IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 715: Aristocratic Anger and the Wrath of Kings

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Paul R. Hyams, Department of History, Cornell University / Independent Scholar, Oxford
Paper 715-aHonestis pariunt lacrimas: The Function of Anger in Medieval Historical Narratives, c. 1000-1250
(Language: English)
Kate E. McGrath, Department of History, Emory University, Georgia
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Language and Literature - Latin, Mentalities, Politics and Diplomacy
Paper 715-bRoyal Rage: Plantagenets Throwing Tantrums
(Language: English)
Max Lieberman, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Mentalities, Politics and Diplomacy
Paper 715-cHewing the Gisors Elm: Anger and Arboricide in 12th-Century France
(Language: English)
Lindsay Mark Diggelmann, Department of History, University of Auckland
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Politics and Diplomacy

Abstract paper -a: The presence of anger is ubiquitous in a variety of 11th- and 12th-century Latin texts. The frequency with which it occurs shows that medieval writers found emotional rhetoric a convenient tool not just for explaining the motivations of the people they wrote about but also for evaluating their conduct. Anger, therefore, serves to reflect and reinforce ideal aristocratic social expectations and relationships in medieval Europe. By investigating the boundaries around appropriate and inappropriate anger in these texts, this paper hopes to argue that anger functioned as an important cultural script to regulate ideal relations between nobles and their clients in medieval Europe.

Abstract paper -b: The famous frenzies of Henry II of England, or of his son John, or of Edward I give rise to a number of questions. Why were these patrons of chivalric literature represented as antitheses to the ideal of the reasonable, restrained knight? Was proneness to violent fury and coarse language really an hereditary characteristic of the Plantagenets? Or were kings ‘almost mad with rage’ a common narrative device in literary and historical texts? Did kings stage wrathful outbreaks as part of diplomacy? What do the fits allegedly induced in kings by anger (and often ‘sorrow’) tell us about perceptions of insanity?

Abstract paper -c: During the summer of 1188 Philip II of France and Henry II of England and Normandy met under an elm tree near Gisors, the traditional site of meetings between French kings and Norman dukes. After several days of fruitless negotiation, Philip ordered the tree to be cut down in an apparent outburst of irrational anger. I wish to explore how contemporaries may have understood Philip’s action. The paper will also focus on the cultural memory of the elm’s demise in the next generation, through an examination of two texts that recall the incident from very different perspectives