Gallivanteer – noun; One Who Gallivants

I travel the world and find unlikely stories in unorthodox places. Here you will find my thoughts, musings and other writings.

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How Important was Piety in the Reign of Louis IX?

 There is no reason to believe that the piety of Louis IX was not deep and sincere; indeed a confessor revealed that at one point in his life Louis considered abdication in favour of joining a monastery.[1] This being said, historians such as Jean Richard and Margaret Labarge have raised questions whether the institutional piety of St. Louis (as opposed to his personal devotion) was a success of Louis himself, or of the hagiographers who were to research his life for the canonisation enquiry.[2] This essay examines how important piety was in the reign of Louis IX, to which end, the role of piety in Louis’ reign must be examined, as well as the benefits to Louis’ descendants of inflating his piety. It is worth considering that definitions of piety in the middle ages do not necessarily correspond to definitions of piety which we find today. One of the aims of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 was to find better definitions for piety and of the Christian faith, the essence of which is to believe in the doctrines of the church and to live a life of “right faith and good actions”, which for Louis meant good and righteous actions as a king.[3] Although piety was personally very important to Louis IX, as an aspect of his reign it made up part of the royal policy, which was a priority when it was also a priority for France.


The Christianity of France was a policy issue for Louis IX. The term policy may seem somewhat anachronistic, but it is a useful way of thinking about his attitude towards religion amongst the laity of France; that piety was to be encouraged and a lack of piety was a problem to be solved. Upon returning from the Holy Land after the Seventh Crusade, Louis came to strongly believe that he was responsible for the salvation of his subjects.[4] This was not new thinking, in his letter to Pope Leo III, Charlemagne declared that it was his duty as king and emperor to bring Christianity to the Pagans, but it was an approach which had fallen out of style by the High Middle Ages.[5] More contemporary rulers tended towards the Two Swords system of governance favoured by monarchs such as Frederick Barbarossa, the idea that god vested secular authority in the kings and spiritual authority in the papacy.

Louis’ move to take responsibility for the salvation of the laity was not a regression to early medieval methods of rule in the style of Charlemagne. This follows a progression throughout Europe with better definition of the roles and duties of monarchs. Elizabeth Hallam and Juliet Everard make the case that this policy based expression of piety can be found in developments within the ecclesiastical structure of the thirteenth century. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 in particular influenced Louis’ policies regarding religion, particularly with the obligation of confession, and the entourage of confessors that Louis kept.[6] Furthermore, the Fourth Lateran Council realigned the church’s focus to the salvation of the laity and the individual.[7] To this end, Louis was in compliance with contemporary developments within the church. King Louis represented the Lateran ideal of the pious laity through his (relative) asceticism, his charitable nature, and his love of the poor.[8] It was to this end that Louis adopted the piety of the laity as part of his royal policy.


In The Life of St. Louis, Jean de Joinville writes that upon returning to France after the seventh crusade, the Bishop of Auxerre (on behalf of all French bishops) declared to Louis “…Christendom is falling to pieces and melting away in your hands, and will fall away still further, unless you study to remedy It…” and Louis was left to counter the issue.[9] The solution is not so important, but the fact that the Bishop brought this issue to the attention of the king as a problem to be solved shows that religion and piety should be thought of as part of the policies of King Louis. Just as today it can sometimes be difficult to separate politicians’ policies into distinct categories such as “economic policy” or “foreign policy” so too was this difficult in the middle ages, more so, as Louis had no manifesto to which he could refer throughout his reign.


This difficulty of separation can be seen in Louis’s approach to Dominican and Franciscan monasteries. Louis IX was an enthusiastic patron of the Franciscan and Dominican orders and though Louis no doubt was a supporter of the religious practices of the orders, the massive investment which the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries received from Louis was a part of a larger (yet unofficial, in the modern sense) programme for charities which benefitted the disadvantaged of society.[10] In his Chronicles of the Crusade Joinville writes


the king daily gave countless generous alms to poor religious, to poor hospitals, to poor sick people, to other poor convents, to poor gentlemen and gentlewomen and girls, to fallen women, to poor widows and women in childbed, and to poor craftsmen who from old age or sickness were unable to work or follow their trade.[11]


Therefore, it seems that Louis’ donations to charity took the role of a form of social welfare. Were Louis IX a politician standing for election today, he would talk about the need to care for the disadvantaged, especially women. Louis saw it as part of his kingly duties to care for the poor and the sick, and did so through the Franciscan and Dominican houses. The donations to institutions which care for the destitute made up a big part of Louis’ reign resembled what we would think of today as social welfare, and as a divinely appointed King, Louis felt the provide for the sick. Louis also felt this need as a Christian however, and his personal donations to the poor and sick show that charity was of great personal concern to him.[12]


One of the schools of thought regarding the piety and particularly canonisation of Louis IX comes from Collette Beaune, who claims that Louis’ pious image became important as an icon for developing a French national identity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in particular his valour, which was dependent on his piety.[13] There are recorded examples of Louis’ image being changed after his death. For example, in life his was considered “threadbare”, not judged to be sufficiently regal in his dress, to a majestic iconographic image after his death.[14] In the same way that it benefitted those commissioning the iconography of St. Louis to portray him as a majestic ruler, so too did it benefit Louis’ descendants to have him portrayed as the epitome of righteousness. It would be incorrect to state that religion was not important to Louis IX, but it should be considered that Louis’ role and perception as a pious leader was important in securing the position of future Capetian kings.  Louis’ canonisation in August 1297 was partially as a form of reparation with regards to the conflict between Louis’ grandson Phillip IV and Pope Boniface VIII.[15] The canonisation of Louis was something desired by Phillip to raise the status of the French monarchy to a special place in Europe.[16] Despite this clearly being beneficial to Phillip, Pope Boniface used to opportunity to further his own religio-political aims. By canonising Louis, Boniface was able to set a standard of kingship which other kings in Europe should aspire too, a standard which was beneficial to the aims of the Papacy.[17] This being said, there were calls for the canonisation of Louis as early as 1275 by individuals who had far lesser vested interest in the canonisation of Louis such as the Franciscan Simon de Brie, and the Archbishop of Reims.[18] Although it was important to both Louis’ descendants and (later) the Papacy that Louis be thought of as a good and holy king, both to secure the position of the Capetians and create a standard for the papacy to ask other monarchs to conform to, this does not mean Louis was not a pious monarch who was deserving of cannonisation. If Louis had not been genuinely pious, neither the French monarchy nor the Papacy would have had a case for canonisation.


That religion was just a part of Louis IX’s royal policy is evident in the conflicts between Louis and the church, despite his acknowledged devoutness. For example, in 1247 Louis sent two delegations to Rome, complaining to Pope Innocent IV that papal taxation was too high.[19]  This is not evidence that Louis was not pious. It demonstrates that Louis believed in his role as God’s anointed, and thus was concerned as a king would be about what was best for the people of France. Louis’ support for the Papacy seems somewhat dependent on the Papacy’s aims coinciding with his own: Louis wanted a well functioning French Church, he wanted the continued consolidation of his position as king and he wanted the Holy Land to be recaptured and he cooperated with the papacy to this end.[20] Further evidence that Louis only supported the Papacy when it suited his efforts is found in the struggles between Frederick II and Innocent IV. Only when Frederick captured and arrested members of the French clergy would Louis protest on the Papacy’s behalf.[21]  This shows that while Louis would support the Papacy in theory, in practice it was only necessary to do so when Louis’ own political interests were supported. Joinville recounts an occasion at the French parliament in which the Bishops criticised the King’s financial attitude towards the clergy. Joinville writes,


‘The Bishop of Chartres,’ said the King, ‘desired me to restore him on credit what I held of his; and I told him that I should not do so until my castle were paid for. And I told him that he was my sworn liegeman, and that he was behaving neither well nor loyally towards me, in trying to rob me of my heritage.’[22]


While this appears to demonstrate a convenient realpolitik on the part of Louis, it actually demonstrates that Louis’s adherence to the Two Swords theory which Louis moved away from in other regards. Louis would not tell the clergy how to preach, and required they left terrestrial matters to him. Whether or not this in itself was realpolitik is somewhat irrelevant, the ideals of piety where still being upheld.


Furthermore, the saintly virtue of Louis is found in being a good king, and the previous examples are evidence of Louis’ good kingship.[23]  Joinville recounts:


“After King Louis had returned to France from overseas, he bore himself very devoutly towards our Saviour, and very justly towards his subjects; wherefore he considered and thought it would be a fair thing, and a good, to reform the realm of France.”[24]


Joinville then goes on to list some rather dull administrative reforms which Louis dictated to his bailiffs. It is interesting that this was published in the Chronicles of the Crusades, alongside accounts of Louis’ struggles in the Holy Land and of his devotion to charity, which are clear displays of his piety, as it gives evidence that for Louis, good kingship is a part of being pious. Indeed, in his descriptions of Louis, Joinville believes that Louis’ conduct as king was the manifestation of his piety, as it showed Louis representing the divine justice.[25] Therefore, even ignoring Louis’ religious devotion, piety became important to Louis because ideals of piety and good kingship were deeply connected.


The piety of Louis IX was beneficial to both his own political aims and the aims of his descendants, and was important part of his reign, both personally and as part of his policy.  Louis’ charitable donations to monasteries are reminiscent of an early social welfare system, demonstrating cross over between the religious aspects of Louis’ reign and other areas of policy. Louis’ conflicts with the church appear to demonstrate medieval realpolitik with regards to the French religion, but it rather demonstrates that the piety of good kingship was of the highest importance to Louis. Piety was, therefore, extremely important to the reign of Louis IX, as it was a central part of his royal policy.




Charlemagne, Charlemagne’s Letter to Leo III. From the Lecture One Handout.

De Joinville, J. (1309) HE MEMOIRS OF THE LORD OF JOINVILLE A NEW ENGLISH            VERSION. Available at: http://www.indiana.edu/~dmdhist/joinville.htm (Accessed: 6 March 2016).Translated by Ethel Wedgwood. Accessed via the University of Indiana

De Joinville, J. and Villehardouin (1908) Memoirs of the crusades – 1908, page v by           Villehardouin, Jean De Joinville. Available at:            https://www.questia.com/read/13563184/memoirs-of-the-crusades (Accessed: 6      March 2016). Translated by Sir Frank Marzials. Originally published in London by     JM Dent & Sons and in New York by EP Dutton & Co


Gaposchkin, M.C. (2008), The Making of Saint Louis: Kingship, Sanctity, and Crusade in the Later Middle Ages. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press


Hallam, E.M. and Everard, J. (2001) Capetian France, 987-1328. 2nd edn. Harlow: Pearson


Jordan, W.C. (1979) Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership.       Princeton


Labarge, M. W. (1968), Saint Louis. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode


Richard, J. (1992) Saint Louis: Crusader King of France. Trans. J. Birrell. Cambridge:       Cambridge University Press


Swanson, R.N. (1995), Religion and Devotion in Europe, c.1215-c.1515. Cambridge:         Cambridge University Press





[1] Jordan, W.C. (1979) Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership. Princeton, p. 152

[2] Richard, J. (1992) Saint Louis: Crusader King of France. Trans. J. Birrell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 237 and Labarge, M. W. (1968), Saint Louis. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, p. 17

[3] Swanson, R.N. (1995), Religion and Devotion in Europe, c.1215-c.1515. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 21 – 22

[4] Richard (1992), p. 152

[5] Charlemagne, Charlemagne’s First Letter to Leo III. From the Lecture One Handout

[6] Hallam, E.M. and Everard, J. (2001) Capetian France, 987-1328. 2nd edn. Harlow: Pearson, p. 299
ibliographyity, and Crusade in  of the highest importance to Louis.of piety and good kingship were deeply connected. oblem to b

[7] Swanson (1995), p. 2

[8]  Gaposchkin, M.C. (2008), The Makking of Saint Louis: Kingship, Sanctity, and Crusade in the Later Middle Ages. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, p. 8

[9] De Joinville, J. (1309) HE MEMOIRS OF THE LORD OF JOINVILLE A NEW ENGLISH VERSION. Available at: http://www.indiana.edu/~dmdhist/joinville.htm (Accessed: 6 March 2016).Translated by Ethel Wedgwood. Accessed via the University of Indiana.

[10] Jordan (1979), p. 184

[11] Ibid, p. 185

[12] Ibid, pp. 187 – 188

[13] Gaposchkin (2008), pp. 4, 5

[14] Swanson (1995), pp. 126, 155

[15] Gaposchkin (2008), p. 48

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid, pp. 59 – 60

[18] Ibid, pp. 30 – 31

[19] Hallam and Everard (2001), p. 306

[20] Ibid. p. 308

[21] Ibid, p. 308

[22] De Joinville, J. (1309)

[23] Gaposchkin (2008), p. 65

[24] De Joinville, J. and Villehardouin (1908) Memoirs of the crusades – 1908, page v by Villehardouin, Jean De Joinville. Available at: https://www.questia.com/read/13563184/memoirs-of-the-crusades (Accessed: 6 March 2016). Translated by Sir Frank Marzials. Originally published in London by JM Dent & Sons and in New York by EP Dutton & Co, p. 311

[25] Gaposchkin (2008), p 195

Was Frederick Barbarossa a Failure?

Upon his accession to the throne in 1152, Frederick Barbarossa became the leader of an empire which had fallen from grace thanks to incidents such as the Investiture Contest and was weakened by power struggles between the Welf and the Hohenstaufen families since the end of the Staufen line in 1125. Frederick’s main aim was to re-establish the prestige and power of the Empire after the embarrassment of Henry IV at Canossa in 1077, and to help it to recover from it’s weakened state.[1] This essay seeks to establish whether Frederick could be considered a failure. There are two standards by which Frederick must be judged in order to determine whether he was a success or a failure: the traditional historiographical view of Germany and the personal aims of Frederick Barbarossa. It is erroneous for historians to judge Frederick Barbarossa as a failure in comparison to Phillip Augustus and Henry II as he had different goals. In his own aims, Frederick may not have achieved them all, especially in Italy, but his successes in Germany and against the Papacy means does he was not a total failure.


The traditional criticism of the German empire under Frederick Barbarossa originates from an analysis of the empire by Samuel von Pufendorf, which describes the empire as an “irregular and monstrous state” which was neither a monarchy nor a federal system of states.[2] Some historians, such as Geoffrey Baraclough, argue that Germany was “developing” between 911 and 1075 and this process of development was ruined by the investiture controversy and the Concordat of Worms.[3]  Historian John Gillingham has summarised the main arguments historians have used as to why Germany faced a decline at this time into four points: the Crown lost revenue due to the need to buy support during the civil war, the election of the monarch was not progressive towards a hereditary monarchy, control of the church was lost by the kings and the Investiture Contest fundamentally changed Germany.[4] These are perhaps not only insufficient markers of success, but inaccurate statements generally. For example, while the Hohenstauffen indeed lost some of their estates, by 1197 the Hohenstauffen had recovered vast amounts of land, (although there was a decline in the thirteenth century, after Frederick’s time).[5] Furthermore, the elected monarchy was not so different from elsewhere in Europe. In 1199 England, there was no clear successor to the throne, and John was elected instead of Arthur. Even the Capetians, who had a clear hereditary line from 987 – 1314, never made a specific hereditary claim.[6] Besides which, the election of a monarch may have actually been beneficial to a nascent idea of “Germany” as a nation.  The election of the emperor was more likely a unifying force, bringing together states which otherwise might not have had much to do with each other due to poor communication networks.[7] The loss of control over the church and how the investiture contest changed Germany are intrinsically linked, and the impacts of these will be examined in greater detail later in this essay. Therefore, criticisms of Frederick’s Germany under these criteria may be both inappropriate and inaccurate.


This being said, Frederick may have helped to bring the past closer to the present by other means, away from the area of high politics and the centralisation of power. In 1158, in an act considered the first university charter, Frederick recognised and agreed to protect the status of the university of Bologna.[8] Frederick’s support of the university of Bologna was largely because of the legal research of Roman law being conducted there, which strengthened his own position in the empire. Frederick himself said that, “There are two things by which we should govern the Empire, the sacred laws of the emperors and the good practices of our predecessors and ancestors”, but this was still a formal recognition of an institute of learning. [9] For a traditional historian looking for a progression towards modernity, no better example could be found than this, as it represents the official recognition of a university by a government, and the understanding that the rule of government should be based in law. The official recognition of a university, regardless of the motives behind it, represents a concrete step towards the modern era.


Furthermore, and somewhat paradoxically, Frederick was a driving force of a secular form of government. This is despite of this being at the time when “Holy” began to become incorporated into the title of the Empire, despite Frederick’s building of monasteries, and despite Frederick’s reliance on his anointment for his authority.[10] Frederick said of the duties of the Papacy and the Empire that, “that at the time of His passion Christ was content to have two swords, was, we believe, a marvellous revelation regarding the Roman Church and the roman empire, since by these two institutions the whole world is directed in both divine and human matters.”[11] This is far removed from the role of the Empire that Charlemagne defined in his letter to Pope Leo III, “It is our function – to the extent that divine goodness aids us – externally to defend Christ’s holy church on every side by force of arms against the incursions of pagans and the devastations of infidels (and) internally to strengthen it in knowledge of the Catholic faith. It is your, most holy father, to aid our struggle with hands raised to God, like Moses… ”[12] Frederick redefined the empire’s duties and theoretically removed the spiritual aspect. Thus the empire, better and more narrowly defined, was placed in a better position to succeed. This is ot necessarily as paradoxical as it seems. Frederick recognises that his power comes from God, but that God has granted him spiritual control. By emphasising this distinction, Frederick is able to pursue secular aims, and remove an aspect of the power struggle between the Empire and the Papacy. Despite neither the Empire nor the Papacy sticking to the definitions of their roles as defined by the Two Swords theory, this allowed the Papacy and the Emperor to be seen on equal terms, an eventuality which would not have been possible immediately after Canossa.


Focusing solely on whether Frederick was a success based on whether he helped Europe to progress to “modernity” is an inaccurate and somewhat arrogant endeavour, however. Frederick’s successes and failures must be considered against his own personal aims. Frederick’s aims were to “restore the glory of the crown.”[13] Although Frederick still desired to restore the glory of the crown in Germany, Frederick was happy to accept the power of the Princes as central to his own. He was not opposed to Princes exerting personal power over their vassals in the same way that he exerted power over his own. He was, however, able to exert influence over the Princes of Germany. For example, when Frederick issued a Royal Proclamation to the Princes to end feuding between them, and this was obeyed.[14]


Frederick could be considered a failure because his reign was only strong in the areas where he was periodically able to visit, thus displaying the weakness of the Empire.[15] It must be remembered however, that Frederick inherited a weak Empire, which he succeeded in strengthening.[16] Frederick was sometimes challenged in Germany, most notably by Henry the Lion, a Welf and the duke of Saxony and Swabia. When, following the Peace of Venice, Henry’s territorial expansionism became too great a concern for Frederick, Frederick confiscated Henry’s lands.[17] This represented a success for Frederick as his power was achieved through law, not force; Henry was declared an outlaw after refusing to attend a summons under the Landrecht in 1179, and his lands were not stripped until Henry failed to comply with three consecutive summons at Würzburg in January 1180.[18] This left no dispute that Frederick was the most powerful man in Germany. Furthermore, Frederick was able to extend the prestige of the empire internationally. In 1157, Henry II of England swore to Frederick “To you, as the superior, falls right to command; we shall not lack the will to obey.”[19] Although this was mostly a nominal pledge, binding Henry to little in practice, it represents that Frederick maintained a position of prestige in the Europe. Frederick’s ability to exert control and influence over the Princes of Germany, despite allowing them high degrees of autonomy represents a success with regards to his German aims as by earning the approval of the majority of the Princes (and deposing his major enemies) whilst strengthening his own position and that of the kingdom can only be a success.


Karl Hampe asserts that Frederick Barbarossa was “merely the first among equals”.[20] This is inaccurate. Hampe describes Frederick’s apparent weakness with regards to exerting his power over the Princes. It is as if Hampe is arguing that because Frederick was not a dictator, his leadership was a failure. It is true that Frederick Barbarossa was not a dictator, but he had rights which were vastly above what the remainder of the aristocracy in Germany possessed. For example, after the fall of Henry the Lion in 1180, Frederick was able to reassign land, raising various aristocrats of his choosing to the level of Dukes, such as Otto von Wiffelsbach in Bavaria, the Margrave of Styxia and the Count of Anduchs-Meran.[21] It could be argued that Frederick was a failure because the allodial land in possession of Henry the Lion returned to control of the Welfs.[22] However by returning allodial lands to the Welfs, this shows that Frederick believed in the rule of law, and that even the King was bound by it. This demonstrates honour and prestige, and a modern way of considering government. In Germany, a better analogy for the role of Frederick Barbarossa might be that of president of the United States; Barbarossa could not function without his Princes (Senators, Congressmen, etc.) but he did possess special privileges, such as the power to redistribute land, and was a lot more than a first among equals.


Frederick’s aims in Italy were different to Germany. Whereas in the Kingdom of Germany Frederick openly recognised that his position relied on the power of the Princes, in Italy Frederick wished to be recognised as a King in the same way the Kings of England and France were recognised. To this end, Frederick used force to attempt to subdue the Italian cities. In a letter to Otto of Friesing, Frederick writes that, “Because this land, on account of the prolonged absence of the emperors, had become arrogant and, conscious of its strength, had initiated rebellion, we were wroth and destroyed almost all its strongholds by the just and righteous anger not of out knights but of the lower ranks.”[23] This demonstrates that Frederick struggled to impress his power on the people of Italy, even using force. Although he did eventually coerce Milan into subjugation for a while and and as a result issued the Roncaglian decrees, which declared that all Italian men must swear fealty personally to him, this was not to last.[24] While the nobility of Italy generally acquiesced, the cities of Italy, especially Genoa and Milan, resisted him.[25] Not only this, but the Roncaglian decrees backfired considerably. Seeing Frederick’s imperial ambition as a severe threat, the Byzantine emperor Manuel I organised northern Italian cities, led by the Republic of Venice, into the powerful Lombard League in 1167.[26] Additionally, although the Papacy was fearful of the Empire’s ambitions for the Holy See territories, and was originally incapable of defending itself, the resulting schism found after the death of Pope Hadrian IV in 1159 saw divided support for the two Popes, which left Frederick facing difficult international position in Europe, with England supporting Frederick’s choice and France supporting Alexander III. This made advancement into the Holy See a more aruduous task. The formation of the Lombard League and their subsequent alliance with Alexander III, saw Frederick enter into a long struggle in Italy which for much of Frederick’s reign diminished his power in central Europe to almost nil. In this is evidence of some of Fredericks military failures, most notably in the six-month siege of Alessandria.[27] Italy at this stage is an example of Frederick’s failure. Not only did Frederick fail to earn obedience to his Roncaglian decrees but he failed to exert control over the Kingdom of Italy, and failed to establish himself as a Franco-English style ruler there.


This being said, the outcome of the conflict Frederick entered into with the Papacy during his second Italian campaigns is perhaps Frederick’s biggest success with regards to restoring the position and prestige of the empire, if not to his desired position in Italy. Thanks to turning Cremona to his own aims on the battle of Legnano in 1176, Frederick’s conflict in Italy ended with the Treaties of Anagni and Venice.[28] At a glance, the Peaces of Anagni and Venice may resemble another Canossa; in 1176 Frederick recognises Alexander as Pope after 17 years of struggle and kisses his feet.[29]  Frederick was in a much stronger position than Henry had been at Canossa, however. In Venice, Frederick, aware that the Papacy was weakened by the war and required a peace treaty more than he did, was able to exploit other parties at Venice and strengthen his position relative to the Pope.[30] Frederick’s negotiation’s reduced the power of both the Papacy and the Lombard League in Central Italy, making him the most powerful player in the area. Additionally, the Emperor’s power base in the Matildine Lands was to be retained under the Venetian treaty, and allowance not granted in the original treaty at Anagni. [31]Although Frederick did not achieve total domination over the Papacy, this was entirely consistent with his aims due to Frederick’s strong belief in the “Two Swords” concept of rule in Europe. As Frederick’s aims of domination were only in the Temporal sphere, this aim can be said to have been achieved. Thus whereas Canossa demonstrated the Emperor’s subordination to the Pope, Venice demonstrated that the Emperor was the Pope’s equal, the Temporal Sword to the Pope’s Spiritual Sword.


Frederick Barbarossa vastly increased the power and prestige of the Empire in Europe. His aims in Germany were to strengthen the Kingdom and the prestige of the imperial office. He was not concerned with being able to rule without the support of the princes, and thus was successful in his endeavours. In Italy, there was conflict between the aims of Frederick Barbarossa and the Italian princes. In Italy, Frederick wished to rule in a more authoritarian manner. The Princes resisted him, and although Frederick was unable to ever fully assert himself in Italy as a King, after a long power struggle with the Lombard League and the Holy See, clever diplomacy and a strengthened army were able to secure Frederick as the dominant power in Northern and Central Italy. Though seldom talked about, and not directly a part of his political aims, Frederick’s actions to promote institutions such as the university of Bologna and secularisation both helped to promote the status of the empire in ways Frederick may not have directly anticipated. Frederick Barbarossa did not achieve all of his aims, but it would be a harsh critic who labelled him a failure.





Arnold, B. (1997) Medieval Germany, 500-1300: A political interpretation. London:          Palgrave Macmillan.

Charlemagne, Charlemagne’s Letter to Leo III. From the Lecture One Handout.

Freising, O. of (1994) The deeds of Frederick Barbarossa. Translated by Charles Mierow. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Gillingham, J. (1971) The kingdom of Germany in the high middle ages (900-1200). London:        The Historical Association.

Hampe, K. (1974) Germany under the Salian and Hohenstaufen emperors. Oxford:           Blackwell Publishers. With an introduction by Ralph Bennet.

Haverkamp, A. (1988) Medieval Germany: 1056 – 1273. Translated by Helga Braun and    Richard Mortimer. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pacaut, M. (1967) Frederick Barbarossa. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. London and      Glasgow: Collins.


[1] Pacaut, M. (1967) Frederick Barbarossa. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. London and Glasgow: Collins, p. 65

[2] Gillingham, J. (1971) The kingdom of Germany in the high middle ages (900-1200). London: The Historical Association, p. 3

[3] Ibid, p. 4

[4] Ibid, pp. 4, 5

[5] Ibid, p. 5

[6] Ibid, pp. 5, 6

[7] Ibid, p. 5

[8] Pacaut, M. (1967), p. 86

[9] Arnold, B. (1997) Medieval Germany, 500-1300: A political interpretation. London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 103

[10] Pacaut, M. (1967), p. 49 and Freising, O. of (1994) The deeds of Frederick Barbarossa. Translated by Charles Mierow. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p. 18

[11]Arnold, B. (1997), p. 104

[12] Charleagne, Charlemagne’s First Letter to Leo III. From the Lecture One Handout

[13] Pacaut, M. (1967), p. 56

[14] Ibid, p. 63

[15] Gillingham, J. (1971), pp. 30, 31

[16] Hampe, K. (1974) Germany under the Salian and Hohenstaufen emperors. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. With an introduction by Ralph Bennet, p. 157

[17] Ibid, pp. 199-200, 203

[18] Ibid, p. 203

[19] Ibid, p. 155

[20] Ibid, p. 155

[21] Gillingham, J. (1971), p. 13

[22] Ibid.

[23] Freising, O. of (1994), p. 18

[24] Pacaut, M. (1967), p. 86

[25] Ibid.

[26] Haverkamp, A. (1988) Medieval Germany: 1056 – 1273. Translated by Helga Braun and Richard Mortimer. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 226

[27] Ibid, p. 228

[28] Ibid, p. 229

[29] Arnold, B. (1997), p. 194

[30] Ibid, p. 195

[31] Ibid, p. 196

Is there a conflict between Hobbes’s account of Sovereignty by Acquisition and Sovereignty by Institution?

“For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.”[1]

-Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan


Thomas Hobbes’s seminal text Leviathan was published in England in 1651. The quote above summarises Hobbes’s main concern voiced in the text; preserving peace. He believed that the best way to do this was by forming a government headed by an absolute entity, a Leviathan. Hobbes was writing in the context of the English Civil War. Hobbes had his political views founded and shaped by this event. In the text, Hobbes states that there are two means by which men form covenants with the Sovereign. These are Sovereignty by Institution and Sovereignty by Acquisition. Some have said that there is a conflict between Hobbes’s account of Sovereignty by acquisition and by intuition. This essay seeks to assess possible conflicts between Hobbes’s account of Sovereignty by acquisition and Sovereignty by institution. This essay will argue that not only is there no conflict between Sovereignty by acquisition and inquisition, there is not a difference between the two. This is because they are formed on the same principles, by the same means and are subject to the same conditions. These all stem from Hobbes’s profound aversion to violence.


For Sovereignty both by acquisition and inquisition to be understood, it must be understood that Hobbes was moved primarily by a desire to preserve peace, a desire which arose from his experiences with the English Civil War. The preservation of peace was Hobbes’s main motivation in establishing absolute Sovereigns by institution or acquisition. For Hobbes, a Sovereign was anybody who could bring an end to the tragedy which is the State of War. Hobbes himself acknowledges that the English Civil War influenced his writing. In Leviathan’s Review and Conclusion Hobbes writes: “And thus I have brought to an end my Discourse of Civill and Ecclesiasticall Government, occasioned by the disorders of the present time, without partiality”.[2] This demonstrates that Hobbes was responding to the political situation in England at the time without attempting to fall into the bad books of any of those present. Hobbes’s fear of the State of War was exacerbated by personal loss in the English Civil War. In both the dedication, and the Review and Conclusion, Hobbes references his deceased friend, Sidney Goldophin.[3]  This shows that Hobbes had personal motivations for ending the violence of the English Civil War.  The English Civil War shaped Hobbes’s view that peace was to be desired above all else, and that in order to either preserve or establish peace, we should accept all de facto power as legitimate. For Hobbes, both Sovereignty by acquisition and institution are influenced by fear. Hobbes believes that the Sovereign is simply one who can protect you under the law.[4]  Further evidence that Hobbes’s desire to preserve peace came from the English Civil War is found elsewhere in the review and conclusion. “There is nothing in this whole Discourse … contrary to … the disturbance of Publique Tranquility.”[5] Hobbes believed that peace was to be desired for two main reasons, namely that a State of War naturally puts you at a disadvantage, because people can kill you, but also to honour the covenants you have made.[6] This shows that Hobbes was fearful of a backlash from his works, and was hoping to protect both himself and that which was most important to him; peace. For Hobbes, it did not matter by which means power was vested, so long as an absolute ruler was capable of preserving the peace.


Hobbes’s Sovereignty by institution is designed to preserve peace between the subjects of the Sovereign. According to Hobbes, Sovereignty by institution is the means by which Sovereigns were first implemented amongst men, and how civilisation was begun out of a State of Nature. Hobbes claims that Sovereignty by Institution is when a covenant amongst men is formed out of their fear of one another.[7] With regards to a Common-wealth by institution, Hobbes writes; “A Common-wealth is said to be Instituted, when a Multitude of men do Agree, and Covenant, Every One With Every One, that to whatsoever Man, or Assembly Of Men, shall be given by the major part, the Right to Present the Person of them all, (that is to say, to be their Representative;) every one, as well he that Voted For It, as he that Voted Against It, shall Authorise all the Actions and Judgements, of that Man, or Assembly of men, in the same manner, as if they were his own, to the end, to live peaceably amongst themselves, and be protected against other men.”[8] This means that men agree to covenant with each other to decide upon a leader to represent and protect them and that because this leader protects them, that men are bound to obey him. David Hume suggests that Sovereignty by institution is an almost entirely theoretical exercise. Although Hobbes claims that upon the authorisation of the Sovereign in the creation of the commonwealth, the Sovereign cannot be disobeyed, Hobbes does allow a useful caveat to this. Hobbes says it is ok to be disloyal to a Sovereign once it becomes clear that the Sovereign is no longer capable of protecting your life.[9] According to Hobbes, so long as the Sovereign is able to preserve peace and your life, you owe obedience to him.


Sovereignty by acquisition is designed to ensure peace between the Sovereign and his new subjects. Sovereignty by acquisition is the application of the more theoretical Sovereignty by institution. Hobbes claims that Sovereignty by acquisition is Sovereignty obtained by force, and that the Sovereignty of the conqueror is authorised when one has their life or liberty under the control of the would-be Sovereign.[10] This is a very de facto approach to Sovereignty, Hobbes argues that any power which exists is legitimate. Hobbes argues that authority in Sovereignty by acquisition is based on the same premise with which a father exacts authority over his children.[11] Despite Hobbes’ claim that Sovereignty by Acquisition is different from Sovereinty by Institution, this does not really hold up to scrutiny. Hobbes acknowledges only one difference between Sovereignty by institution and Sovereignty by acquisition which lies in the fact that Sovereignnty by institution was enacted through fear of their fellows in the state of nature, whereas Sovereignty by acquisition is a covenant formed through fear of the invading Sovereign.[12] This is mere semantics, however, as both types of Sovereignty are formed out of a fear that someone is able to take your life. Hobbes claims that the rights of Sovereign are the same in both forms of Commonwealth.[13] Namely, the Sovereign cannot have his power transferred without his consent, he cannot be accused by his subjects, and he cannot be punished by his subjects.[14] Furthermore, Hobbes believes that there exists a permanent state of war between nations, so it naturally follows that should one nation become victorious over another, that there should be an end to violence.


Having now understood Hobbes’s definitions for Sovereignty by Institution and Acquisition, it can be demonstrated that not only does no conflict exist, but they are in fact the same. Thinkers such as David Gauther argue that as Hobbes argues that the Sovereignty by Acquisition is of that between a “Child to the Parent”, there is an inconsistency in Hobbes’s argument as children are not able to form the covenants required to authorise Sovereignty.[15] This does not stand up to scrutiny of the text, however. Hobbes suggests a number of reasons why children owe obedience to their parents. Hobbes says that children must be obedient towards their parents because children are dependent upon them.[16] Hobbes provides further evidence that children are bound to obey their parents from scripture, Collosians, 3:20 says, “Children obey your Parents in All things.”[17] There is only a contradiction between Hobbes’s account of sovereignty by acquisition and Hobbes’s other writings when the entirety of the text is not considered.


It could be argued that a conflict between Hobbes’s account of Sovereignty by institution and acquisition arises with regards to the terms of the covenants made to authorise a Sovereign by institution in Chapter XIV, when Hobbes writes, “A former Covenant, makes voyd a later. For a man hath passed away his Right to one man to day, hath it not to passe to morrow to another: and therefore the later promise passeth no Right, but is null.”[18] This appears to instantly invalidate any Sovereignty by Acquisition, seeming to give ultimate authority the original Sovereign, that of institution. This is is only when the quotation is taken out of context, however. The very next passage explains how covenants made which endanger the life of the person making the covenant are invalid.[19] This demonstrates that the apparent indefeasibility of covenants made are in fact not indefeasible because of the caveat which allows people to protect their own lives. This is further supported by a passage in Chapter XXI which claims that when the command of a Sovereign places one’s life in danger then “yet hath that man the liberty to disobey.”[20] This is further demonstration that contradictions in Hobbes’s accounts of sovereignty only exist when terms are taken out of context.


Finally, we must examine the difference which Hobbes himself claims exists between Sovereignty by institution and Sovereignty by acquisition. Hobbes states that a Sovereignty by institution differs from Sovereignty by acquisition in that  Sovereignty by institution is authorised by men covenanting amongst themselves for fear of each other. Hobbes argues that Sovereignty by acquisition is authorised by covenants made amongst men out of fear of a conquering Sovereign.[21] The only difference, therefore appears to be one of semantics. Both Sovereignty by institution and Sovereignty by acquisition are established through covenants made amongst men out of fear of an individual or individuals, be they potential sovereigns or their fellow man. Hobbes goes on to write that after such a covenant is established, an individual is not at liberty to break it, and they owe total obedience to their Sovereign unless their life is threatened.[22] There is no conflict in Hobbes’s account of Sovereignty by acquisition Sovereignty by institution and acquisition arise from ultimately the same circumstances and are bound by the same conditions.


Sovereignty by institution is a covenant people make amongst themselves to surrender their powers to a Sovereign in order bring about the peace which a State of Nature lacks. A Sovereign by acquisition brings order to a nation besieged by war, freeing people from a state of war. Therefore, not only is their not a contradiction between a Sovereign of institution and a Sovereign of acquisition, there is not a difference between the two. The belief in ultimate authority by a Leviathan for Hobbes was shaped by his belief that peace should be valued above all else. Thus, whether Hobbes was experiencing war due to existing in a state of nature, or due to a conquering force, obedience to the de facto ruler was paramount for the establishment of security through peace. Any distinction made is for clarity in light of the overthrow of previously established government during the English Civil War. For Hobbes, the ability to rule effectively was a legitimisation of said rule, and the establishment of the regime by conquest or from a state of nature is wholly irrelevant.

[1] Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan (2013th, Empire Books, United States ed.), p. 74

[2] Ibid, p. 346

[3] Ibid, p. 341

[4] Hoekstra, K. (2004). The de facto Turn in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy. In P. T. Sorell, L. Foisneau, & T. Sorell (Eds.), Leviathan after 350 years (pp. 33–74). New York: Oxford University Press, p. 38

[5] Hobbes, p. 346

[6] Taylor, A. E. (1969). The Ethical Doctrine of Hobbes. In B. Baumrin (Ed.), Hobbes’s Leviathan (pp. 35–49). Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, p. 36

[7] Hobbes, p. 95

[8] Hobbes, p. 82

[9] Ibid, p. 64

[10] Ibid, p. 95

[11] Ibid, p. 82

[12] Ibid, p. 95

[13] Ibid, p.  96

[14] Ibid.

[15] Gauthier, D. P. (1969). The logic of ‘leviathan’: The moral and political theory of Thomas Hobbes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 117 and Hobbes, p. 95

[16] Hobbes, p. 167

[17] Ibid, p. 99

[18] Ibid, p. 65

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid, p. 104

[21] Ibid, p. 95

[22] Ibid, p. 96



Gauthier, D. P. (1969). The logic of ‘leviathan’: The moral and political theory of Thomas Hobbes. Oxford: Oxford University Press,

Hobbes, T. (1651). Leviathan (2013th, Empire Books, United States ed.)
Hobbes, T. (2009, October 11). Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Retrieved November 27, 2015, from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm

Hoekstra, K. (2004). The de facto Turn in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy. In P. T. Sorell, L. Foisneau, & T. Sorell (Eds.), Leviathan after 350 years (pp. 33–74). New York: Oxford University Press.

Hume, David (1969). Of the Original Contract. In B. Baumrin (Ed.), Hobbes’s Leviathan (pp. 26–35). Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company

Taylor, A. E. (1969). The Ethical Doctrine of Hobbes. In B. Baumrin (Ed.), Hobbes’s Leviathan (pp. 35–49). Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company

Mountains, rivers, and sights to give you shivers.

I once said I would never tell anybody about Bovec, Slovenia. This was entirely out of selfishness. I wanted to preserve the mountains, rivers, forests, canyons I was amazed that there could still be such pristine places. I’m breaking that promise to myself now, because I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes people happy, and there is no better place to look for happiness than Bovec. Bovec features towering mountains and sweeping valleys of such incomprehensible beauty, as to accrue a sizeable fee, and yet where are the five star hotels? Where are the packed tour groups? They aren’t there, they haven’t found it yet. Bovec’s encompasses the beauty and sporting prestige of places like Colorado’s Boulder, or Switzerland’s Interlaken, without the exorbitant cost.


Bovec is unspoiled. A five-minute stroll from gloriously cheap yet comfortable accommodation (£7 per night anyone?) brings you to the centre of a small and thriving town. You are spoilt for choice with gelaterias, cafés and bars. After ultimately and inevitably settling on the insurmountable kebap, followed gianduia ice-cream, you may walk to the river and take in the panorama. Standing on the banks of the river Soca, if you can ignore the kayakers paddling past, you could imagine that you were witnessing the earth in a time before man. This might not be the garden of Eden, I remember thinking to myself, but you could be forgiven for thinking so.


Bovec isn’t all beauty and cheap ice cream. The literary inclined among you may recall the first half Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. It revolves around the adventures and romance of Lieutant Frederic Henry, who fought on the Italian Front on the Isonzo, which is now named the Soca Valley which is home to Bovec. Walking around the hills, you will notice the ruins of barracks and fotresses. Whilst cycling around the area, I stumbled upon a hole in the ground, perfectly round, around half a meter deep. A small sign at the far end of the pit declared the blemish to be a grenade hole. The land has forgotten this however. The trees, entirely demolished in the Great War, are today strong and verdant. Memorials stand, but are subdued, respectful but not overbearing, inviting the traveller to take a moment’s quiet contemplation before returning to their sport, travel, and admiration of what the town has to offer.


Beauty, history and ice cream aside, sport is the reason people come to Bovec. If you enjoy the outdoors and its sports, it is the place for you. Available to you are rivers which meander from serene, rush through the turbulent and barrel out of torrential, for kayakers or rafters of all standards. Hiking can vary from a jaunt which can be made without breaking a sweat to serious mountaineering. Mountain biking can be undertaken on smooth, new roads or fallen trees. You can call through caves and scramble up cliff faces. The sport Bovec offers experiences and challenges perfect to suit anyone with the slightest interested in the adventure sports.


Flicking through the battered Moleskine which served as my explorer’s journal on this trip, I opened to the entry of my last day in Slovenia. It reads like this:


Lunch today was possibly the happiest I have ever been. We had been kayaking all morning and it was insane amounts of fun, the sun was shining, I had a delicious mint and gianduja ice cream and I was content. I so rarely feel that degree of contented happiness that I simply burst out laughing. For a little while, all seemed well with the world and I was loving every minute, every blessed second of it.


If you want to find happiness, and enjoy beautiful scenery and the great outdoors on a student’s budget, it would be almost unreasonable not to consider the pristine and unspoilt Bovec.

So you want to be a Jedi?

According to census data, in 2001 Jediism was the fourth largest religion in the UK. For a few glorious years, Jediism was a larger religion in this country than Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism. Though Jediism has since declined in Britain, there are still a couple of hundred thousand Jedi Knights walking among us. You too, can join their illustrious ranks. Though you’re unlikely to be able to summon lighting from your finger tips, or hurl great boulders at Christopher Lee, thanks to the enterprising teachings of the Temple of the Jedi, and other religious orders, you can undergo the studies needed to call yourself a Jedi Knight.

Jedis do not worship George Lucas. The Star Wars films are not their scripture, though it is accepted that the films are an accessible means of expressing Jedi philosophy. Since it’s conception in the mind of George Lucas, Jediism has evolved into a complex and compelling religious order, focusing on a philosophical system reminiscent of Buddhism, Taoism and Humanism. There is very little divinity in Jediism, but a system of moral codes and teachings.


Although Jediism is more a philosophy than a religion, there is an element of mysticism involved with the hallmark of the Jedi: The Force. Jedi believed the Force to be an all pervasive presence which emanates from all life in the universe. This may instantly remind of such religious concepts as the Holy Spirit, or the Tao. In essence that is what it is, an all encompassing, ethereal aspect of the divine. Though it may seem esoteric, the Force can be applied to our own lives, especially if we use the Star Wars films as a metaphor. In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker disables the targeting computer of his X-Wing fighter, preferring to reach out with his emotions and allow the Force to guide his aim. Though exaggerated, this is actually just talking about intuition. Examples of this can be found whenever one plays physical sports. Tensing as you go into a rugby tackle will result in injury, resisting the flow the river will flip your kayak. In other words, success often arises from listening to our instincts, listening to “the Force”. This aspect of Jediism draws heavily from of Taoist principle of Wu Wei, which literally means no action, and encompasses a complex philosophical idea involving trusting your instincts, going with the flow, and being adaptable to life’s problems.  In life we must be flexible and adaptable, this is the message that the force attempts to teach us.


There are sixteen Teachings of Jediism, which have strong and clear influences from Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. The Teachings combine this Buddhist nonattachment with mindfulness and a trinity of personal well-being in the mind-body and soul. In addition to the Buddhist influenced Teachings, there is a Jedi Creed, which is heavily based on the prayer of St. Francis of Assizi, the man for who the current Pope Francis is named, it is composed of two self-affirming stanzas, which remind the would-be Jedi to adopt a mind-set of learning towards problems rather than a mind-set of deafeatism. It is adapted from Christian ideology, but the viewing of a negative situation in a positive light is also a heavily Taoist concept. The Teachings and Creed of the Jedi distil words of wisdom from established religions in ways that are both simple and appealing.


The Teachings and Creed are all supported by the Maxims. These 21 short sentences aim to encompass the aspirations of the Jedi. These feature such noble pursuits as honesty, purity and. The Maxims focus heavily on personal awareness; inviting you to pay close attention to yourself so that you might acquire knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge should then be used to improve your life, and the lives of those around you. The Maxims are the embodiment of the three Jedi Tennets of focus, wisdom and knowledge. Just as the Force connects all things, Jediism’s three Tennets of wisdom, knowledge and focus, are all deeply connected. The first Tennet is focus, which comes from removing irrelevant thoughts from your mind. The second Tennet is knowledge, which is acquired from focus. The final Tennet is wisdom, which is found in the proper application of knowledge, and through patience in your endeavours. Though these concepts may seem trite, they serve the same purpose as any affirmations, found everywhere from Christianity to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
There is nothing revolutionary about Jediism, nor is there anything childish or whimsical. It’s true that the the information page at Temple of the Jedi reads like the personal beliefs of one man, they are entirely reasonable and compelling beliefs, and are freely open to anyone to be a part of, no matter what their previously held convictions may be. The way in which Jediism is structured, and the value it espouses, appears to be just a moral code as normal as any other, wrapped in in a language and an ethos of ease, and pleasant simplicity. In your quest for spiritual guidance, don’t let Jediism slip under your radar. May the force be with you.


More information, and the doctrine of the Order of the Jedi in full can be found at www.templeofthejediorder.org.

The Spirit of Adventure

Tales told, spilled drinks, bubbling laughter:

Of wet, tired bodies, of freezing fear.

You’ve done nothing until you’re warm, after


Dizzying drops, avoiding disaster,

Snow, ice and cliffs uncomfortably near.
Tales told, spilled drinks, bubbling laughter


Struggling, wishing your pack was lighter,

Feet slogging, grinding like a broken gear

You’ve done nothing until the warm times after


The mountain proves that she’s your master

Wettest, coldest day of the year

Tales told, spilled drinks, bubbling laughter


Rushing water; swimming is longer

Rapids hidden in water most unclear

You’ve done nothing until the warm times after


Icy pints, antlers in the rafters

Roaring fire, fresh socks, dry clothes are here.

Drinks spill, tales told with bubbling laughter

of adventures, now you’re warm and it’s after.

Is it better to speak of ‘fall’ or ‘transformation’ when discussing the shift from Roman to Anglo-Saxon Britain?

The date usually given as the final end of the Roman Empire in Britain is 410, as this is the date when Rome became incapable of sending troops to Britain for defence against Pictish attacks.[1] Examining history of this time period can be a daunting endeavour. There is little written record between approximately 400 and 600; knowledge from that time must be based almost entirely on archaeological evidence.[2] This essay examines whether the Roman Empire experience a massive collapse and was replaced by Anglo-Saxon culture, or whether Roman Culture gradually shifted to something which eventually came to be Anglo-Saxon. The word ‘fall’ in the essay title implies that the people of Romano-Britain became less prosperous, and aspects of Romano-British defined as Roman vanished. Transformation, on the other hand, implies that Roman culture gradually morphed into something recognisably Anglo-Saxon. By examining post-Roman economics, architecture, language and religion, this essay seeks to establish that both are true. Although the Roman Empire fell in Britain, it was still present in a diluted form before being subsumed into Anglo-Saxon culture. It is not appropriate to describe the shift from Roman to Anglo-Saxon Britain as either a fall or a transformation, but rather first a fall and then a transformation.


Perhaps the most convincing evidence of a Roman fall in Britain is the disappearance of a Roman material economy. Dated Roman coinage has been found all over Britain, but almost no coins have been discovered dated after around 400.[3] Though this isn’t evidence that people stopped using Roman coins after 400 (as old-coins are still useable), there had been times prior to the fifth century when no new coinage had arrived from Rome. During these occasions, Roman-Britons had minted their own coins. This did not happed after 410, indicating a fall of Roman economics.[4]  Despite this, there is evidence that Roman economics survived in a diluted form after 410. Rare post-410 Roman coins have been discovered in areas in which Roman settlements had previously existed, such as the farmstead Bradley Hill.[5]  In areas which developed after the withdrawal of the Romans however, no coins have been found. The Cornish fortress of Tintagel was an important economic and political hub in the fifth and sixth centuries and no coins from the period have been found there.[6] This implies that Roman civilisation underwent a fall as the use of coinage broke down so quickly after the exit of the Romans from Britain. It also indicates a transformation however, as Roman coinage still existed, but was used to a lesser degree. It demonstrates that Roman culture existed in a weakened form, still present, but unable to project itself into the rest of Britain.


In addition to coins, pottery was a staple of the Roman economy. After 410 in Britain, quality pottery which was ubiquitous during the Roman occupation, completely disappeared.[7] After the departure of Romans, British pottery production declined. There was none of the Roman quality of pots; pots found from this period are fragile, undecorated and handmade.[8] The decline in pottery is further evidence of sharp economic decline (and therefore a fall of the Romans) in Britain after the exit of the Romans in 410 as it shows Roman-Britons lived a poorer quality of life.


Evidence of a fallen Rome in Britain can be found in the architectural styles of the time. Architectural evidence suggests that Roman culture and tastes still existed in Britain following the exit of the Romans, but in not so grand a style. Wroxter was a Roman town which had been fallen from classical glory by 350, ending its stint gorgeous example of Roman architectural achievement and falling into use as a dilapidated shanty-town.[9] Archaeological evidence suggests that the shanty-town was later cleared and replaced with Roman-style structure. This featured a large, porticoed, stepped structure, possibly a temple of some kind or a public building.[10] Unlike the previous Roman structures however, it had been made with wood instead of stone.[11] The fact that Post-Roman Britain (at least in this specific area) clearly demonstrates Roman influence but that the structure could only be made from timber instead of Roman stone is evidence there was not an (immediately) transformation to Anglo-Saxon culture, but that a diluted Roman culture persisted.


There is evidence to suggest that the Roman Empire did not collapse so much as crumble away, and that this process began long before 410. It continued until the last remnants of Roman culture were totally dominated by Anglo-Saxon culture. Richard Reece argues that the decline of Roman Britain actually came much earlier, in the third century when towns, a staple of Roman political and social life, began to decrease in popularity.[12] Reece bases this on the fact that archaeological evidence suggests that, as with Wroxeter, towns fell into a state of abandonment and disrepair in the late third century.[13] Reece implies that the transformation away from Roman life happened much earlier than the established date of approximately 410. Guy Halsall counters this well, noting that by being Roman did not necessarily conform to a specific set of values throughout it’s entirety, though there is a difference between declining economic conditions and shifting cultural values.[14] The move away from towns and dilapidation of buildings however implies that an an economic recession was already beginning which culminated in the aforementioned drying up of currency and the destruction of the pottery industry, thus demonstrating the slow fall of the Roman Empire.


Anthropologists consider that language and culture are inextricably woven together.[15]  Therefore, one of the best ways to examine the shift from Roman to Anglo-Saxon Britain is through language. Arguments for a fallen Roman Empire, rather than an immediate transformation, are evident in the structure of even modern English. The Old English of the Anglo-Saxons (as with modern English) contains almost no loanwords from the Romano-British language, Brittonic.[16] This suggests that the Romano-British adopted Anglo-Saxon culture, and that Roman influence was not strong enough to project itself back onto the Anglo-Saxon culture, in this case language. Were Roman culture stronger in Britain, it is likely that the English language would have a flavour more similar to romance languages, such as French and Spanish. French and Spain These were regions also conquered by Germanic tribes, but their languages have a far greater Latinate influence, suggesting the Roman influence did not fall as greatly in these areas as it did in Britain.[17] There was some linguistic mixing however in the form of names. For a time, some people adopted both Germanic and Roman names. For example, in the sixth century there was a duke by the Anglo-Saxon name of Gundulf, who had a brother named Nicetius.[18] Though there is a suggestion that the name Gundulf was adopted upon entering the service of an Anglo-Saxon king, it nonetheless demonstrates a time of mixed naming practices. These practises are an example that there was a diluted Roman culture with enough presence in Britain to be gradually transformed to Anglo-Saxon culture. Unable to offer substantial resistance to Anglo-Saxon influences, a weakened Roman culture was gradually pushed out by Anglo-Saxon culture.


Analysis of religion is fairly anomalous in the context of this essay. Religious beliefs cannot fall, but one form of religious practice can be substituted for another. Therefore, religion is an example of an area where Post-Roman Britain experienced a transformation rather than a fall. Archaeological by researchers such as Charles Thomas has suggested that by the late 4th century, Britain was heavily Christianised.[19] This is reinforced by the fact that after 312, Roman Emperors were Christian and showed favouritism towards other Christians.[20] Though sources such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle point to a Christian Anglo-Saxon world (and it is indeed likely that some aspect of Christianity left by the Romans remained in Britain), most Anglo-Saxons in Britain were pagan, as is documented by seventh century missions to Britain.[21] This demonstrates that religion is another aspect of Roman culture which was transformed by the arrival of the Saxons. Christianity was reintroduced by arrival of St. Augustine in 759. This gives a rare example of Roman culture being preserved outside of Britain and being reintroduced to the Anglo-Saxons later.[22]  An area which can only be said to be a transformation is with regards to burial practice. There were two distinct burial practices amongst Anglo-Saxons. Sometimes, Saxons were cremated before their ashes were placed in urns which were buried in large cemeteries.[23] Although early Christian belief did not allow cremation, Rome was not fully Christian by 400, and cremation was fairly common practice, indicating neither a fall nor a particular transformation taking place. [24]   The second kind of funeral involved burial with grave-goods. Men were traditionally buried with weapons and women were buried with jewellery.[25] Burials with grave goods were seen as pagan practices, however. Though it has been argued that early Christian burials sometimes contained grave goods, some of the goods found in Anglo-Saxon burial contained depictions of Norse gods.[26] This demonstrates that the Christianity of Roman Britain transformed to pagan Anglo-Saxon religious practices.  Although it would be incorrect to describe changing religious practices as a fall, there was a definite transformation of religious practices with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in England.


Though the Anglo-Saxons were faced with a diluted Roman culture upon their arrival in Britain, they did not arrive until long after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that the Saxons came to Britain in 449. [27]  This was more than a generation after the Romans had left Britain, suggesting that the transformation to Anglo-Saxon Britain occurred after the Roman Empire had fallen. It is important to remember however that The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was composed betwen 880 and the mid 12th century and so must be accepted cautiously.[28] Even once the Saxons arrived in Britain, it was in small settlements.  An early Anglo-Saxon “kingdom” was around the size of a modern county. These kingdoms were further divided into administrative areas called regionnes which were around a quarter the size of the Isle of Wight.[29]  The fragmented nature of Anglo-Saxon occupation of Britain suggests that influence they may have held was minimal and only focused in the eastern parts of the country. This is supported by tales of the semi-legendary battle of Badon-Hill, in which Roman-Britons fought Anglo-Saxons in around the year 500.[30] Roman-Britons were in great enough numbers to fight Saxon invaders, this is evidence that there was still a Roman identity in Britain. The fall of the Roman-Britons to Saxons despite Romans repelling the Saxons for centuries previous is evidence that the Roman influence in Britain was diluted and weak throughout and after the fifth century. The Post-Roman arrival of Anglo-Saxons and fragmented nature of their initial settlement is evidence that there was a transformation from Post-Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon Britain after a Roman fall.


The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons is too far removed from the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain for this to be described as a transformation. The drastic change in the lifestyles and wellbeing of British, with evidence of weakened, lingering British culture is enough to describe the end of the Roman Empire as a fall. The fall of Roman Britain is additionally evident in declining economic prosperity in economics and styles of architecture. Architecture, as well as changes in nominative language indicate that there existed for some time after, a diluted Roman-ness to Britain which eventually transformed into Anglo-Saxon England. The British Roman Empire fell in 410 but it did not fall to the Anglo-Saxons.



[1] Frere, S.S. (1987), Britannia: A History of Roman Britain (3rd, revised ed.), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p. 355. All dates are in the Common Era.

[2] Wickham, C. (2009), The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000. London: Allen Lane, p. 156

[3] Ward-Perkins, B. (2005), The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 112

[4] Halsall, G. (2013), Worlds of Arthur. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.175

[5] Ibid), p. 112

[6] Ibid, p. 112

[7] Ward-Perkins, p. 106

[8] Halsall (2013), p. 175

[9] Wood, M. (2005) In Search of the Dark Ages. St. Ives: Random House, p. 47

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Reece, R. (1980) ‘Town and Country: The End of Roman Britain’, World Archaeology, 12(1), pp. 77–92 p. 77

[13] Ibid, p. 78

[14] Halsall (2013) p. 89

[15] Davis, W. (2007) Dreams from endangered cultures. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/wade_davis_on_endangered_cultures (Accessed: 24 October 2015).

[16] Wickam, p. 157

[17] Wickham, p. xvi-xvii

[18] Halsall, G. (2007), Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 469

[19] Halsall (2013), p. 123

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid, p. 279

[22] Ibid, p. 20

[23] Ibid, p. 26.

[24] Wickam, p. 52 and Shelton, J.-A. (1998) As The Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History. 2nd edn. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, p. 94

[25] Halsall (2007), 384

[26] Halsall (2013) 32

[27] Ibid, p. 69

[28] Ibid, p. 69

[29] Wickam, p. 156

[30] Wood, p. 51

How was masculinity conferred and conveyed in the sixteenth century?


From his wide stance, to his beard, to his codpiece, Henry VIII as portrayed in Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII is the epitome of masculinity.[1] It is widely regarded that the commission of this portrait was an attempt by Henry VIII to reaffirm his masculinity after the fiasco involving Anne Boleyn.[2] In early modern England, masculinity was not something which was conferred upon a boy at the end of puberty, nor was it something which was fixed once obtained. Although the ways in which masculinity in the 16th century were conferred and conveyed varied depending on social status, masculinity was something which was not conferred at birth, but had to be attained and kept by means of asserting sexual dominance, maintaining household order and controlling one’s own body.

There was a distinction in early modern England between youth and manhood. Manhood was not automatically conferred upon a young man upon reaching maturity. Manhood had to be earned and maintained.[3] Masculinity in early modern England depended on strict adherence to codes of honour and vice versa.[4] The honour codes which defined masculinity involved the qualities a man was expected to embody, namely reason and strength.[5] With regards to this, boys were expected to go to school. Through their studies they learned one of the values of manhood, self control.[6]  Here it is visible that a discrepancy between social classes existed with regards to the conference of masculinity, in that only the gentry were expected to learn Latin. Walter Ong suggests that Latin as that was the language of the male elite, it had a ritual purpose in the education of well to do young men.[7] This shows that although the basics of the honour code of masculinity were applicable to all social classes, there were distinctions between them depending on one’s status.

In Tudor England, as with now, young men spent a great deal of time in alehouses, since consumption of alcohol was significant in the establishment of masculinity.[8] The nature of drinking amongst young men demonstrates that bodily self-control was of the utmost importance in the conference of manliness. Though drinking was an important social aspect to masculinity in the Tudor era, it was expected that a man would be able to hold his drink.[9] If a man were to become too drunk, he would lose control of his bodily functions. In 1607, John Patterson received the insult that he was a “foresworn drunken fellow” and a “spewbeck”.[10] Over-drunkenness was also stigmatised because it robbed men of their sexual self control. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, “[drink] provokes the desire but takes away the performance.”[11] The ostracisation of men who are unable to hold their drink is evidence that self-control was paramount in the establishment and conveyance of masculinity in 16th century England.

Another aspect to the establishment of masculinity found in alehouses was the discussion of sexual prowess. Young men acquired their manhood through marriage, and an important aspect of marriage was the sexual dominance of the man over the woman.[12] Boasting in the alehouse to fellow men was a key method of demonstrating a man had sexual dominance.[13] Men bragged about their sexual adventures to raise their “honour” amongst their companions at the tavern, even though sexual promiscuity was not approved of by the population at large.[14] If word of a young man’s sexual misconduct were to escape the alehouse, this would betray his honour, and could be detrimental to his reputation. This happened in 1626 when a young man named George Fenwick confronted a woman named Margaret Sharp. Sharp had been spreading rumours of her sexual relations with Fenwick. Fenwick told Sharp that if she did not desist with these rumours he would, “thereby be utterly ashamed and lose his freedom”.[15] Although sexual dominance was an important part of masculinity, this was not necessarily true for sex itself. Tudor and Stuart writers have claimed that moderate, controlled sex would, “…quickeneth the mind, stirreth up the wit, reneweth the senses, driveth away sadness, madness, anger, melancholy, fury” but that immoral or too frequent sex brought a man to “utter weakness”.[16] These examples demonstrate that displaying sexual dominance in the correct setting was an important part of masculinity in early modern England.

That most men in 16th century England married late (between the ages of 25 and 30),  is a testament to the differences between the class expectations of marriages.[17] Many men could only afford to marry after a long apprenticeship, and thus married late. The gentry typically got married (and thus became men) at a much younger age.[18] Marriage was possibly the most key ritual for establishing a young man into manhood.[19] Marriage conferred a certain social status onto a young man, as married men who started their own household moved into social maturity. [20] In this sense, marriage was the final step in the acquisition of manhood. However men had certain expectations about manhood once it was established, including being able to support a wife and household and establishing sexual dominance over his wife. If these cases could not be upheld, then a man could lose the honour which was representative of his masculinity.[21] Dod and Cleaver wrote that married men were considered the “chiefe govenour(s of his) little commonwealth”. This shows that marriage was an important final step in the conference of masculinity as men as it establishes them in the social order, affording them higher social status.

The conveyance of manhood in 16th century England depended on both appearances and actions which all orbited the central tenet of establishing masculine honour. In Tudor England, to be honourable was to conform to the ideals of one’s gender.[22] Chief among the actions of establishing masculinity was the establishment of sexual control.[23] The most famous example of masculinity being tied to sexual control in Tudor England was in the case of Queen Anne Boleyn. When Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery and incest in 1536, it was, in the words of Henry VIII “touching our honour, which as you know, we will have hitherto guarded.”[24] Thus the charges of adultery against Anne were of great personal insult to Henry VIII. In Tudor times, it was thought that the governance of a state was akin to the governance of a household.[25] As Jon Dod and Robert Cleaver wrote, “it is impossible for a man to understand how to govern the commonwealth, that doth not know how to govern his own house.”[26] This is an example of Henry having his masculinity challenged through his failure to convey masculinity. This conveyance was indirect, and depended on Anne Boleyn appearing sexually satisfied. In order to maintain his honour, Henry then had to re-establish his masculinity. This reestablishment of masculinity is perfectly summarised by the Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Henry VIII. Hung in the Privy Chamber, Henry’s broad shouldered, wide stance, focusing on his almost comically large codpiece is an embodiment of manliness.[27] Additionally, sporting a beard is, as John Bulwer writes a century after Henry’s death, “a signe of virility.”[28] The fact that even a king has to assert his masculinity in such a conspicuous manner demonstrates the total saturation of the ideals of masculinity throughout early modern England, and the importance of conveying masculinity properly.

Just as Henry was dressed in a masculine manner in Holbein’s portrait, all men were expected to conform to certain appearances in order to convey masculinity.[29] William Fisher notes that after 1540, for every English portrait of a man over the age of 21 in England without a beard, there were 10 portraits of bearded men.[30] Beards were signs of masculinity in themselves. As Thomas Hall wrote in 1610, “A decent growth of the Beard is a signe of Manhood, and given by God to distinguish the Male from the Female sex, this is a badge of Virility”. [31] This demonstrates that a man’s outwards appearance was important in conveying masculinity. The first step on the path to manhood in the life of a young boy in 16th century England was being gifted a pair of breeches at the age of six. If men were not to dress appropriately in the eyes of society, it was thought that there might be a danger of being mistaken for the worst sorts of women.[32] As Barnaby Rich wrote in the early 17th century, “the young man in this age that is not strumpet like attired, doth thinke himselfe quite out of fashion.”[33] These negative commentaries against styles of dress and long hair demonstrate that a man’s masculinity was dependent on the way in which he dressed.

Though there were some universal laws of masculinity such as sexual dominance and maintaining the headship of a household, some rules of masculinity applied only to the gentry.[34] For the gentry, honour was not so much a personal achievement as it was a linkage with their ancestors.[35] Thus it can be seen that for the gentry, masculinity was not only conferred through the rites of passage of marriage and establishing a household, but also by the masculinity of their ancestors. For example, a way in which Gavin Douglas was recruited by the agent of Henry VIII in Scotland was through the promise that his “blood will be made for ever”.[36] Additionally, when the Darce family revolted against Queen Elizabeth I, Leonard Darcy, involved with the uprisings, found himself disinherited and his lands forfeit.[37]This demonstrates that lineage was an important consideration for the gentry, and as honour was inextricably tied to masculinity, the masculine honour of their ancestors could be a large influence on how their own masculinity was portrayed.

Masculinity in 16th century England was not fixed, and established masculinity could be lost if honor was lost. Common causes of losing came from a man being accused of cuckoldry or effeminacy.[38] Referring to a man’s wife as a whore was a particularly grave insult, as it suggested that the man had no sexual control over his wife.[39] It entailed a loss of honour for the man accused of being a cuckold, and this manifested itself through the man being ostracised by the community.[40] The extent to which this was the case was demonstrated in 1610, when Robert Reede informed a church court that his neighbours made the sign of the cuckold (two fingers pointed towards an individual signifying horns) every time they passed him or his wife in the street. This is an example of masculinity being stripped from a man when the conveyance of masculinity (maintaining sexual control) failed, and reaffirms the importance of sexual dominance in the portrayal of masculinity.[41]

Acting in an effeminate manner was perhaps an even more effective way of losing the masculinity one had acquired. In Tudor times, homosexuality was not necessarily associated with effeminacy as it is today, so fear of effeminacy came from a fear of being seen to become subordinate to women.[42] Effeminate qualities included weakness, softness, delicacy and self-indulgence. It was worried that effeminate men could literally become women, just as the legend which says that a young woman from Chaumont-en-Bassigni supposedly became male through acting masculine. Thus a man acting effeminate meant that he ran the risk of losing his masculinity altogether, so an important part of conveying masculine was refraining from acting feminine. Such was the fear of effeminacy amongst men that parents would describe their infant children in terms of their masculinity. Adam Martindale wrote that his two year old son was “very manly for his age” just as Mary Verney wrote to her husband that their new son was, “a brave and lusty boy”.[43] This urgency of parents to establish the masculinity of their sons demonstrated the fear which surrounded losing honour and being labeled effeminate and losing this masculinity.

Despite the fact that the honour which symbolises masculinity could vary somewhat between the social classes, the core of masculinity in the 16th century revolved around honour codes. For a man  to be honourable was for him to have control over his body, actions and wife’s sexuality. This honour was not conferred upon men automatically, nor was it necessarily permanent once established. The avoidance of circumstances which could take away a man’s masculinity were paramount in masculinity’s very conveyance.







Fisher, W. 2001) The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England. Renaissance Quarterly. Vol. 54 No.1, p 155-187.


Fletcher, A. (1995) Gender, Sex & Subordination in England  1500-1800. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.


Fletcher, A. (1999) Manhood, the Male Body, Courtship and the Household in Early Modern England. Oxford and Malden: Blackwell Publishers.


Foyster, E.A. (1999) Manhood in Early Modern England: Honour, Sex and Marriage. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.


Hall, T. (1610) Comarum akosmia the loathsomnesse of long haire… Accessed via English Early Modern Books Online. URL: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A45331.0001.001/1:4.1?rgn=div2;submit=Go;subview=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=beard


Holbein, H. (1537) Portrait of Henry VIII. At: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.


James, M. (1986) Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in Early Modern England. Melbourne and New York: Cambridge University Press.


Lipscomb, S. (2013) The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Crisis in Gender Relations. In Betteridge, T. (ed) Henry VIII and the Court: Art, Politics and Performance. Burlington and Surrey: Ashgate.


Macfarlane, A. The Informal Control of Marriage in Seventeenth Century England; Some Preliminary Notes.


Shakespeare, W. (1606) Macbeth. Dubai: Cambridge University Press 2015 edition.


Shepard, A. (2003) Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England. New York: Oxford University Press.

[1] Holbein. Portrait of Henry VIII

[2] Lipscomb. The Fall of Anne Boleyn. p. 304

[3] Shepard. Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England. p. 23

[4] Lipscomb. p. 300

[5] Foyster. Manhood in Early Modern England. p. 31

[6] Fletcher. Gender, Sex and Subordination in England 1500-1800 p.297

[7] Ibid. p. 302

[8] Foyster. 40

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid. p. 41

[11] Shakespeare. Macbeth. p. 49

[12] Shepard. p. 74

[13] Foyster. p. 40

[14] Ibid. p. 43

[15] Ibid.

[16] Fletcher, Manhood, the Male Body, Courtship and the Household in Early Modern England. p. 404

[17] Macfarlane. The Informal Control of Marriage in Seventeenth Century England; Some Preliminary Notes. p. 110

[18] Ibid.

[19] Shepard. p. 74

[20] Ibid. p. 75

[21] Foyster. p. 106-108

[22] Lipscomb. p. 305

[23] Foyster. p. 55

[24] Lipscomb. p. 300

[25] Ibid. p. 303

[26] Ibid.

[27] Holbein

[28] Fisher. The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England. p. 178

[29] Fisher. Renaissance Beard.

[30] Ibid. Interestingly, the date Fisher sets for the emergence of beards in portraiture is the same date in which the portrait of King Henry VIII by Hans Holbein was painted.

[31] Hall. Comarum akosmia the loathsomeness of long haire. p. 48

[32] Shepard. p. 29

[33] Ibid.

[34] Foyster. p. 126

[35] Fletcher. Gender, Sex and Subordination in England 1500 – 1800. p. 127

[36] James. Society, Politics and Culture. p. 326

[37] Ibid. p. 325 – 326

[38] Foyster. p. 56- 57

[39] Ibid. p. 67

[40] Ibid. p. 107

[41] Ibid. p. 108

[42] Foyster. p. 58

[43] Fletcher. Gender, Sex and Subordination. p. 87