A lesson in holy kingship: the thirteenth-century “La estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei”

A lesson in holy kingship: the thirteenth-century “La estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei”

By Judtih Collard

South African Journal of Art History, vol. 15 (2000)

Abstract: In this article a manuscript from the Cambridge University Library, viz.: “La estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei” is discussed with particular reference to its authorship and its possible date of manufacture as well as highlighting its special insights into the nature of medieval kingship.

Introduction: The lavishly illustrated life of St Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), La estoire de Sainte Aedward le Rei (Cambridge, University Library MS Ee. iii. 59), is one of the more celebrated manuscripts from the mid-thirteenth century. The Life explores such topical themes as good government, legitimacy and the grandeur of the king’s ancestry. The work provides for Henry III (1216-72) and his contemporaries an ideal model of saintly kingship acceptable to God and beneficial to the people. Its text and illustrations reflects the close association of the saint’s cult with the king. Much of the scholarship around this work has, however, focussed more on Matthew Paris’ possible authorship, the manuscript’s date and provenance rather than the manuscript’s contents and structure. While I shall consider the debates aroune the work’s production, I am also interested in exploring the contents of the manuscript, the image of kingship that it presents and how these may contribute to an understanding of the manuscript.

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