The ‘joyous entry’ of Archduke Maximilian into Antwerp (13 January 1478): an analysis of a ‘most elegant and dignified’ dialogue
By Kim Overlaet
Journal of Medieval History, Volume 44, Issue 2, 2018
Abstract: On 13 January 1478, five months after his marriage to Mary of Burgundy (1457‒82), Archduke Maximilian of Austria (1459–1519) made his ‘joyous entry’ into the city of Antwerp. According to a remarkably detailed contemporary account, the city’s government offered cash payments to groups of at least 18 men to ride out to welcome the duke in ‘the most elegant and dignified’ way (sierlijckst en statelijckst).
Following civic and courtly tradition, Maximilian was met by a ceremonial parade outside the city walls. In his account of the ceremonies, the author carefully noted the procession’s order: first came ‘many noblemen’ (vele eelder sciltboirteghe manne) and the city’s aldermen, then the representatives of the Antwerp guilds and corporations, with their colourful, ‘honourable and worthy’ (eerlijck en statelijck) uniforms. The city’s canons and members of the lower clergy, monks, nuns and beguines closed the parade. Immediately after this first formal encounter with the urban community, Maximilian was escorted to the city gates, where he was invited to swear an oath to respect the local privileges. After this ritual the duke finally entered the city, where many tableaux vivants and triumphal arches had been erected along the route to the heart of Antwerp: the Great Market Square.
In the historiography of joyous entries in the late medieval Low Countries, much attention has been paid to how the iconographic and theatrical programmes of these inauguration ceremonies served the dialogue between the dukes and their subjects on the one hand, and between urban interest groups on the other. It has become generally accepted that the theatrical performances organised on town squares and other urban spaces were not meant for the sole purpose of entertainment.
The deliberate choice for the performance of specific Christian, ancient and urban exempla allowed the organising town councils and urban interest groups to convey their own messages. Therefore joyous entries allow us a glimpse of the idealised balance of power and of the participants’ ambitions and strategies in a specific historical and geographical context.