"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Christian Monarchy

In my youth I was an unreconstructed monarchist; and even today, though my jejune romanticism for such as the Tudors has long since been replaced by a repugnance at how bloodthirsty and rapacious they were (Mary I being somewhat of an exception as we now know thanks to Eamon Duffy), I still maintain an affection for my sovereign, Her Britannic Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada and her other dominions beyond the seas. Her example of Christian service and fidelity stands in sharpest contrast not only to the tawdry conduct of her uncouth children and their sometime spouses, but also to the hideous vulgarities and degradations of modern "democratic" politics. (In the memorable words of Evelyn Waugh in the 1950s: "I have never voted in a parliamentary election.... I do not aspire to advise my Sovereign in her choice of servants.") Monarchy as a political system, especially Christian monarchy, has much to recommend it. How did monarchies arise in various parts of the world, including Kyivan Rus'? That is one of the questions to which a new book is devoted:

Nora Berend, Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy: Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus' c.900-1200 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 460pp.

This book, the publisher tells us, is
a comparative, analysis of one of the most fundamental stages in the formation of Europe. Leading scholars explore the role of the spread of Christianity and the formation of new principalities in the birth of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland and Rus' around the year 1000. Drawing on history, archaeology and art history, and emphasizing problems related to the sources and historiographical debates, they demonstrate the complex interdependence between the processes of religious and political change, covering conditions prior to the introduction of Christianity, the adoption of Christianity, and the development of the rulers' power. Regional patterns emerge, highlighting both the similarities in ruler-sponsored cases of Christianization, and differences in the consolidation of power and in institutions introduced by Christianity. The essays reveal how local societies adopted Christianity; medieval ideas of what constituted the dividing line between Christians and non-Christians; and the connections between Christianity and power.

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