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By Richard McCoy

Conventional notions of sacred kingship grew to become either extra grandiose and extra challenging 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 battle, regicide, recovery, and eventually revolution. Richard McCoy exhibits that, amid those occasionally cataclysmic adjustments of kingdom, writers like John Skelton, Shakespeare, John Milton, and Andrew Marvell grappled with the assumption of kingship and its symbolic and important energy. Their creative representations of the crown exhibit the eagerness and ambivalence with which the English considered their royal leaders. whereas those writers differed at the basic questions of the day -- Skelton was once a staunch defender of the English monarchy and standard faith, Milton was once a thorough 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 nation, and the very inspiration of holiness. He unearths how older notions of sacred kingship accelerated throughout the political and non secular crises that remodeled the English country, and is helping us comprehend why the conflicting feelings engendered via this enlargement 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.

16 This juxtaposition of Christ’s actual sacrifice with its quotidian celebration is often the point of such art. Dürer depicts a somewhat similar scene in his drawing of the miracle of St. Gregory, in which only the viewer and the pope see Christ risen from the altar to display his wounds and the instruments of his torture (figure ). These grisly yet ecstatic visions of the crucified Christ or bloody hosts were designed to overcome the doubts of those who did not believe in transubstantiation. Through such miraculous revelations, the real presence acquired the force of flesh and blood, and the grace imparted by the sacrament was rendered palpable.

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. To further enhance the shrine’s sacred aura, Henry provided additional relics, including “our grete pece of the holie crosse . . garnished with perles and precious stones; and also the preciouse Relique of oon of the leggs of Saint George, set in silver parcell gilte” (Will, ). 11 Henry’s model for Westminster Chapel was England’s most venerable royal sepulcher, the shrine of Edward the Confessor at the center of Westminster Abbey itself.

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