The Structure of the Late Medieval and Early
Modern Royal Entry: Change and Continuity
WITH their roots in Roman triumphal entries and in Jesus’ reception into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, royal and princely entries and/or visits functioned as sites of memory. Although deeply embedded in syncretistic traditions that conflated the Roman past with the Christian opening of Holy Week, the entry as it developed in the Middle Ages—and was further modified in the early modern period—represented a novel way of articulating princely authority, or, as we have seen and will see again, of contesting that authority. But whether playing as age-old patterns or as variations on those patterns, entries became deeply woven into the fabric of history and memory. The literary representations, the celebrations, the ephemeral architecture that was so soon to be relegated to the dustbin of history were, above all, self-conscious attempts to link a particular entry with earlier festivals and, beyond that, with distant imperial and sacred pasts. In many respects, entries, which for all practical purposes are an early-fourteenthcentury phenomenon, fall into the category of “invented traditions.”1
I do not of course mean to suggest that some royal agent or a member of some municipal council falsified the genealogy of royal entries. Rather, in that perpetual quest for order and authority that so profoundly marks the medieval mind, it may have seemed patently evident to eager royal agents that these important celebrations could not have been created exnihilo, that they must have had ancient origins that doubly legitimized them. Festivals, and in this particular case, the royal entry, gained a great deal of their effectiveness through reiteration. This is a point I have made several times in previous chapters, but it is worth emphasizing again. In Spanish medieval and early modern festive traditions, as in the rest of Western Europe, the weight of tradition (created of course through reiteration) imparted a highly desirable patina to these celebrations that set
1 On the whole idea of the “invention of tradition,” see the rightly celebrated new edition of the collection of essays edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). As to the beginning of this “tradition” in earnest in the early fourteenth century, see chapter 3 and Bernard Guenée and Françoise Lehoux, Les entrées royales françaises de 1328 à 1515 (Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1968), 9–10.