John Watts

in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed's Chronicles

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199565757
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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This chapter explores the central theme of monarchy in the Chronicles. It focuses on the treatment of monarchy in England, from its origins in the time of Albion and Brutus, up to the end of the Wars of the Roses and the limits of social memory in Holinshed's time. The chapter argues that the Chronicles are unique in that they take pains to explain why an unchallengeable sovereignty was necessary for the well-being of the commonwealth, and in this they evince the continuing growth in the sophistication and volume of political reflection since the mid-fifteenth century. They are also decidedly un-medieval in their view of the Church, pushing the traditional royal responsibility for defending Christ's religion well beyond its pre-Reformation limits, and making one-time heroes of the communitas – such as Becket, Winchelsey, and Arundel – into ungrateful, ambitious, and contumacious prelates, servants, and types of that great Satan which sat in Rome and sought to undermine the rule of England's godly princes. But in most other respects, the Chronicles' is a traditional, and traditionally royalist, picture.

Keywords: English monarchy; England; Chronicles; social memory; Albion; Brutus; commonwealth; Church

Article.  8128 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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