Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Royal Body

Call for Papers
Centre for the Study of Bodies and Material Culture,
Royal Holloway, University of London
2-5 April 2012

‘For the King has in him two bodies … a Body natural and a Body politic.’

The idea of the king’s two bodies, the body natural and the body politic, founded on the distinction between the personal and mortal king and the perpetual and corporate crown, has long been of interest to scholars of medieval and early modern kingship. In later centuries the natural body of the monarch remained a contested site, with the life, health, sexuality, fertility and death of the king or queen continuing to be an important part of politics. Now royal sex and scandal is the very stuff that sells newspapers, and royal christening, weddings and funerals continue to capture the popular imagination. Indeed the ‘royal touch’ of Aids victims or sick children remains a potent image. So what is the significance of the natural body of the monarch to their subjects now and the importance of it for the concept, and survival, of monarchy?

This conference will explore the bodies of monarchs across Europe ranging from the medieval period to the present. By considering how the monarch's body has been washed, dressed, used, anointed, hidden, attacked and put on display, it will investigate how ideas of king/queenship have developed over time.

Abstracts of 300 words, for papers of approximately 20 minutes, should be submitted by 15 September 2011 to Dr Anna Whitelock, Department of History, RHUL,

The conference will take place at Royal Holloway, Egham, Surrey, on 2-5 April 2012.

Topics might include:

• Body service – dining, dressing, washing
• Rituals and ceremony
• Bodyservants and bodyguards
• Royal sleep –dreams and nightmares
• Assassination attempts
• Age, health and pregnancy
• Deformity and disability
• Royal births and deaths
• Regicide
• Royal touch
• Divine bodies
• Christenings, coronations, weddings and funerals
• Sexuality
• Fertility, chastity, virility
• Royal doctors
• Effigies and monuments
• Royal Dress
• Sex and Scandal
• Historiography
• Iconography and representation
• Drama and literature
• Political theory


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