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H. Rudolph, Das Reich als Ereignis (Joachim Whaley)

Francia-Recensio 2012/2 Frühe Neuzeit – Revolution – Empire (1500–1815)

Harriet Rudolph, Das Reich als Ereignis. Formen und Funktionen der Herrschaftsinszenierung bei Kaisereinzügen (1558–1618), Köln, Weimar, Wien (Böhlau) 2010, 691 S. (Norm und Struktur. Studien zum sozialen Wandel im Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, 38). ISBN 978-3-412-20534-8, EUR 89,90.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

Joachim Whaley, Cambridge

Harriet Rudolph’s fascinating and highly original study of the travels of the Holy Roman Emperors in the Reich between 1558 and 1618 tackles a key problem. What did the Reich mean to those who lived within it? There has been a steadily growing assumption among many scholars that a system that functioned effectively must have generated loyalty. This was a polity, after all, which negotiated a ground-breaking solution to the religious divide and managed to preserve its integrity against periodic attempts by the Habsburgs to transform it into a monarchy, and which over several centuries more or less successfully withstood the military threat of the Turks and the French. Yet attempts to define exactly how inhabitants of the Reich identified with it are still in their infancy. At one level this is a question about the political culture of the Reich, the beliefs, symbolic forms of communication, and values that shaped political behaviour. At another level, the question of identification concerns the attitudes of ordinary people, their perception and appreciation of legitimate power, and their articulation of that sense in their dealings with local authorities.

Rudolph approaches the problem by analysing the ceremonial and ritual that accompanied imperial appearances. It is tempting to label her as a follower of Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, but her approach is broader and more nuanced. Rudolph understands ceremonial and ritual as more than just the framework for the regular functions of the Reich. It was, she emphasises, an integral part of the political and legal process. Hence her research complements the work of scholars such as Maximilian Lanzinner and Stefan Ehrenpreis, who have created a new view of the Reich in a period that many have seen as one of confessional conflict and territorial state formation.

Rudolph’s starting point is the question of what actually happened when an emperor arrived in a territory or imperial city? She suggests that these occasions were pre-eminently political occasions or performances, comprising a whole range of more or less public subsidiary events. These included royal and imperial elections, coronations, public acts of homage, enfeoffments and investitures, banquets, tournaments, fireworks. She aims to define the repertoire of symbols that were deployed on these occasions, to show who participated, to clarify the geographical location of such events and the possible extension of their impact in space and time by the dissemination of both texts and images through the print media and by their translation into the collective memory of communities.

These questions relating to the functions of performativity, the public sphere (s) of the Reich, and space inform Rudolph’s analysis. The pattern she discerns corroborates the conclusions of Lanzinner and others. Under Ferdinand I, the German monarchy gained a new focus on the Reich, on Bohemia, and on Hungary. Vienna and Prague now became the prime residential centres and the reigns of Ferdinand I and Maximilian II were characterized by frequent journeys into the Reich, notably for seven meetings of the Reichstag between 1556–1557 and 1576. Rudolf II’s attendance at the Reichstag in Augsburg 1582 and Regensburg 1594 continued the pattern, but the emperor’s absence from subsequent sessions created a rupture which Matthias’s presence at the Regensburg session of 1613 could not heal.

In the first three chapters, Rudolph gives a detailed account of the journeys themselves, of the elaborate ceremonies that attended the emperor’s arrival, and of the numerous other festivities that were typically associated with an imperial visit. A fourth chapter examines acts of investiture as political rituals, with close analyses of royal elections and the coronations of emperors and empresses, acts of homage by the imperial cities, and the ceremonies that attended the emperor’s enfeoffment of princes. Equally meticulous is her fifth chapter on the appearances of emperors as media events reflected in descriptive texts, newspapers, official diaries, commemorative poems, and all manner of pictorial representations. The final chapter gives an account of the traces of these visits in diaries, in works of history, imperial law, and politics, and in Marcus zum Lamm’s » Thesaurus Picturarum « , the most important pictorial chronicle of the late sixteenth century.

Five conclusions emerge from this hugely impressive work of scholarship. Firstly, the various forms of imperial appearances make clear the Reich was not just a legal system but a system of symbolic communication, in which the emperors, but also, for example, the imperial cities, exploited the potential of these encounters to emphasise their roles in the Reich. Secondly, negotiations between emperor and estates over the organization of imperial visits were often fraught with tension and conflict. Yet overall they demonstrate a general desire to achieve consensus: compromise generally prevailed in the end, even if that meant that a prince absented himself from part of the ceremonial to which he objected.

Thirdly, under Rudolf II the efforts of both emperors and estates to emphasis the concordia that prevailed between them weakened. In the decade before the Thirty Years War the Reich experienced a twofold crisis of representation: leading princes either failed to attend the Reichstag in 1608 and 1613 or failed to sign the concluding mandate ( Reichsabschied ); at the same time the princes no longer showed the same interest in participating in the rituals and ceremonies that symbolized the political and legal reality of the Reich.

Fourthly, Rudolph rejects the common view that the Reformation and the period of religious conflict that followed it saw a secularisation of political rituals. Protestant imperial cities dropped specifically Catholic elements of the homage ritual (the reception of the emperor by the clergy and attendance at Mass) but they still emphasized the religious or sacral significance of the occasion by singing hymns and having sacred music played. They remained as interested as they had always been in projecting the idea that theirs was a God-given social and political order. At imperial coronations, the secular electors withdrew into the side-room during certain overtly Catholic parts of the proceedings but the message that the emperor was a ruler both by the grace of God and by God’s will remained as important as the notion that he was the defender of Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant ) . The Turkish wars also reinforced the sacral dimension of the Reich by sharpening its profile as the antithesis to the heathen Ottoman Empire.

Finally, the phenomenal development of the print media in the sixteenth century turned the Reich and its inner tensions and conflicts into media events. This both extended the reach of imperial power and broadened the social range of those groups able to participate in and respond to the performances of the Reich and its leading members.

Harriet Rudolph’s book represents a major contribution to the study of the functions of ceremonial and ritual in the Reich and it illuminates central aspects of the history of the period between the Peace of Augsburg and the Thirty Years War.

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Joachim Whaley
H. Rudolph, Das Reich als Ereignis (Joachim Whaley)
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H. Rudolph, Das Reich als Ereignis (Joachim Whaley)
In: Francia-Recensio 2012/2 | Frühe Neuzeit - Revolution - Empire (1500-1815)
URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2012-2/FN/rudolph_whaley
Veröffentlicht am: 20.07.2012 13:00
Zugriff vom: 27.01.2020 01:23
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