Political Communication and Political Culture in England, 1558-1688

By Barbara J. Shapiro | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Observation and Participation

Royal events such as coronations, progresses, entries and funerals, and popular activities that included civic pageants, bell ringing, fireworks, pope burning processions and petitioning, enlisted the literate and illiterate alike in political life. Celebrations marking particular events, some unique and others part of the annual calendar, expressed approbation or disapproval of politically significant persons and events. Public whipping or pillorying, trials and executions provided visual experience of the majesty of the law. Paintings, sculpture, architecture and medals, like royal coronations and entries, used a variety of English, biblical and Roman imperial images to underline political values or suggest parallels between present and past political virtues. While these are not genres in any traditional sense, they were channels through which many learned about political life. Some involve personal observation, some personal experience and some both.

Pageants and processions were organized by the Crown or civic authorities with the aim of confirming official ideologies. Some were less officially orchestrated and had a substantial popular component. The bell ringing, bonfires, gunshots and fireworks that marked many celebrations can, to some extent, be taken as demonstrations of spontaneous popular opinion and participation. Some events, such as the late-seventeenth-century Whig-orchestrated pope burning processions and the petitioning movements of the mid- and late seventeenth century, combined elite leadership with public participation.

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