John Watkins – Staging Marriage Diplomacy in Late 17th century France



Event Date: 21 – 22 June 2013
South Wing G12, Council Room
University College London,
Gower St,
London WC1E 6BT

Spaces of Diplomacy

Part of the Diplomatic Cultures Research Network (AH/J013900/1)

The second workshop will focus on the spaces within and through which diplomatic culture is articulated and translated. If diplomacy is theorised as the process of negotiating estrangement between two groups, spatiality emerges as integral to any practice of ameliorating that estrangement. This has traditionally taken the form of either topological studies of diplomatic connections between places, systematic reviews of the location of diplomacy, or of case studies of particular diplomatic contexts. These concerns remain, but the contemporary moment begs new questions. How does the emergence of digital spaces produce new and different forms of diplomacy? Can ‘old’ diplomatic practices be translated for these ‘new’ spaces or does it require an entirely new theorisation? How are spaces produced as diplomatic spaces through the ritualised performance of actors? How does space shape the formation of diplomatic consensus?

Professor John WatkinsStaging Marriage Diplomacy in Late 17th century France

A reorientation of peacemaking took place in seventeenth-century Europe. From about the First Crusade, the men and women who negotiated, drafted, signed, and ratified European treaties worked from the assumption that war was an anomaly. At least in the dominant theory, best articulated by churchmen like Bernard du Rosier, a fifteenth-century Archbishop of Toulouse, Christians were meant to live in peace. If they went to war, something was desperately wrong and needed to be fixed. But by the middle of the seventeenth century, statesmen like Richelieu began to speak of war as the normal state of human existence. Numerous factors contributed to this theoretical reorientation, including changes in the scale and technology of warfare, new demographic challenges, the rise of state bureaucracies, and the growing realization that the post-Reformation divisions of Christendom were not going to go away.
Instead of focusing on the political and socioeconomic factors that contributed to the acceptance of war as a perpetual fact of European life, this paper concentrate on how it affected one of the mainstays of European peacemaking: interdynastic marriage. The new normal reduced, and in some cases eliminated, the role of royal women, especially consorts, in state affairs. Since these women patronized the arts, the theater and the salon became particularly visible sites for the clash between antithetical diplomatic opinions, and especially over the place of women in negotiations and settlements. Rarely do the histories of gender, cultural production, and statecraft converge in such mutually reinforcing and readable ways as they do in the plays of Corneille and Racine and the novels of Saint-Réal, Villedieu, and Lafayette. As I will argue, the neoclassical stage registered, lamented, and ultimate legitimized the new diplomacy by creating a new role for women whose agency as peacemakers had eroded: the diva.

John Watkins is Distinguished McKnight University Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, where he holds affiliate appointments in History, Medieval Studies, and Italian Studies. He is the author of several books and numerous articles dealing with problems of historiography; cultural, political and economic exchanges between England and the Mediterranean; and the medieval underpinnings of early modernity: The Specter of Dido: Spenser and Virgilian Epic (Yale); Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England (Cambridge); and with historian Carole Levin, Shakespeare’s Foreign Worlds: National and Transnational Identity in the Elizabethan Age (Cornell). He is currently finishing a book on premodern marriage diplomacy.




<<back to conference page>>

share this entry: