Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph

Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph

Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph

Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph


The civic triumph, or royal entry, was one of the great `spectacles of state' that stood at the heart of national and civic life in the Middle Ages. It originated in the late fourteenth century as a vast theatrical ritual that transformed the city into a stage and involved king and people alike as actors in a cosmic drama. It endured until a more neoclassical form replaced it in the late sixteenth century. Enter The King examines the medieval civic triumph not primarily as a programme of political emblems, but rather as a theatrical ritual designed to inaugurate the sovereign into his reign. As the king entered the city gates, he became the chief actor in an elaborate court spectacle defined by the citizens' pageantry and witnessed by his subjects. This inaugural purpose, indeed, gave the medieval civic triumph its distinctive form and purpose. Enter the King examines, for the first time, the ritual purposes and dramatic form of these spectacles. It explores the ways in which these ritualistic shows often draw their central ideas and inspiration from the medieval church's complex Advent liturgy to celebrate and acclaim the king's First Coming and to dramatize the meaning of the king's entry in terms of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. The roles which royal and civic actors performed on these occasions served to define the political, social, and religious ideals that bound them together into a community. Enter the King studies the medieval civic triumph as an international form of drama and as one of the defining rituals of late medieval society in England, France, and the Low Countries.


THOMAS DEKKER once praised triumphs as 'the most choice and daintiest fruit that spring from Peace and Abundance; Loue begets them; and Much Cost brings them forth'. I doubt that he would have meant to include in his praise a scholarly book about triumphs, especially not one so little 'dainty' as this one. Nevertheless, this book has certainly been begotten in the love and support of many friends and colleagues, and it has also been brought forth with much cost in the form of generous research grants. I would like to acknowledge both kinds of contributions here.

I begin by acknowledging those debts of love which have made this book possible. David Bevington, the best and kindest of mentors, first encouraged me to think about civic triumphs when I was a postgraduate student at the University of Chicago. He has tirelessly commented upon several early drafts of this book, offered wise counsel and great encouragement, and followed its progress closely. Whatever is intellectually good in this book owes an immense debt to him.

Many other friends and colleagues read portions of this text and made many important suggestions for its improvement. Charles L. Batten has helped me think through many compositional and interpretative problems; indeed, there cannot have been many days in our long friendship that have been entirely free from at least some mention of civic triumphs, and he has responded throughout with patience, helpfulness, and goodhumoured indulgence. Meg Twycross has been unfailingly generous with helpful criticism, encouragement, and support. David Bergeron, Martin Stevens, Paul R. Sellin, Lawrence M. Bryant, Peter Happé, Pamela King, Randolph Ivy, John N. King, and Victor Scherb read drafts of various portions of the text and made many helpful comments. I profited from Richard Osberg's wise counsel concerning Henry VI's London entry and from A. A. MacDonald's expert advice concerning Mary Queen of Scots' Edinburgh entry. All remaining errors of fact or interpretation are my own.

An early version of Chapter 1 appeared as 'Richard II's "Sumptuous Pageants" and the Idea of the Civic Triumph', in David M. Bergeron (ed.), Pageantry in the Shakespearean Theater (Athens, Ga., 1985), 83-103; a portion of Chapter 4 appeared as Grace in This Lyf and Aftirwarde Glorie: Margaret of Anjou's Royal Entry into London, Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama, 29 (1986-7), 77-84. I thank the University of Georgia Press for permission to reprint the former and David M. Bergeron for permission to reprint the latter.

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