Raising royal bodies: Stuart authority and the monumental image

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

This essay will consider Stuart monuments as agents of royal power, tracing the origins and development of sculpture as a potent political language in early modern Britain. Under the Stuarts the focus of royal monuments shifted from religious to secular commemoration. As sculpted images emerged from spiritual spaces into public arenas, meanings were re-configured and re-interpreted. Monuments came to play a pivotal role in the negotiation of royal authority. The seventeenth century witnessed transformative processes of dynastic change, political transition and representational development and these were articulated in stone, bronze and lead.

Early modern portrayals of royal power were formed through an involved dialogue between patrons, artists and audiences. Monuments were particularly potent sites for these exchanges. Set up across Britain, and, in rare instances, on the Continent, Stuart sculptural schemes endowed public spaces with a symbolic royal presence which was immediate and tangible. This emotive political performance could prompt both popular devotion and destruction. After the execution of Charles I, for example, royalists struggled to secure, conceal and preserve busts and statues of the dead King, while republicans, in turn, smashed, melted down and even decapitated them. The conception, erection and afterlives of Stuart monuments powerfully evince evolving representations and perceptions of monarchy. Through analysis of a wide cache of types, including portrait busts, public statuary, tombs, ceremonial effigies and temporary festival sculpture, this essay will explore how monuments served to mediate royal authority, public loyalty and political opposition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge History of Monarchy
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter18
Edition1
ISBN (Print)9781138703322, 9781315203195
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Histories
PublisherRoutledge

Keywords

  • Monuments
  • Stuart
  • Public Sculpture
  • Reception
  • Tombs
  • Statues
  • Power

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