Monarchy and Modernity since 1500
University of Cambridge
8-9 January 2019

Europe's past is overwhelmingly monarchical, yet the monarchies that remain in place today hardly resemble those that governed Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. Modernity has transformed monarchy from a matter of unquestioned and often sacred fact to a matter of largely secular and usually democratic choice. If the words remain the same – along with many of the families, their titles, properties and places of residence – their meaning has changed profoundly over time and across countries, so much so that, along the centuries, the working mechanisms, functions and powers of European monarchy have been transformed. The academic literature, however, seldom measures this distance between monarchy's various historical meanings and its surprisingly frequent manifestations today.

In theoretical and speculative disciplines, the lack of inquiry into monarchy's significance is due partly to disciplinary divisions. Political theorists, intellectual historians, experts in jurisprudence and art and literary critics rarely delve into the subject of monarchy, while historians of monarchy tend to focus on chronology rather than concepts. Monarchy's own nature has helped determine these divisions.With its providentialist, semi-magic and mysterious foundations in the divine right of kings, monarchism is a double paradox, a form of political theory that is at once anti-political and anti-theoretical. Innovatively, this conference seeks to break disciplinary barriers by combining the outlooks of monarchical specialists on the one hand, and of social, cultural, literary and political theorists on the other.

Proceeding from the premise that the nature of things is best known, and their development most determined, during critical times, this conference centers on three (long) key moments in the history of modern European monarchy: the English Revolution, the French Revolution, and the mainstreaming of republicanism during the first half of the twentieth century. These moments, however, are only referential, and presentations studying the reinvention, representation and conceptualisation of monarchy during other modern periods, from 1500 to the present, are also welcome, with Renaissance subjects possibly serving as introits and contemporary ones as epilogues to the conference.

The main lines of inquiry are twofold, one directed at monarchy's political-legal significance, and the other at its socio-cultural, psychological, religious, literary and spiritual roles. The political-legal line of inquiry can include – without being limited to – European monarchy's historical relationship to legislation and the administration of justice, as well as democratic, republican, and aristocratic traditions. The theological/sociological/anthropological perspective is instead concerned with monarchy as a series of rituals, processions, celebrations and formal procedures that represent sovereignty, organise time and relationships, lend nations a sense of identity, and connect individuals emotionally with sacred spaces and powers, especially as represented by the Catholic and Protestant religions.

Studies of non-European monarchical traditions are likewise accepted, preferably with reference to European ones.

Contributions may address one or more of the following themes but are not limited to them:

  • Monarchy in political thought
  • Monarchy and constitutionalism
  • Monarchy in its relation with religion, theology and spirituality
  • The relationship between spiritual and temporal powers
  • Royalism vs. monarchism
  • National and sovereign representation
  • The royal imaginary, including literary representations of monarchy
  • Monarchy and property
  • Monarchy and material culture: art, fashion and the built environment
  • Royal feasts, rituals, processions and celebrations
  • Women and monarchy
  • Non-European monarchical traditions, preferably with reference to European ones.

We invite proposals for 20-minute presentations, which will be revised subsequently for publication in a peer-reviewed collective volume. Graduate students are welcome to participate, and papers in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are accepted, although English is encouraged to facilitate communication. The conference will be held at the University of Cambridge on 8-9 January 2019. Please email a 200-word abstract and one-page CV to Carolina Armenteros ( by 15 August 2018.