Political Culture in the Early Northern Renaissance - The Court of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1467-1477)

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This monograph examines the culture of the first great Northern court of the early modem era, within the context of Charles's attempt to create a sovereign polity uniting both his French and Imperial fiefs.


“Edward Tabri's study of the court of Charles the Bold and the political culture of northwest Europe in the fifteenth century is the latest example of a new interest on the part of North American scholars in the Burgundian period of Low Countries history. That interest is the result of a complex history of North America's concern with the history of the Low Countries in general, one that has not, as far as I know, been told before … Edward Tabri's study of the role of the court of Charles the Bold in the political culture of late-fifteenth century northwest Europe is creatively revisionist on both these points. He deftly traces the historiography that relegated the Burgundian dukes to marginal footnotes in French, English, and Low Countries history, to the early battlefields and backwaters of the Hundred Years War, and to Huizinga's enormously influential model of Burgundian culture as a paradigm of overripe late medieval chivalric and devotional sentiment.8 He uses a vast range of recent scholarship in both manuscript and printed sources in several languages, including Dutch, to layout the present state of the subject and field. He is not reluctant to challenge other scholars' conclusions, and he readily holds is own in matters of current scholarly dispute. His focus is the place of Charles the Bold in the political culture of northwest Europe, a ruler who was called by his subjects, as Tabri points out, not "the Bold", Ie Temeraire, but Ie Travaillant -"the Hardworking," as his motto, "Je l'ay emprins," indicated. Tabri's theme, gracefully woven into several of the chapters, is the originality of Charles the Bold's royal ambitions -to make of his mixed dominions a real kingdom -also a characteristic of Charles that many earlier historians had dismissed as a megalomaniacal fantasy, but one which was perfectly plausible in late-fifteenth century Europe, and, as Tabri demonstrates, very much on Charles's mind and close to the center of many of his policies … Tabri's study of the reign of Charles the Bold and the political culture of the late fifteenth century inspires a reconsideration of the man and the reign that relocates both in a longer political process, one that continued sturdily for three generations after 1477 and, but for unforeseeable contingencies, might have continued far longer.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor. Edward Peters, University of Pennsylvania

“Dr. Edward Tabri’s book is excellently written and quite insightful. It should prove to a valuable resource for scholars across a variety of disciplines, including history, art history, and literature. In recent years, two major exhibitions, Illuminating the Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe (Getty Museum and British Library, 2003-04) and Dukes and Angels: Art from the Court of Burgundy (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon and the Cleveland Museum of Art, 2004) have renewed interest in Burgundian visual culture. Dr. Tabri’s book complements these exhibitions, while providing additional information about Charles the Bold and his courtly practices. Rather than represent Charles the Bold as a failed warrior prince, Dr. Tabri rightly interprets the duke as “the hard-working” (le Travaillant), ambitious to establish an autonomous state, one separated from France and centralized under his political authority. In this refreshing revision, Charles is not shown to be an egocentric hothead, but a shrewd administrator who tried to overcome political hazards by military force, the foundation of legal institutions, and the presentation of lavish courtly displays. Although many of his dynastic efforts were never accomplished, they were successfully reintroduced by the Habsburgs. Dr. Tabri’s discussion of the Parlement of Mechelen and the ducal household is quite illuminating. Besides deepening our understanding of Charles the Bold, Dr.Tabri offers important historical details concerning Olivier de la Marche and Guillebert de Lannoy. Tabri also highlights the role of literature and ceremonies in promoting Charles as a just and worthy leader. His superb book provides a persuasive and lucid argument for scholars hoping to learn more about late medieval Burgundian politics and culture.” – Henry Luttikhuizen, Professor of Art History, Calvin College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction
1. Charles the Bold and the Burgundian State
2. The Ducal Household: Institutions and Ideology
3. Literary Patronage and its Influence
4. Ceremony, Spectacle and Symbolism
5. Residence and Ambience Conclusion

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