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Magnificence: Princely splendour and princely power in the middle ages

Magnificence: Princely splendour and princely power in the middle ages

by Richard Barber FSA

Rwb Picture Medium

Princely magnificence, the physical manifestation of power and wealth, was an essential element of the mystique of the ruler in the middle ages. This paper looks at the medieval concept of magnificence, reinterpreted from Aristotle in the thirteenth century. It then offers a survey of the varied means which the princes of western Christendom employed to impress both their subjects and their enemies with their personal charisma. It covers most aspects of princely life, from the clothers and jewels that they wore, the palaces and castles which provided the setting for their existence, the courtiers who surrounded them, to the great feasts and festivals which they held. It is based on a new book of the same title,to be published early in 2020, which is the first survey of magnificence on a European scale, covering all the major courts and drawing on sources in ten different languages. The lecture will take one figure, that of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, as an example through whom we can explore this wide-ranging subject.