Title Details

382 Pages

28 x 21 cm

104 colour, 8 b/w illus.

Imprint: Boydell Press


and Princely Splendour in the Middle Ages

by Richard Barber

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This highly-illustrated volume, by bestselling author Richard Barber, shows how medieval princes proclaimed their special status through displays of magnificence.

The book is stunning, in every respect, and will be the gold standard in its subject for years to come. ALISON WEIR

"This is glorious! It's a peach-and-peacock of a book, as befits its subject: scholarly, always accessible, with a wealth of fabulous illustrations, superbly designed." KEVIN CROSSLEY-HOLLAND

How do you recognise a king when you see one?

By the thirteenth century, the special status, which had evolved over thecenturies, was matched by the display of kingly grandeur. This was enshrined in the idea of "magnificence". Magnificence was seen as the king's duty, was applied to everything: his person, the garments he wore, his courtiers, the artists, the musicians and architects he employed. Above all, it was on show in his public appearances, his feasts and ceremonies. The "magnificent" collections of jewels, manuscripts and holy relics were displayed to a handfulof favoured visitors. Those visitors also had to be entertained, and royal feasts developed into an amazing form of performance art.

This book is not only about objects and occasions, but also about the people who created them, from the kings themselves and their court servants to the artists, craftsmen and musicians of all kinds, down to the scribes and clerks, the showmen, dancers and acrobats, and the servants at table.

All this is explored in this wide-ranging survey, covering the whole of western Europe, but centring on France, the wealthiest of the kingdoms, members of whose extended royal family were at different times kings of Poland, Hungary, Naples, Jerusalem, England, and, most spectacularly, dukes of Burgundy.

Pageantry and displays of splendour always catch our attention, and medieval feasts and tournaments are among the most popular forms of historical re-enactment today. Magnificence celebrates many of the high points of the medieval world, drawing them together in a sumptuous volume.
Preface and acknowledgements
The princes of Europe
Introduction: Splendour and Magnificence
Dynasties, Kings and Courts
The Culture of Kingship
Defining Magnificence
The Image and Person of the Prince
Queens and Princesses
The Prince's Entourage
Magnificence and the Arts
Magnificent Architecture
Magnificence on Display
Magnificent Ceremonies and Festivals
Magnificent Extravagance: the prince's feasts
Devising the festival
Financing, Organising and Creating Magnificence
The Spirit of Medieval Magnificence
Appendix A: More on Magnificence
Appendix B: Giles of Rome, excerpts from On the Government of Princes and biography

RICHARD BARBER has had a huge influence on the study of medieval history and literature, as both a writer and a publisher. His first book on the Arthurian legend appeared in 1961, and his major works include The Knight and Chivalry (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award in 1971), Edward Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe and The Holy Grail: the History of a Legend which was widely praised and was translated into six languages.

"The book is stunning, in every respect, and will be the gold standard in its subject for years to come." ALISON WEIR
"This luxuriously illustrated volume offers a rich account of the rationale and means of medieval princely display....Embodying the boundlessness that is its subject, the book overflows with information." FRENCH STUDIES
"Magnificence is indeed a glorious book....A gilded and sumptuous sourcebook; a joy to read and peruse." MEDIEVAL HISTORIES
"Richly illustrated and rigorously researched." ASPECTUS
"This is glorious! It's a peach-and-peacock of a book, as befits its subject: scholarly, always accessible, with a wealth of fabulous illustrations, superbly designed." KEVIN CROSSLEY-HOLLAND
"Barber's expert command and passionate enjoyment of his subject is evident throughout the luxuriously illustrated text...[A] rich and accessible synthesis. All readers will find new and fascinating details in these pages....The book offers much to enjoy and will prove a valuable addition to course reading lists." ROYAL STUDIES JOURNAL
"Bold, compelling and beautiful this is a princely offering in its own right." INTERNATIONAL TIMES
"How do you show people that you are a king? Gorgeous architecture, sumptuous feast and of course, enviable feasts. This fascinating book explores how medieval monarchs projected their own 'magnificence'. These were the original PR gurus." DAILY MAIL
"This book crowns the extensive publication activity of one of the most widely read medievalists of the English world. At every turn I found interesting statements, unknown material, and new interpretations. The author has transformed huge knowledge and endless material into a wide-ranging synthesis of considerable extent. Despite its appearance, in the style of a coffee table book, it will be the reference work on the question of Magnificence, illuminating every aspect of the subject." Professor WERNER PARAVICINI, University of Kiel
"The book is well-written, beautifully illustrated, and succeeds at making its case about the conspicuous display of wealth. . . . [F]or anyone who wants to learn more about courtly ceremonial, dress, foodstuffs, and the like, this is an excellent starting point." HISTORIANS OF NETHERLANDISH ART
"Magnificence and Princely Splendour in the Middle Ages is a sweeping work that brings its audience into contact with a wide breadth of texts and objects. Although this extensive amount of information can be overwhelming, Barber compiles his sources into a clearly written work that is accessible to a non-scholarly audience. The structure of the book itself, with its many beautiful images and convenient organizational guides, similarly makes Magnificence an appealing introduction to the splendid world of medieval politics and kingly luxury." PEREGRINATIONS
"The particular achievements of the book are that it covers a vast geographical area and presents images and text in a way that tells a cohesive story of the propaganda of medieval magnificence. Barber incorporates primary source quotations in a clever and enlightening way. . . . The work is a very accessible, and so will serve as an introduction to the subject. Highly recommended." CHOICE



April 2020


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Title Details

382 Pages

2.8 x 2.1 cm

104 colour, 8 b/w illus.

Imprint: Boydell Press