Princely Magnificence and Munificence: Ritual, Precious Objects, and the Gift Cycle in Early Modern Court (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 1997 semester seminar led by Bruce P. Lenman, Professor of Modern History at the University of St. Andrews.

This seminar examined the role of precious materials and of their artificers in the cycles of ritual splendor and gift-giving which were characteristic of the early modern court. The central focus of the seminar was on the late Tudor and Stuart Court in England, but with some stress on other courts with which the English court maintained regular relations. Until about 1640 the Spanish court vied with and usually overshadowed the French one as a center of English attention and diplomatic activity. Italian courts compensated for lack of military weight with rare and desirable gifts. James I had at one stage a resident ambassador at the Mughal court in India, Sir Thomas Roe. Attention was also given to the gift cycle of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal dynasties. Individual sessions examined the gift-cycle; court goldsmith-jewellers; regalia and symbols of majesty; the gift-cycle at the Tudor court; orders of chivalry and other diplomatic gifts; the mystic and symbolic significance of precious stones; and finally the impact of the overseas expansion of Europe on the availability of precious materials, not just in Europe, but globally.