Exploring Monarchy in Medieval Europe: 1000-1500

In early 2025, Routledge will publish a History textbook entitled Exploring Monarchy in Medieval Europe: 1000-1500 (EMME), a work which is currently under construction by Dr Elena (Ellie) Woodacre (University of Winchester), Dr Lucinda (Lucy) Dean (University of the Highlands and Islands), Dr Patrik Pastrnak (Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic) and myself, Dr Simon Lambe (Institute of Historical Research, University of London). EMME, which is aimed primarily at undergraduate History students (though not at the exclusion of a general audience), provides a rich foundation for the comprehensive study of monarchy throughout medieval Europe, between 1000 and 1500. One point we are particularly keen to stress is that this volume comprehensively covers all regions of Europe, something to be explored in greater detail below. The purpose of this blog post, then, is to offer an overview of the book and to whet the collective appetite of Medievalists, including those scholars of the medieval court, through the mention of some select examples of case studies which will be included in the text (this constitutes a spoiler alert!).

A thematic approach

EMME will essentially offer a deep dive into four key themes, which are split into various chapters. These sections will then provide a wide-ranging picture of the theory and practice of rulership across the continent, thereby discussing important ideas and concepts and noting continuity and change across the Middle Ages and throughout the various regions of Europe. The themes in question are Concepts of Rulership, Exercising Authority, Dynasty and Succession and Ritual and Representation, all of which will presumably be of considerable interest to the readers of this blog (and members of the Society for Court Studies more broadly)! It is also worth noting that this volume very much builds on the framework of The Routledge History of Monarchy, which was co-edited by two of the authors of this volume.[i]  The first theme, Concepts of Rulership, provides a strong basis for the themes and chapters to follow, introducing the reader to the core models, ideas and concepts which will be developed throughout the work. Ellie Woodacre will discuss within this section the key topics to be explored, including defining typologies of monarchy, kingdoms and rulership as well as the important – and at times tense – relationship between monarchy and religion.

The book’s second theme, Exercising Authority, explores the various ways that medieval monarchs understood and asserted their power over their subjects. This includes their use of institutions, people and war (and peace) in the pursuit of stability, security and prosperity. As the author of this theme, I will discuss this area of the textbook which examines issues of war and peace, the powers and prerogatives of the monarch and the relationship between the monarchy and the nobility.

European kingdoms were dominated and shaped by powerful interconnected dynasties that rose and fell across the medieval period, and the third section of the volume, Dynasty and Succession, seeks to provide students with an introduction to two central and intertwined facets of medieval authority. This section will be discussed by Lucy Dean, who will explore the issues surrounding the royal family itself, in terms of the production of heirs, matrimonial alliances, the education of royal children and the issue of legitimacy and the succession.

The final section, Ritual and Representation, will take a close look at material and immaterial modes of communication and self-perception, that were crucial not only for the everyday exercising of power, but also for visualising authority, creating social connections, linking to the monarchy’s core values or shaping its identity. This final area of the textbook will be discussed by Patrik Pastrnak who will examine the inner and outer court, including both the personnel and the spaces that the court occupied, as well as aspects of material culture. It is perhaps this theme that will be of the greatest interest to SCS members! As a conclusion, Ellie will then provide a final, meaningful epilogue which addresses the comparison between European and global monarchy in this period.

Henry III of England (1216-72) with the façade of Westminster Abbey (c. 1307-27)
(British Library, Royal MS A II, fol. 9r)

Embedded within the chapters are brief illustrative case studies written by a wide range of experts in the field which provide detailed, specific examples, tied to primary sources, which will highlight the themes and ideas discussed in each chapter. What perhaps sets this book apart, then, is that it focuses on often overlooked regions – and monarchies – of Europe. Our intent is that the student or reader will become familiar with the practice of monarchy across different geographical areas of Europe, appreciate the impact of different religions (Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Islam) on rulership and understand the dynamics of dynastic and elective monarchies—even that of the papal office.

Case studies: Spotlights and Area Studies  

Within each chapter, we will incorporate 500-word ‘Spotlight’ articles to bring our discussion to life. These will come from a range of authors from with different areas of regional expertise and disciplinary perspectives. Indeed, to demonstrate the breadth of the periods and regions we have in store, we can look at the topic of coronations as an example. Close to home, we will have a consideration of the importance of the Liber Regalis and the English coronation ceremony, but we will also have a description of the coronation of King Daniel Romanovich (Daniel of Galicia) in 1253, thereby exploring courtly practices on the boundaries of Latin Christendom and Eastern Orthodoxy, as well as a focus piece on Navarrese coronations with their distinctive blend of Iberian and French traditions. In addition to the Spotlight pieces, we will have more substantial ‘Area Studies’ of around 2,000-3,000 words which will systematically explore the traditions of rulership across Europe, including the perhaps less familiar regions of, for example, Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans, the Low Countries, Scandinavia, Iberia, the Italian Peninsula and the Eastern Mediterranean (including Byzantium, the Crusader States and the rise of the Ottoman Empire).

Looking ahead

In terms of the remaining writing, researching and editing timeframe, some two years, this summer as an editorial team we will be chairing round table discussions at both the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (Western Michigan University, 11-13 May) and the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds (3-6 July), with a view to shaping and honing the content of the work through discussion with fellow medieval scholars. We hope this consultation process will allow us to sharpen the focus in places, provide an opportunity for Medievalists to shed light on any interesting topics we might have omitted and to help us to offer the most comprehensive study of monarchy possible. This is all in the hope of providing the most useful companion to undergraduate history courses for the historians of the future. We welcome your feedback and ideas in response to this blog post and will keep you updated of the progress of this project, which we hope will prove valuable to engage future students in royal and court studies.

By Simon Lambe, Institute of Historical Research, University of London, UK.

Simon is an Associate Fellow of both the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research. Simon’s background is in gentry and royal relations in early Tudor England. In 2018, Simon was the recipient of the IHR’s Scouloudi Research Award; in 2019, he received a Research and Publication Award from The Society for Court Studies; finally, in 2021, Simon received an Early Career Researcher Support Grant from the Society for the Study of French History. Most recently, Simon published an article entitled ‘The life and career of Sir Amias Paulet (c. 1457-1538): service, loyalty and rebellion’ in The Ricardian.


[i] Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H. Dean, Chris Jones, Zita Rohr and Russell Martin (eds), The Routledge History of Monarchy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019).


OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
courtstudies (April 5, 2023). Exploring Monarchy in Medieval Europe: 1000-1500. The Court Observer. Retrieved July 17, 2024 from https://doi.org/10.58079/n6un


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