Smuts 1987

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Smuts, R. Malcolm. Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England. Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.


"Caroline styles often have much closer affinities to the style sof the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries than to work completed barely a generation earlier. And these stylistic changes were symptomatic of a much more fundamental reorientation of attitudes, values, patterns of conspicuous consumption, and modes of thought and feeling." (1)

Charles as first monarch to grow up reading Jonson, Donne, Shakespeare; first since Middle Ages to spend some time in a great European court, first since Mary Tudor to marry into a Catholic dynasty of the continent and welcome a papal envoy at court (2)

historians have tended to see a strong division between Court and Country as causing the Civil War, but divisions were much messier; was no consolidated "country" culture, rather lots of local subcultures

"As paradoxical as it may sound, Stuart court culture was at once an outgrowth of the trend toward a more urbanized and cosmopolitan aristocratic society and an expression of a deep mistrust of the transformations this trend was bringing about." (8)

The Stuarts and the Elizabethan Legend

for Elizabeth, progresses and lack of royal patronage (but much aristocratic patronage) meant "the cult of monarchy took shape through soemthing resembling a ceremonial dialogue between court and country, as the royal household and various individuals and communities joined in aodring the queen, responding to each other's cues, and weaving new variants around the stock symbols of the reign" (18)

Elizabethan imperialism centered on the oceans (19)

James ascension brought renewed emphasis on peace; images of Arthur transformed from chivalric to one of British unity (24-5)

James feared crowds and "popularity"

"hopes of those seeking a return to Elizabethan policies crystallized around James' heir, Prince Henry" (29) -- then Elizabeth (his sister)

The Court and London as a Cultural Environment

increasing number of gentry began wintering in London; holding large houses in London

beginning of cosmopolitan London culture (as opposed to decentralized progresses through large estates spread over the country)

Classical Culture and Moral Reform

"Far from being the hallmark of a 'country' movement, complaints against the court and the city were a prominent motif in court culture itself. They bear witness not to alienated provincial opposition but to the ambivalence felt by men caught up in the scramble for place and power at Whitehall." (74)

decline of tournament, gone by 1630 (83)

The Discovery of European Art: Collecting and Patronage

although historians have painted Caroline court as extravagant, in fact it spent less on entertainment than earlier courts; what was spent on painting and masques was made up with fewer progresses or extravagant royal weddings

"whereever enough information survives to permit a judgment, the king emerges as a patron with pronounced tastes and strong convictions very much in control of the innovations taking place under his auspices. In his reign royal cultural patronage was not an extension of a bureaucratically organized absolutist state so much as a direct expression of the monarch's personality." (133)

however, Earl of Arundal, Henrietta Maria and Duke of Buckingham also influenced tastes, and differed in preferences

The Discovery of European Art: Aesthetics and Ideas

no strong distinction between art/poetry and science/artifice

John Dee, Francis Bacon

Inigo Jones -- "regarded the political functions of his work in a manner very reminiscent of the aproach to natural philosophy of the virtuoso" (166)-- "Johnes's knowledge of moral and poltiical philosophy would lead to the invention of works capable of instilling civility"; "Artistic beauty will by itself instill salutary attitudes."

  • Platonic/Pythagorean theories of musical harmonies; designed his buildings ont he basis of musical proportions
"Behind the evolution of both art and literature within the Jacobean court lay a determination to develop a fresh typology of vice and virtue, more flexible, naturalistic, and compelling than that inherited from the Tudor and medieval past." (171)

Charles I and the Consolidation of a Court Culture

Charles, first monarch to build a theater attached to Whitehall itself; royal family and court aristocrats participated actively in play's production, queen loved to act (191)


mingling of Christian and pagan elements in court hymns (224)

Laud, ordering the psalms to be sung in notes according tot he Gregorian method used in Church of Rome, King himself tried it; book published with royal license praised the Virgin Mary

"The Beauty of Holiness" (227)

"the Stuart clergy provided a theological framework within which arguments based on natural hierarchy fit more gracefully than in a Calvinist system." (233)

Senhouse, on Charles's coronation, describes crowning as crown of life, holy harmony of heavn; Walter Montagu expanded this into an essay on theological significance of court life, describes riches of court as "optic glasses" through which men may "take the height of celestial glories: and surely the sight of our minds is much helped by such material instruments, in the speculations of spiritualities" (qtd 236)

The Halcyon Reign

Charles and Henrietta Maria symbolized by the halcyon, "a mythical bird who builds her next upon the ocean and possesses a magical power to calm the waves' (245)

"If James had ruled as a royal Solomon, praised for his wisdom, prudence, and magnanimity, Charles preferred the more romantic role of a royal knight, inspired by the beauty of his wife to purge the realm of vice and discord. In the masques the mutual love of the royal couple becomes a universal influence, capable of reforming men, nature, and even the gods." (249)
"The artists and poets responible for Caroline masques and panegyrics faced a clear challenge. Somehow they had to show that peace is more glorious than war and that a monarch is more virtuous when reveling in the midst of his court than while sweeping all before him on the field of battle." (251-2)