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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: July 2020

Chapter 9 - Saints, Images, Heraldry, Family Trees

from Part II - A Sense of Dynasty


This chapter looks at cultural expressions of dynastic consciousness. Some dynasties associated themselves with a particular saint, on occasion one drawn from their own family, as in the case of Wenceslas and the rulers of Bohemia or St Louis and the Capetians, and such family connections were publicly celebrated in images and writing. Murals and statues of forebears conveyed a message of dynastic continuity, and examples can be found from the Carolingian period down to the late Middle Ages, with notable cases being the forty-one statues of kings of France in the royal palace in Paris and the nineteen of the counts of Barcelona and kings of Aragon in the royal place in Barcelona. The development of heraldry in the twelfth century presented a new, public and visual, way of expressing dynastic identity, and royal families adopted them early. By the end of the Middle Ages, elaborate coats-of-arms conveyed elaborate genealogical information. Simultaneously, graphic family trees were devised and developed, with sophisticated illustration and layout. In late medieval England they often took the form of long parchment rolls, ideal for expressing descent through time. Bernard Gui’s Tree of the Lineage of the Kings of the French is analysed in detail.