Uses of ceremony: performing power in the First Civil War
Anker, Victoria Lesley
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Within the body of scholarly interpretation of the British Civil Wars (1642-1651), there is an absence of research into the politicisation of rituals of power and the struggle between monarchy, parliament, and the army to command these symbolic forms of authority. My thesis examines the performances of rituals as the methodical enforcement of political authority during the First Civil War (1642-1646). In synthesising notions of court culture and performances of political discourse, it traces the constriction of royal ritual, parliamentary subversion of monarchical rituals, and the rise of politico-military ritual, culminating with Charles I’s surrender on 5 May 1646. Situated within existing interdisciplinary research that explores the communication and image of power, this thesis examines (1) the battle to control symbols of political power, (2) polemical interpretations of the conflicting use and ownership of these performatives, (3) the efficacy of these performative acts among a divided public. It highlights the ways in which such performances limited the public to the role of audience, despite the apparent inclusiveness of many ritualised events. This enables a close reading of ritual performances and the subsequent literature produced around the events. It also calls upon the close reading of literary and non-literary texts that can be described as ‘virtual performances’ of ritual, most notably Charles’ royal entry into London (1641), and the funeral of the third Earl of Essex (1646).