English Literature

Alterations of State by Richard McCoy

By Richard McCoy

Conventional notions of sacred kingship turned either extra grandiose and extra tricky in the course of England's turbulent 16th and 17th centuries. The reformation introduced via Henry VIII and his claims for royal supremacy and divine correct rule resulted in the suppression of the Mass, because the host and crucifix have been overshadowed by way of royal iconography and pageantry. those adjustments begun a spiritual controversy in England that might result in civil conflict, regicide, recovery, and eventually revolution. Richard McCoy indicates that, amid those occasionally cataclysmic adjustments of country, writers like John Skelton, Shakespeare, John Milton, and Andrew Marvell grappled with the assumption of kingship and its symbolic and great energy. Their creative representations of the crown demonstrate the fervour and ambivalence with which the English considered their royal leaders. whereas those writers differed at the primary questions of the day -- Skelton used to be a staunch defender of the English monarchy and conventional faith, Milton was once an intensive opponent of either, and Shakespeare and Marvell have been extra equivocal -- they shared an abiding fascination with the royal presence or, occasionally extra tellingly, the royal absence. starting from regicides actual and imagined -- with the very actual specter of the slain King Charles I haunting the rustic like a revenant of the king's ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet -- from the royal sepulcher at Westminster Abbey to Peter Paul Reubens's Apotheosis of King James at Whitehall, and from the Elizabethan compromise to the wonderful Revolution, McCoy plumbs the depths of English attitudes towards the king, the country, and the very thought of holiness. He finds how older notions of sacred kingship improved in the course of the political and non secular crises that reworked the English kingdom, and is helping us comprehend why the conflicting feelings engendered via this enlargement have confirmed so power.

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22 In the words of one contemporary, Henry VIII proved “an obedient child . . ”23 This praise came from Edmund Dudley, an unpopular henchman to the old king desperate to win clemency from the new, and though his flattery failed in its purpose, it was still largely accurate. Construction of his parents’ marble sarcophagus began in  and was completed about six years later, forming a magnificent centerpiece. In the meantime, two eulogies were commissioned to honor his father and grandmother, written by the priest and poet John Skelton.

Never) caryed or shewed at any battell, but by ye especial grace of god almightie, & ye mediacion of holie St. ”35 Skelton obviously shares the monks’ faith in the talismanic power of this Eucharistic relic. At the same time, Skelton’s attitude toward relics, miracles, and even the Eucharist itself is oddly ambiguous. In Ware the Hawk, Skel McCoy_Ch2 4/10/02 3:46 PM Page 38                         ’               ton’s own corporal and even the sacrament itself are shockingly abused in verses blending blasphemous travesty with fierce orthodoxy.

At the center of the picture and the exact focal point of everyone’s gaze is a luminous host enclosed within a monstrance with the image of the crucified Christ stamped upon it. The painting’s perspective makes a strong theological point, as several art historians have noted: “To focus attention on the material object also underlines the way in which man’s perception of God is not direct. ”17 In fact, given the divinely instituted resources of the Church militant, those on earth do not need to look up.

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