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Royal Eloquence, Royal Propaganda and the Use of the Sermon in the Medieval Crown of Aragon, c. 1200–1410

  • SUZANNE F. CAWSEY

Abstract

In the two centuries before 1410 it was the custom for the king of Aragon to open a session of the cortes with a speech. These speeches were not merely simple statements of the reasons why the cortes had been summoned but were elaborately staged and ornately constructed orations, very often written in the style of sermons. Affairs of state were portrayed in terms of Christian morality with the aid of exempla drawn from the Old Testament and from other religious works, emphasising, above all, the king's God-given authority. Exempla were also derived from written royal histories of the Crown of Aragon, transmitted orally by the king to his people and used to create a feeling of national pride and unity between the king and his subjects. I propose to examine the use of these royal sermons in the Crown of Aragon first by discussing whether it is indeed right to call these politically motivated speeches sermons at all; second, by putting the Crown of Aragon into context by examining the evidence for royal preaching throughout Europe; third, by considering the evidence for a long-standing tradition of preaching by members of the royal house of Aragon; and finally, in order to illustrate in more detail the nature and content of royal Aragonese sermons, by providing a detailed analysis of the speeches by King Pedro iv ‘the Ceremonious’ to the Cortes of Tarragona (Catalonia) of 1370 and to the Cortes of Monzón (Aragon) of 1383, full texts of which were recorded in the official proceedings.

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