the cover of this work. Although the title of this volume suggests broad coverage across two centuries, the exploits of the fifth duke are at the heart of this collection's analyses.

Attention to the spirited adventures of this prince of Europe is indeed fitting. He capitalized on his dynasty's unusual position as a princely family who moved among Europe's elites in order to seize opportunities to advance the dynasty's status and his own as a monarch in his own right. In this sense, he encapsulates the aspirations, self-representations and memorializing narratives of this significant family.

Moreover, the fifth duke has received less scholarly analysis or international, popular attention than his predecessors who were so central to the machinations of the religious wars of the sixteenth century in France, perhaps especially Mary Queen of Scots. This fact might have provided a strong rationale to devote the study to a particular analysis of his activities. The introduction instead situates the collection within the scholarship on [End Page 240] transnational dynastic structures, and highlights three contributions: the dynasty's dream of royal status, the activities of the fifth duke, and memory and legacies of the family. These disparate foci are reflected in the essays. Each is fascinating in its own right and provides new insights into its chosen field. This is particularly the case for authors whose translated chapters present research that is less well-known in English. However, they do not quite cohere around a central question that drives the field forward and their ordering, largely chronological, does not draw out conceptual connections between them. Moreover, some are far more robust analytically than others, making efforts to situate their findings in wider scholarly conversations (Spangler's own chapter is a high point).

The first two chapters contextualize the self-representation of the Guises. Robert S. Sturges emphasizes how the Crusades were still very much present as a political and spiritual ambition for the sixteenth-century Guise family and examines their political, textual, and material productions that made civil-war Paris the new Jerusalem. Marjorie Meiss-Even offers a detailed account of the dynasty's taste for luxury goods and personnel from Italy, and the political and cultural significance of these connections at the late sixteenth-century French court.

Michèle Benaiteau examines how the fifth duke of Guise fashioned a politically resonant image of celebrity through theatrical visual, cultural, and even marriage manœuvres, which aided his rise to power in Naples during 1647–48. Benaiteau's argument for personality as politics is complemented by David A. H. B. Taylor's study of Anthony Van Dyck's portrait of the duke as an ambitious young man. This image, produced while the duke was exiled at the Brussels court, depicts the magnificence, swagger, and martial hopes and dreams of the displaced duke. Silvana D'Alessio's chapter returns us to the political intrigues of the Naples revolt in 1647–48 and his return in 1654, creating a narrative of support and criticism of the duke through pamphlets circulating at the time.

Spangler's chapter considers the perspective of the duke's mother, Henriette-Catherine de Joyeuse, who had to support her son's enterprises financially and conceptually whilst juggling the wider reputation of, and consequences of his actions for, the dynasty. These challenges and her achievements, Spangler argues, warrant her consideration 'amongst the greatest of the dukes of Guise' (p. 146) or, perhaps, a re-conceptualization of our ideas about duchesses. Charles Gregory investigates the fifth duke's last major military attempt at political leadership in Naples, in 1564, and the changing interventions of international powers in these activities.

With Chapters 8 and 9, the focus turns to memory and legacy. Penny Richards...


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