Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England

Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England

Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England

Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England

Synopsis

In this work R. Malcolm Smuts examines the fundamental cultural changes that occurred within the English royal court between the last decade of the sixteenth century and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642.

Excerpt

This book is a study of culture and its relationship to politics within the English royal court during the half-century before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. The importance of this period in the history of royal government has always been obvious, even though scholars continue to differ profoundly over its interpretation. Changes during the same span of time in the taste and outlook of the royal entourage are much less well known, yet in their own way they are almost as striking. During these years, the court became more firmly anchored in London, more distinct from provincial landed society in its outlook, and more sympathetic to the Baroque cultures of Europe. The Crown’s great servants stopped keeping military retinues, participating in tournaments, and building prodigy houses on their country estates and began to attend the theater and amass large collections of European art. In virtually every area of cultural life, a revolution in taste occurred. Anyone who compares a major work of Elizabethan court architecture to a building by Inigo Jones, a madrigal of the 1590s to a song by Henry Lawes, or a portrait by Gower to one by Van Dyck will begin to appreciate the scale of the transformation. Caroline styles often have much closer affinities to those of the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries than to work completed barely a generation earlier. And these stylistic changes were symptomatic of a much more fundamental reorientation of attitudes, values, patterns of conspicuous consumption, and modes of thought and feeling.

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