restricted access 6. England, France, and the Problem of Sacrality in Twelfth-Century Ritual
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Geoffrey Koziol 6. England, France, and the Problem of Sacrality in Twelfth-Century Ritual Historians have long recognized the importance of ritual in communicating the sacred attributes of early medieval kingship. For almost as long they haveunderstood that the power of latermedievalmonarchies to shape public opinion was the power of political theater.1 But between the sacred liturgies of pontifical kings and the political theater of statist monarchs lies the twelfth century, whose political rituals we understand scarcely at all. The fundamental difficulty lies in the transitionalnatureof twelfth-century kingship, which wasmoving toward the sophisticated administrativeapparatuses of the later medieval state while still publicly avowing the political morality of the Carolingians. The result is a discrepancybetween ideal and reality that finds its way especially into those histories that try to encompass both. As that transition was sharpest in England and France, so the discrepancy is most visible there as well. Thus D. C. Douglas writing of William the Conqueror, Judith Green writing of Henry I, and W. L.Warren writing of Henry II all dutifully reiterate the traditional beliefs articulated in Carolingian and Ottoman sources: that kings ruled in the image of God and the Old Testament rulers of Israel and that the great ceremony for communicating this typology was the royal anointing. Yetwhen these historians get down to the real business of Norman and Angevin kingship they describe feudal levies, financial exactions, and judicial reform, with not another word about pontifical kings.2 1. See, for example, Geoffrey Koziol, Pegging Pardon and favor: Ritual and Political Order in Early Medieval France (Ithaca, NY, 1992); Janet Nelson, Politics and Ritual in Early Medieval Europe (London, 1986); Hans Joachim Berbig, "Zur rechtlichen Relevanz von Ritus und Zeremoniell im romisch-deutschen Imperium," Zeitzscbrift fur Kirchengeschichte 92 (1981), 204-49; Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies, ed. David Cannadine and Simon Price (Cambridge, 1987). 2. D. C. Douglas, William the Conqueror (Berkeley,CA, 1964), PP- 253-59; Judith A. Green, The Governmentof England Under Henry I (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 3-11; W. L. Warren, Henry II (Berkeley,CA, 1973), pp. 242-44. Conversely, Robert Folz, Les saints rois du Moyen Age en Occident (VIe-XIIIe siecles) (Brussels, 1984), discusses the phenomenon of twelfthcentury royal sainthood as if it were identical with its earliermanifestations. England, France, and the Problem of Sacrality 125 How, then, to judge the changing role of ritual in the political life of the new administrative monarchies?Monographic studies of individual rituals are essential, of course; yet in their need to establish the formal elements of a given ritual, such studies too often lack social and political context, and therefore evade critical questions about the culture in which the rituals occur. Even on formal grounds the definitiveness of such studies can be undermined by the very profusion of twelfth-century sources that makes them possible, since it is difficult to know whether an apparently new ritual really was new, or merely newly recorded. For these reasons, it may be useful to abandon momentarily the practiceof studying the formal traits of individual rituals taken in isolation and look at all political rituals together, in order to discern common and distinctive characteristics that point to widespread concerns within the political community. A general overview does have its own limitations. The twelfth century as awhole was so complex, its cultural vectors so contradictory, that any generalization can easilybe qualified.More important, abroad overview sacrifices not just the specificity of individual rituals but also the artifice behind individual ritual narratives. For the chroniclers and historians who described these rituals were not neutral observers. Allhad their own individual programs, leading them in anygiven instance to accentuatethe divisiveor the concordant , the sacred or the secular. Although something must and will be said about the overarching patterns that shaped authorial bias, it will not be possible to do full justice to the issue. But if the approach has limitations, it also has the clear virtue of allowing us to see patterns that otherwise become lost in details or occluded by historiographical convention. The most obvious of these patterns is the overwhelming continuity of twelfth-century political liturgies with earlier rites. The fact would not bear mentioning were it not so unexpected against the backdrop of an ecclesiastical reform movement that was supposedly uncomfortable with the sacrality of kings.3 Yettwelfth-century kings continued to be anointed, and on high feast days were still ceremonially recrowned before a solemn mass and acclaimed with laudes* Penitent rebels...


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Subject Headings

  • Aristocracy (Social class) -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Nobility -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Elite (Social sciences) -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Power (Social sciences) -- Congresses.
  • Social history -- Medieval, 500-1500 -- Congresses.
  • Upper class -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
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