“Wee reign in heaven”: the representation, commemoration and enduring memory of the deceased prince under the Stuart monarchy.
Murray, Catriona Anne
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This thesis examines the consequences and implications of the premature deaths of royal heirs in seventeenth-century Britain. In just four generations between 1603 and 1700 the Stuart dynasty suffered the loss of over twenty-five legitimate offspring before their twenty-first year. Several of these deaths had significant political repercussions, threatening both the continuity of the royal line and consequently the security of the nation. The cultural memory of these lost heirs continued decades and even centuries later. My work seeks to establish the historical significance of their long-lasting appeal by assessing their princely representation in life and analysing its development after death. This study is firmly located within visual culture. However, definitions and classifications of the “visual” are necessarily broad. The emphasis is upon the consideration of seventeenth-century British art as part of a wider cultural process. The opening chapter addresses an apparently obvious, though somewhat neglected, issue - the critical importance of royal heirs. Through examination of the imagery and ceremonial attached to Stuart childbearing and christenings, it asserts the real symbolic significance of princely progeny. Chapter Two develops the study of youthful princely representation. It assesses the portrayal of Stuart heirs as they matured and seeks to identify the principal characteristics. Specifically, it is argued that, from a young age, the projection of Protestantism and martial aptitude was crucial to the formation of their personae. Chapter Three analyses how deceased Stuart heirs were commemorated in the months and years immediately after their deaths. It is contended that the enduring memory of these princes was the result, not of official commemoration, but of the large-scale public response to their deaths. The loss of an heir not only threatened the future of the dynasty but also the stability of the realm. The fourth chapter explores how, through visual and cultural propaganda, the surviving Stuarts attempted to re-group and to assuage social and political anxieties. Chapters Five and Six assess the long-term legacy of these princes in the decades and centuries after their deaths, as well as the political circumstances which gave rise to their enduring memory. These concluding chapters reveal the extent to which memories of deceased Stuart princes lingered, asserting that their representations were often employed for negotiation of the issues and anxieties of later ages. Throughout, my work seeks to establish the importance of these lost heirs and protectors of the Stuart Protestant line. I have endeavoured to retrieve the reputations of princes who came to represent potent symbols of both promise and loss.