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Sovereignty always relies on a double movement of violence and care. It requires the power to exercise violence as well as the capacity to care, to protect, and to nourish. In the footsteps of Foucault and Agamben, numerous scholars have rediscovered the same paradox in philosophical and legal texts. Anthropologists writing about informal and practical sovereignty pay attention to violence, but sometimes ignore the importance of care for the exercise of sovereignty. Against such tendencies to focus on texts and on violence, this article deals with sovereignty as care. The concrete examples are the relationships of care between commanders, soldiers, and villagers in the Wa State of Myanmar, a de-facto state governed by an insurgent army. In the absence of an effective government bureaucracy, popular sovereignty in this military state relies on a particular logic of personal relations, in which care is central. Subordinates have to care about leaders, whereas leaders are supposed to care for subordinates. Care provides the balance and foil for the exercise of violence, and both are necessary for the exercise of sovereignty. The combination of violence and care in personal relations is scaled up to create “the people” as the subject and object of sovereignty. The article describes the logic of personal relations that allows for the exercise of popular sovereignty in the Wa State and elsewhere.
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.
Artists and writers placed the figure of a boy king centrally, using images and stories of historical and biblical child rulers as exempla. This chapter focuses on narrative and artistic traditions of models of child kingship to illustrate the positive cultural associations between childhood and kingship. Scholars have almost exclusively assessed cultural representations of rulership from the perspective of an adult king. But authors used a parallel range of models to contextualise and legitimise a boy’s succession and rule. The chapter looks first at Old Testament kings such as Jehoash and Josiah, then turns to representations of the humble child David, which were especially prominent in coronation ordines and psalter illuminations. Growing interest in Latin, vernacular and visual depictions of Jesus’s childhood is considered in the third section. Interrogating the circulation of these positive biblical models challenges the dominant narrative linking child kingship with disruption and political disorder. The chapter’s final section therefore turns a more rigorous spotlight on the oft-cited Ecclesiastes 10:16 verse which warned that a boy king would bring ‘woe to the land’.
This reassessment of guardianship terminology interrogates how medieval writers described the administrative, governmental, tutorial and emotional responsibilities of a boy king’s guardians. Analysing the vocabulary used to describe child kingship in royal documents, letters, chronicles, annals and various other sources rapidly reveals the inadequacies of the terms ‘regent’ and ‘regency’ before the fourteenth century at the earliest. Those writing while a boy was king, or in the years immediately after, made a sharp distinction between the conception of royal rule, on the one hand, and the duties, actions and responsibilities of those supporting the child ruler, on the other. This chapter interrogates, in turn, how writers distinguished between the terminology of royal rule, government and administration, education and nurture, and legal wardship and protection. Although ideas concerning the guardianship of minors prominently influenced representations of child kingship, this was only one aspect of a much broader conception of a child’s rule and the protection they and their kingdom required.
Medieval societies did not exclusively and inflexibly conceive kingship as the remit of a mature man, even if adult male rulers were more typical. This introduction shows the urgency and timeliness of looking beyond the ‘unspoken hegemony’ of adulthood to understand the intersections between childhood and kingship. Focusing first on the interconnectedness of representation and reality, the chapter highlights the necessity of uniting an emphasis on children’s lived experiences as political actors with an examination of cultural representations of ideas about childhood and rulership. The introduction then turns to consider three essential components which shape this study’s methodology: a comparative approach, a diachronic analysis and a holistic approach to the sources. This section argues for the importance of contextualising child kingship within a wider comparative framework which accounts for political, social, cultural and legal change. It also sketches the benefits of adopting a broad approach to the source material which incorporates chronicle, documentary, didactic, epistolary, legal and literary sources.
Turning to more ceremonial, less habitual actions in which a young heir’s active participation could be vital, this chapter stresses the political community’s wider investment in children as political actors. Royal children were both enablers and facilitators of diplomacy rather than merely pawns in the diplomatic and political games of adults. Children’s participation could be decisive to acts of association and diplomacy, and thus vital to readying the realm for their succession and rule. The chapter first examines attempts to secure magnate loyalty to children through oaths of fidelity and performances of homage. The earliest stages of the male life cycle had unique attributes in regard to demonstrations of loyalty, and there were substantial benefits in securing oaths to children when they were so young. The chapter then turns to focus on children’s incorporation within performances of cross-kingdom diplomacy, an important aspect of children’s education. The final section foregrounds the chanson de geste Le couronnement de Louis to examine the importance of children’s dynamic contribution at coronation and the wider political community’s investment in boy kings.
Refining adult-focused perspectives on medieval rulership, Emily Joan Ward exposes the problematic nature of working from the assumption that kingship equated to adult power. Children's participation and political assent could be important facets of the day-to-day activities of rule, as this study shows through an examination of royal charters, oaths to young boys, cross-kingdom diplomacy and coronation. The first comparative and thematic study of child rulership in this period, Ward analyses eight case studies across northwestern Europe from c.1050 to c.1250. The book stresses innovations and adaptations in royal government, questions the exaggeration of political disorder under a boy king, and suggests a ruler's childhood posed far less of a challenge than their adolescence and youth. Uniting social, cultural and political historical methodologies, Ward unveils how wider societal changes between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries altered children's lived experiences of royal rule and modified how people thought about child kingship.
In this ground-breaking study, Robin Baker investigates the contribution ancient Mesopotamian theology made to the origins of Christianity. Drawing on a formidable range of primary sources, Baker's conclusions challenge the widely held opinion that the theological imprint of Babylonia and Assyria on the New Testament is minimal, and what Mesopotamian legacy it contains was mediated by the Hebrew Bible and ancient Jewish sources. After evaluating and substantially supplementing previous research on this mediation, Baker demonstrates significant direct Mesopotamian influence on the New Testament presentation of Jesus and particularly the character of his kingship. He also identifies likely channels of transmission. Baker documents substantial differences among New Testament authors in borrowing Mesopotamian conceptions to formulate their Christology. This monograph is an essential resource for specialists and students of the New Testament as well as for scholars interested in religious transmission in the ancient Near East and the afterlife of Mesopotamian culture.
The third chapter in the volume’s third thematic strand (Individuals and Institutions) is dedicated to kingship and consensus in the age of William the Conqueror. After exploring the scholarly status quo and the historical and Biblical foundations of medieval kingship models prevalent in the Anglo-Norman world of the eleventh century, the chapter turns to a discussion of the writings of William of Poitiers and his contemporaries, before scrutinising the application of these kingship models to the everyday realities of the Conqueror’s cross-Channel realm.
With his ‘Solomonic Connection’, David Firth observes the man Solomon as he appears in Kings and Chronicles. Solomon is ‘paradigmatic’ for understanding wisdom in both of these books and yet he is not treated identically therein. Kings and Chronicles offer different portraits of the exceedingly wise king, whether that be his foundational role for wisdom or his problematic relationship with it. Matters of the temple, Solomon’s behaviour, torah, and the very conception of wisdom itself all have a place in biblical presentations of Solomon. Firth looks closely at 1 Kings 1–11 and 2 Chronicles 1–9 with a literary and theological reading that does not let one account determine the other or allow the Solomonic portraits in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to have all of the attention.
This chapter endeavours to highlight some characteristics of the Persian tradition concerning the heroic aspect of Alexander the Great. Firstly, it states that the royal Alexander was modelled on Kay Khosrow/Cyrus the Great, fitting him within a heroic structure which emphasised an ideal kingship. As a conqueror who became a ‘legitimate Persian king’, Alexander embodies values the Iranians had already brought into their own ideologies of kingship. Therefore, other monarchs during Iranian history tried to link themselves to Alexander, legitimising the transfer of political power and the use of the past in the construction of their image. Secondly, this chapter studies some thematic elements of Alexander’s adventures which were transferred to the other heroes, especially those of the Sistāni cycle of epic. It claims that the influence of the Alexander Romance on this genre goes further than the versions dedicated to Alexander’s adventures, making him as an exemplum, a model of a hero-king.
The small amount of contemporary written evidence for the settlement of Brittany from Britain is discussed, in order to provide a context for the subsequent development of historical myths about Brittany. The theory of the settlement of a British military force in the peninsula by Roman authorities is evaluated and possible British and Continental contexts for such a movement in the fourth or fifth century are compared. In the sixth century the testimony of Gregory of Tours suggests that kingship was developing in Brittany along similar lines to Celtic Britain, but this development does not seem to have continued. Some reasons are suggested through comparison with rulership elsewhere in western Europe and the Atlantic Archipelago. The origins and significance of early regional units within Brittany that share names with regions in Britain (Domnonia and Cornubia) are discussed. The apparent isolation of Bretons (and Britons generally) from the rest of Western Christendom from the mid-seventh to the mid-eighth centuries finds an explanation in the ecclesiastical controversy over the date of Easter.
Kings could propose an heir, but they could not guarantee his (or, more rarely, her) succession. They could, however, prepare heirs for the moment when they would have to convince the people at large that they deserved to inherit the throne. Chapter 6 follows the several stages in which heirs demonstrated their suitability for the throne, and the means they had at their disposal to ensure that they had the backing they needed. It does so by tracing the ideal type of royal heir from designation (often in childhood) to a ruler’s death. Topics discussed include the political and literary education of princes, the entry into adulthood as signified by knighting and marriage, and taking charge of the funeral proceedings for a recently deceased king. Each demonstrated adherence to abstract norms of royal lordship – that is, moral suitability. Each also served more pragmatic ends. They allowed an heir to gain experience, allies and resources with which to pursue a claim to the throne. As in the creation of kingship, suitability and might went hand in hand with right.
The conclusion draws together key themes. In particular, it deals with the question of the people and with change over time. On the one hand, the ‘people’ below the ranks of elite churchmen and aristocrats were excluded from the king-making process. On the other hand, their welfare was central to the moral framework of kingship. How could this tension be reconciled? How could it be utilised and exploited by political actors? Furthermore, accounts of king-making projected an ideal of timelessness: rulers merely continued a long line of kings, for example, and were but the most recent in a sequence of leaders of a community. Public acts like designation, election or inauguration hearkened back to an ideal status quo ante rooted in the Bible. What did this mean for historical change? How did contemporary observers deal with issues of a ruler’s life cycle, or with the span of individual experience? How could change be incorporated into an ideal of timelessness?
What are we talking about when we talk about high medieval Latin Europe? That is the key question underpinning the first chapter. It draws attention to shared political structures and the common cultural framework within which men and women of the central Middle Ages engaged with the practice and the ideal of kingship. In sketches both the resources and means of governance at the disposal of rulers and ruled, and the intellectual toolkit available to them in thinking about the role and purpose of the king’s office. The chapter furthermore highlights what sets the period apart from the Carolingian era and the later Middle Ages, and explores how people viewed their part of the world as a coherent whole, related to but distinctive from the Islamic world and Byzantium.
Almost every royal succession involved an act of election, partly because, in practice, most successions were disputed, and because there were several candidates for the throne. Even heirs who had been designated and accepted during their predecessor’s lifetime had to have their title confirmed by their leading subjects. Chapter 7 explores the normative framework of elections, and two of its underlying principles: unanimity and probity. In theory, electors merely confirmed a choice that god had already made for them. Yet what did it mean in practice, especially if there were several claimants, if a chosen heir turned out to be inept or tyrant, or if he was under age? And the precise meaning of abstract norms was open to debate, and had to be defined through consensus. Unanimity alone, for instance, was never sufficient: it had to be the right kind of unanimity, reached for the right reasons and by the right people, and it could be achieved over time. Equally, electors were supposed to ensure the moral probity of the king – because that reflected their own moral character. How, then, could that be accomplished? How could consensus be created?
For kingship to be more than testimony to an individual’s ambition, it had to be passed on to the next generation. In theory, that should be a ruler’s eldest son. In practice that occurred in only a third of royal successions. Almost by definition, successions were therefore moments of uncertainty – for the realm, for a dying king’s relatives, for his dependents and followers. Yet because successions were inherently uncertain, the people at large played a far more significant role than scholars have often recognised. They would be called upon to conform a proposed settlement, for instance, but they were not bound by it. On a ruler’s death, it fell to them to reconsider and confirm. In other instances, they had to choose between a range of candidates with equally valid claims. Matters were complicated further by the fact that successions were supposed to be organised according to principles of descent and suitability. Ideally, each reinforced the other. In practice, the latter was frequently used to trump the former. Legitimacy was therefore in the eye of the beholder, which made it all the more important that the selection of an heir was recognised and accepted by the people at large.