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The Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture.

The Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture, edited by R. Malcolm Smuts. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge University Press, 1996. xiii, 282 pp. $54.95 U.S.

The late Professor Geoffrey Elton's great contribution to Tudor history and to the political world beyond that time was his focus upon the royal council as a source of power and influence. Whereas before Elton historians studied kingship and parliament, the council as an intermediary if not a separate estate, assumed an importance in the political process as never before. Thus, more than the king, Thomas Cromwell became the architect of the dissolution of the monasteries and the first stages of the Reformation. Royal wish was only so good as it could be put into practice by his councilors.

As Elton's work began to influence political history, another subject developed alongside: the history of the court. The court was the largest single body in the realm, with the church as its only competitor. The royal court was a huge economic operation, with much patronage to grant and people to employ. Therefore, it was in a position to influence culture, as in Queen Henrietta Maria's patronage of the court masque. Fashion and thought, as well as political influence were at the command of the court, and it is this complex, wide-reaching body which has drawn the recent attention of historians.

The Smart Court and Europe -- the book under review here -- comprises essays delivered at a conference on court history at the Center for Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in October 1993. The particular focus of this conference was upon the ways English culture influenced, and was influenced through, its royal court, as well as influences on the royal court from continental origins. Thus, the papers are aimed to present their evidence within a wider context rather than the narrow limitations of a British framework. The various papers examine the European roots of common-law theory (J.P. Sommerville); the role of international aristocratic language of honor in early Stuart politics (Richard C. McCoy); the difficult problems of assessing national identity (Martin Butler); the use of art in conveying the panoply of kingship (R. Malcolm Smuts and Caroline Hibbard); the dissemination of radical French epicurean culture by exiled royalists during the Restoration (Annabel Patterson); the religion of Charles II (Ronald Hutton); and the role of the Duchess of Portsmouth -- Charles II's French mistress -- in English and international politics (Nancy Klein Maguire). Finally, Geoffrey Parker concludes with a chapter suggesting new lines of research for placing British history within a European context.

This has interdisciplinary dimensions and will be of interest to many students of the period, political as well as cultural.

Frank T. Melton University of North Carolina at Greensboro
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Author:Melton, Frank T.
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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