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Medieval Self-Coronations : The History and Symbolism of a Ritual

Jaume Aurell

AURELL Jaume, Medieval Self-Coronations : The History and Symbolism of a Ritual, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2020. ISBN : 9781108840248.

Based on narrative, iconographical, and liturgical sources, this is the first systematic study to trace the story of the ritual of royal self-coronations from Ancient Persia to the present. Exposing as myth the idea that Napoleon’s act of self-coronation in 1804 was the first extraordinary event to break the secular tradition of kings being crowned by bishops, Jaume Aurell vividly demonstrates that self-coronations were not as transgressive or unconventional as has been imagined. Drawing on numerous examples of royal self-coronations, with a particular focus on European Kings of the Middle Ages, including Frederic II of Germany (1229), Alphonse XI of Castile (1328), Peter IV of Aragon (1332) and Charles III of Navarra (1390), Aurell draws on history, anthropology, ritual studies, liturgy and art history to explore royal self-coronations as privileged sites at which the frontiers and limits between the temporal and spiritual, politics and religion, tradition and innovation are encountered.

Jaume Aurell is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Navarra, Spain. His previous publications include Authoring the Past (2012), Theoretical Perspectives on Historians’ Autobiographies (2015) and, as editor, Rethinking Historical Genres in the Twenty-First Century (2017).

Table des matières :


Self-coronation as ritual

I. Heritage

Consecration without mediation in antiquity
The hand of God
Symbolic self-coronations in Byzantium
The sacralisation of Carolingian accessions
Anglo-Saxon and Ottonian christocentrism

II. Infamy

Roger II of Sicily : Imagining self-coronation
Frederick II of Germany : desacralising rituals

III. Convention

Alfonso XI of Castile : From self-knighting to self-crowning
Peter IV of Aragon’s self-coronation : A conventionalization program
Charles III of Navarra : juridical implications of self-coronations
Early modern dramatization : the road to Napoleon