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1 - Authority and Legitimation of Royal Policy and Action: The Case of Henry II

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2013

Gerd Althoff
Affiliation:
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany
Johannes Fried
Affiliation:
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Patrick J. Geary
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Indiana
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Summary

Almost a thousand years ago, in November 1007, King Henry II found himself in a strange situation. The archbishops and bishops of the realm had gathered at a synod in Frankfurt, and the king is said to have told them that he wanted to establish a new bishopric in Bamberg. In this way, the king said, he wished to offer nearly all his possessions and the estates that he would acquire in the future to the eternal father. Even so, the king had to reckon with difficulties. The bishop of Würzburg - also named Henry - who would have to give up portions of his diocese for this plan, had sent his chaplain Berengar to Frankfurt in order to lodge the strongest protest against the planned episcopal foundation. No diocese could be altered against the will of the affected bishop in his absence, argued Berengar. Now the synod was to decide the matter, and it became clear that the king's chances of success were not good. Yet on every occasion when a legal decision went against the king, Henry II, according to the chronicler Thietmar of Merseburg, threw himself onto the ground in a gesture of humility (humiliatur). And in fact the bishops were unable to ignore this gesture of entreaty and humility; at its close, the synod agreed to the foundation of Bamberg.

The story admittedly is not unknown, and it is commonly used as evidence for how sly and calculating this king was in his dealings with bishops. Medieval kingship was a game of tricks, or so it may almost appear to us.

Type
Chapter
Information
Medieval Concepts of the Past
Ritual, Memory, Historiography
, pp. 19 - 38
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2002

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