English Literature

Alterations of State by Richard McCoy

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By Richard McCoy

Conventional notions of sacred kingship grew to become either extra grandiose and extra complicated in the course of England's turbulent 16th and 17th centuries. The reformation introduced by way of 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 via royal iconography and pageantry. those alterations started a spiritual controversy in England that may result in civil battle, regicide, recovery, and finally revolution. Richard McCoy indicates that, amid those occasionally cataclysmic adjustments of nation, writers like John Skelton, Shakespeare, John Milton, and Andrew Marvell grappled with the assumption of kingship and its symbolic and major strength. Their inventive representations of the crown exhibit the fervour and ambivalence with which the English seen 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 used to be 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 genuine 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 fantastic Revolution, McCoy plumbs the depths of English attitudes towards the king, the kingdom, and the very suggestion of holiness. He finds how older notions of sacred kingship increased in the course of the political and spiritual crises that remodeled the English kingdom, and is helping us comprehend why the conflicting feelings engendered by means of this growth have confirmed so power.

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Yet however impressive its dynastic grandeur, Westminster Chapel was intended as a shrine for another, less powerful but holier king. It represents England’s last sanctuary for traditional sacred kingship and its intercessory system, designed to give equal prominence to the real and royal presences. 3 Henry VI is recalled today, if at all, as the hapless victim of Richard III’s villainy in Shakespeare’s early history plays, and his vision of Henry Tudor as “England’s hope” is his most distinctive contribution to that saga: If secret powers Suggest but truth to my divining thoughts, This pretty lad will prove our country’s bliss.

30 Nevertheless, despite their eventual triumph, early Protestant attacks on the Mass were at first stoutly resisted by church and state authorities as unthinkable sacrilege. In his denunciation of Luther, Thomas More exclaims, “What was once celebrated with so much veneration as the most holy sacrifice of the mass? ”31 King Henry VIII himself joined the counterattack in , writing the Assertio Septem Septorum (Defense of the Seven Sacraments), the work that earned him the title Defender of the Faith.

F. v McCoy_Ch2 4/10/02 3:45 PM Page 28   Order of Indentures, Henry VII and Abbot Islip By permission of the British Library; MS. Harley , f. r McCoy_Ch2 4/10/02 3:45 PM Page 29                         ’               of the sacred, the pilgrim would attempt to touch the tomb or at least to come as close to the saint’s remains as possible. Often he or she would pass the night near the tomb, [and] . . ”10 The remains of Henry VI were expected to continue working as a magnet for pilgrims, and supplicants drawn by hopes for healing and intercession to his shrine would also pray for its founder, Henry VII.

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