The Key to Power?

The Culture of Access in Princely Courts, 1400-1750


Proximity to the monarch was a vital asset in the struggle for power and influence in medieval and early modern courts. The concept of ‘access to the ruler’ has therefore grown into a dominant theme in scholarship on pre-modern dynasties. Still, many questions remain concerning the mechanisms of access and their impact on politics. Bringing together new research on European and Asian cases, the ten chapters in this volume focus on the ways in which ‘access’ was articulated, regulated, negotiated, and performed. By taking into account the full complexity of hierarchies, ceremonial rites, spaces and artefacts that characterized the dynastic court, The Key to Power? forces us to rethink power relations in the late medieval and early modern world.

Contributors are: Christina Antenhofer, Ronald G. Asch, Florence Berland, Mark Hengerer, Neil Murphy, Fabian Persson, Jonathan Spangler, Michael Talbot, Steven Thiry, and Audrey Truschke.

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Pages: 297–336
Pages: 337–352
Dries Raeymaekers, Ph.D. (University of Antwerp, 2009) is Assistant Professor of Early Modern History at Radboud University Nijmegen. He has published on Habsburg dynastic politics, including a monograph on the Habsburg Court of Brussels in the early seventeenth century.

Sebastiaan Derks is Head of the Department of Digital Data Management and Researcher at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands. He has published a number of articles on the Farnese dynasty in sixteenth-century Europe.
Notes on Contributors
List of Illustrations & Tables


Dries Raeymaekers and Sebastiaan Derks
Repertoires of Access in Princely Courts

I. Articulating Access

Florence Berland
Access to the Prince’s Court in Late Medieval Paris

Neil Murphy
The Court on the Move: Ceremonial Entries, Gift-Giving and Access to the Monarch in France, c.1440–c.1570

Audrey Truschke
Deceptive Familiarity: European Perceptions of Access at the Mughal Court

II. Regulating Access

Michael Talbot
Accessing the Shadow of God: Spatial and Performative Ceremonial at the Ottoman Court

Mark Hengerer
Access at the Court of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty (Mid-Sixteenth to Mid-Eighteenth Century): A Highway from Presence to Politics?

III. Monopolizing Access

Jonathan Spangler
Holders of the Keys: The Grand Chamberlain, the Grand Equerry and Monopolies of Access at the Early Modern French Court

Ronald G. Asch
Patronage, Friendship and the Politics of Access: The Role of the Early Modern Favourite Revisited

Fabian Persson
The Struggle for Access: Participation and Distance During a Royal Swedish Minority

IV. Visualizing Access

Christina Antenhofer
Meeting the Prince between the City and the Family: The Resignification of Castello San Giorgio in Mantua (Fourteenth – Sixteenth Centuries)

Steven Thiry
Forging Dynasty: The Politics of Dynastic Affinity in Burgundian-Habsburg Birth and Baptism Ceremonial (1430–1505)


Scholars interested in the history of the princely court, rulership, dynastic politics and late medieval and early modern politics in general; scholars interested in Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture.
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