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Enigmas make for compelling puzzles because they inspire hope that fresh insights may be found through revisiting an enduring problem from a unique angle or engaging with diverse perspectives. This introduction briefly discusses the theme of 'enigmas' and their prominence across different disciplines and throughout time. Enigmas resonate with the processes and methodologies of research practices across the arts, sciences, and humanities, as is clear from the range of topics covered in the volume's eight chapters. Each of the chapters then receives a short introduction detailing the author's topic and main argument. Although some enigmas can, at first glance, seem to pose insurmountable challenges to humanity, the overall impression provided by this volume is one of hope. Even problems which initially appear overwhelming can be scrutinised, interpreted, and ultimately resolved.
Arising from the 2020 Darwin College Lectures, this book presents eight essays from prominent public intellectuals on the theme of Enigmas. Each author examines this theme through the lens of their own particular area of expertise, together constituting an illuminating and diverse interdisciplinary volume. Enigmas features contributions by professor of physics Sean M. Carroll, author Jo Marchant, writer and broadcaster Adam Rutherford, professor of earth sciences Tamsin A. Mather, professor of the history of the book Erik Kwakkel, reader in cultural history Tiffany Watt Smith, mathematician and public speaker James Grime, assistant professor of positive AI J. Derek Lomas, and explorer Albert Y.- M. Lin. This volume will appeal to anyone fascinated by puzzles and mysteries, solved and unsolved.
Cultural, social and legal markers of elite maturity were shifting over the central Middle Ages, generating changes which affected how young people experienced late childhood and early adulthood. This chapter examines how some of these developments unfolded in relation to child kingship. It reinforces an argument which recurs throughout the book: that change over time was more substantial than cultural and political differences between kingdoms. First, the chapter examines the shifting significance of a boy king’s knighting. The acceptance of arms had been part of a child king’s rite of passage to young adulthood in the mid-eleventh century but, a century and a half later, knighting had instead become a crucial element in a royal child’s rite of passage to kingship. Then the chapter turns to consider the seals produced for and used by boy kings, emphasising the increasing diversity in seal forms and their creation from the thirteenth century. A crucial theme throughout the entire discussion is how kingship altered a child’s progression from boyhood to manhood, distinguishing a boy king’s experience of adolescence from other elite youths.
The intersection of childhood and rulership has a long history. This chapter compares examples of child kingship across Europe before 1050 with cases between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. It illustrates how structural developments in society, culture, politics and law brought greater political stability to a child’s rule during the central Middle Ages. Over this period, cultural attitudes towards violence were changing, practices of succession and inheritance were evolving, and ideas around marriage, illegitimacy and queenship were shifting. Such developments fundamentally altered the court environments into which royal children were born, the political context within which they succeeded, and the practicalities and precarities of their early experiences of rulership. This chapter examines aspects of violence, succession and queenship in turn before, in the fourth and final section, arguing for the need to revise claims of Germany’s exceptional ‘rejection’ of child kingship. While there are meaningful differences in how children were incorporated within systems and practices of kingship, this chapter suggests divergences between kingdoms should not be exaggerated.
When grave illness compelled rulers to plan for the likelihood of a child’s succession, their chief concern was not that their young son would be passed over as king. Instead, most dying rulers focused on making collaborative arrangements for protecting the kingdom and supporting the child in rule. This chapter examines some of the evidence for the preparations dying kings made as they gathered to their side men and women whose involvement would be crucial for the child’s continuing education and the realm’s administration. The first two sections draw attention to shifts over time in familial attendance at royal deathbeds and in the testamentary records of rulers’ intentions. The actions of kings and queens both before and at their deathbeds suggest hesitancy to impose a wardship model upon royal children, especially upon the new boy king, and this royal reluctance is examined in greater detail in the chapter’s third and final part. Even when it became apparent an infant or child would succeed, kings eschewed entrusting their sons and kingdoms to the care of individual magnates, preferring collaborative arrangements in which the queen often took a prominent role.
Contextualising conflict provides further testimony of children’s legitimacy as rulers between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. This chapter turns to narrative accounts of dynastic challenge, opportunistic conflict and kidnap to address the problematic association between child kingship and magnate violence. Evidence for the appearance and escalation of conflict while a boy was king has often been accepted without sufficient critical scrutiny. The chapter shows that attempts to remove children from their royal positions were rare, and that conflict often upheld their legitimacy to rule rather than undermining it. Applying the arbitrary label of violent opportunism to all instances of conflict when a child was king oversimplifies the complex range of reasons for magnate disputes. Instead, conflict could be, among other things, a legitimate response to royal succession, a habitual aspect of the negotiation of disputed property and rights, or a product of recurring quarrels over hierarchy and prominence. The child king’s presence and active participation could, once again, convey a significant and authoritative weight.
This chapter considers the close relationship between child rulership and innovative political and administrative adaptation between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Cases of child kingship prompted adaptations to some of the tools of governance, but the boy king’s presence and active contribution were often still crucial. The chapter turns first to the documentary evidence and the diversity of administrative experimentation before focusing on the enduring significance of children’s participation in rule. The third and final section examines practical adjustments to and contemporary representations of counsel, a fundamental instrument of royal rule which could be even more crucial when a boy was king. Overall, the chapter presents an alternative narrative of child rulership which stresses aspects of innovation, adaptation and co-operation. Considering shifts in documentary culture, royal government and consilium by the thirteenth century also reveals the extent to which many of the practical solutions adopted during a period of child kingship differed much more profoundly across time than they did geographically.