The Politics of Death: Monarchy and Mortality in Late Medieval England, 1399-1413

The Politics of Death: Monarchy and Mortality in Late Medieval England, 1399-1413

By Ciara – Marie Shevlin

Mortality, Dying and Death, edited by T Chandler Haliburton and Caroline Edwards (2008)

Abstract: This essay will consider the social, cultural and political ramifications of the untimely or unexpected death of a monarch. Recent history has shown that the death of a member of royalty can cause significant social action. This paper will focus primarily on the mysterious death/murder of Richard II and how such an event had an equal, if not greater, effect upon the royal subjects of the late medieval period.

The first section entitled ‘The King’s Body’ provides an introduction to the philosophic position of the King’s material and symbolic body as a basis for the further investigation of the political of Remembrance’, investigates the problems that arise when dealing with historiographical accounts of royal deaths. Rather than attempting to present a definitive narrative this essay is concerned with defending the value of variety as a means of accessing the diversity of cultural articulations of grief. ‘The Unquiet Dead’ discusses the process where-by the dead monarch came to haunt the reign of his usurper Henry IV. By analysing conspiratorial claims and considering current critical theory about the birth of conspiracy I will propose that the unexpected death of the king created complex, complicated and moreover extremely sophisticated responses.

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