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The language of kingship under Henry III: civilian, canonical, and dictaminal ideas in practice, c.1230-c.1252


Lucy Hennings


This thesis is a study in how the political culture of the reign of Henry III was conditioned by its engagement with wider continental ideological and administrative developments. Within the shared legal and cultural space of ‘Europe’, a number of factors contributed to the development of a language of power both secular and spiritual, including the growth of universities, the study of Roman civil and canon law, the development of dictamen and the increasing prominence of the mobile curial administrative elite. I propose that these influences were of signal importance for the reign of Henry III in its own right, and also in the longer-term development of later medieval English political culture. The chapters of the thesis evaluate these influences through three sections: prosopographical, textual and linguistic. Chapter 1 examines the personnel of royal government, exploring both the contributions to royal government made by foreign clerks, and the participation of other royal servants in European cultural networks. Chapter 2 turns to analysis of legal and dictaminal manuscripts, exploring the challenges in reconstructing medieval reading culture. In Chapter 3, the circulation of such manuscripts over the longer thirteenth century is evaluated to demonstrate their influence on royal government. In Chapter 4, the thesis turns to linguistic influence during the period of the personal rule, 1230-1250, exploring the impact of Romano-Canonical legal concepts on the discussion of royal power. Chapter 5 looks at the impact of the same concepts on discussion of the wider political community. The final chapter considers the influence of dictamen on the rhetoric of royal government. Bringing these strands together, the thesis shows that a cultivated and cosmopolitan elite, serving Henry III and knowledgeable in the learned laws and rhetoric, adapted that knowledge to their portrayal and implementation of royal government, with lasting significance for this reign and beyond.

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