Workshop: Power Relations in Court Societies (Part 2)

 img_1112During the first half of the day, the presentations in the workshop centred on gender problematics and global approaches; the speakers of the second part of the workshop then zoomed in closely on interpersonal relationships and analysed specific cases. Alliances of international importance were created and assured through interpersonal relationships between individuals of supreme social status and political power. However, the many other individuals that populated the early modern court often remain invisible. Yet, these papers showed that the consideration of non-noble agents like advisers or some courtly staff members can shed more light on the modes of governance practiced in the courtly network.

Philipp Haas, A Dynastic Ménage à trois? The Marriage of Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel and the Rapprochment of Denmark and Brandenburg (1667)

img_1120Philipp Haas analysed the marriage of Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel as a dynastic ménage à trois. Haas defined security benefits for the negotiators Brandenburg, Denmark and Hesse-Kassel, not only in terms of territorial peace, but his research emphasised further the goods, values, and interests these agents wanted to protect.
To create binding ties between Brandenburg and Denmark as an alliance against Sweden, the Elector of Brandenburg initiated the marriage of his niece Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel and the crown prince Christian of Denmark in 1667. A defence alliance between Brandenburg and Denmark was signed in 1666, as well as a multilateral alliance, including also the Netherlands and Braunschweig-Lüneburg.
Haas made clear that Hesse-Kassel, although a minor ruling dynasty, played a key role in creating these alliances. In addition Charlotte Amalie was able to keep her Calvinist faith with the support of Brandenburg. In Denmark she was represented as equal in rank to her husband and in 1700, now as queen, she acted as an agent of a marriage- and alliance-negotiation between Hesse-Kassel and Brandenburg, thus connecting her house and territory with Brandenburg and further isolating Sweden.
In the discussion afterwards, Haas explained that he structures his dissertation according to the defined types of security interests: protection of values, goods and interest. Thus he is also able to organise his different types of sources.

Johanna Hellmann, Marie Antoinette’s Personal and Political Agency as Portrayed in German Diplomatic Reports During the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778/1779)

img_1121Johanna Hellmann presented a part of her research on Marie Antoinette as she is portrayed in German diplomatic reports from Prussian, Habsburg and Saxon envoys during the Bavarian war of succession. These letters are rare sources for the understanding of Marie Antoinette as political agent and private figure: Although Marie Antoinette appears in some letters to be rather self-determined, she is often described as object of her family’s interest and without influence on the decisions of Louis XVI. Additionally, the reports illuminate the different positions of envoys at the French court, as they reflect the relationship between France and Habsburg, Prussia and Saxony. Firstly, the envoys had different levels of access to Marie Antoinette: The reports to the court of Vienna by Count Florimond Claude de Mercy-Argenteau, the imperial ambassador in Versailles, are more accurate as he was close to Marie Antoinette than these of Bernhard Wilhelm von der Goltz, the Envoyé of the King of Prussia. The biggest distance existed between Marie Antoinette and the Saxon diplomats, whose reports are rather superficial and speculative. Secondly, the reports reflect current policies: The reports of von der Goltz are more critical than those of Mercy-Argenteau or the Saxon diplomats, certainly because of tensions between Prussia and Habsburg.
In the discussion, the suggestion came up to to widen the scope of this interesting study through the examination of a queen in a similar situation to Marie Antoinette, for example her sister Maria Karolina. In this way it might be possible to evaluate in more depth the pressures of the expectations Marie Antoinette faced and how she managed these.

Carolin Pecho, Cui bono? The Relationship Between Hartger Henot and Archeduke Leopold as an Example of Failed Patronage

img_1130Carolin Pecho examined the relationship between Archduke Leopold of Austria and Hartger Henot, a canon of the cathedral of Cologne. Thus she presented not only a special type of asymmetrical patronage, but also gave an instructive insight into the family politics and ruling strategies of the Habsburg family from 1608-1634.
As third son of the Styria line of the Habsburg family, Leopold initially was made prince-bishop of Passau and Strasbourg, despite having a distinct interest in worldly politics. Nevertheless, he pursued his own interests using non-family networks and his advisers were mostly experienced social climbers without a wealthy or reputational background, who wanted to improve their own position. One of them was Hartger Henot.
In the “Habsburg Bruderzwist” (1605-12), Leopold was first in opposition to archduke Matthias and wanted to attain Tirol or Bohemia in order to stand a chance to be elected as Rudolf’s heir. Therefore he tried to gain the support of the majority of the Electorate group and to attain attention in Europe through engaging in the Jülich-Cleve-Crisis. In this he was successful since he managed to take the fortress of Jülich through a cunning plan executed with the help of Hartger and Seraphim Henot. The trio entered the fortress incognito with Leopold and Seraphim posing as Hartger’s servants. This enterprise was incredibly risky for all of them, since they were surrounded by soldiers and the Henot brothers were rewarded for their part in this with advantageous positions. Yet, when Leopold finally achieved governance over Tirol and some other territories, the relationship to Henot offered no further benefits for him and he thus distanced himself from his servant, a common strategy of Leopold. He did not intervene during an witch trial against Hartger’s sister Catherina 1626. Letters from Hartger Henot to Leopold appeal to their once close connection, as Henot calls for a reconciliation. But these appeals could not induce Leopold to change his position, although he preserved the letters of Henot in his chancellery of Tirol and thus did not erase all memory of their connection.
After the presentation several attenders commented that Pecho’s study is not only of utmost importance as new explication of the “Habsburg Bruderzwist”, but also for a better understanding of how social mobility might work – or not- in this context.

Irene Kubiska-Scharl, The Personal Networks of the Chamberlains at the Court of Vienna (1740-1790)

img_1133Irene Kubiska-Scharl presented results of her research on “Institutional Structures and Personal Networks in the Chamber Staff at the Court of Vienna (1740-1790). She focussed on the higher middle class and the lower nobility, who held key-positions in the court-administration. One of her main sources, the annual staff lists of the Court-Calendar – which she had already analysed for the creation of a database on careers at the court – show that family networks established themselves in the court service. Kubiska-Scharl found that patrimony was incredibly important, but that the veto on the distribiton of positions lay with the emperor. Positions close to the monarch’s family members, like chamberwomen or -maids were usually distributed to children or siblings, of servants because they were already acquainted with the courtly life and the job requirements. In the case of court artisans or craftsmen patrimony was above all advantageous as fathers trained their sons. Other recruitment criteria were patronage, merit, and favour. For instance, chamberwomen were often widows of favoured courtiers and the loyalty of servants was often rewarded with positions at court for their children. Marriages, which were only allowed for high court members, could be chances to create new or stabilize old family networks within the court service, although the choice of a marriage partner was influenced by preferences of the imperial couple.
In the discussion Kubiska-Scharl explained that dismissals of court staff members were rare. Court staff members were usually only temporarily dismissed, for example for theft, which was in the interest of both parties. The court had no interest in employing new personnel and the court staff members themselves were dependent on their positions.

Conclusion and Acknowledgments

With this the first workshop of the research group ‚Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships at Dynastic Centres‘ came to a close. It was a highly stimulating day that introduced a rich variety of research projects connected in their effort to analyse the complex web of interpersonal relationships in courtly contexts and their great significance for early modern practices of power. Our topic was masterfully introduced by Jeroen Duindam’s lecture, which problematized female dynastic power in a truly global scope. The following day the workshop proper was launched with Pascal Firges’s structural analysis of a particular type of gendered power relationship, namely the oft-mythologised extra-marital liaison at the French court. Regine Maritz picked up on the topic of gendered experience of power in her comparatively connected discussion of the Frauenzimmer in the Holy Roman Empire and the Harem in Safavid Persia. The morning was rounded off by Callie Wilkinson who introduced us to the simultaneous intercultural connection and anxiety that surrounded the relationships of British East India Company Officials and their Indian courtly representatives. We enjoyed further discussions over a lunch break that was illuminated by the Parisian spring sun before returning to our formal workshop schedule to hear Philip Haas illuminate a little known case of dynastic marriage, which was invested with the security interests of actors well beyond the two families who came to be connected in this union. Johanna Hellmann utilised the letters of German diplomats at the French court to consider the image they convey of Marie Antoinette, but also of the relationship between France and the different German territories. The penultimate paper of the day was given by Carolin Pecho, who presented an aspect of her very advanced doctoral project on the self-positioning of Archduke Leopold of Austria in the form of an analysis of one of his patronage relationships, which revealed a great deal about the subjective intricacy of early modern high politics. Finally, we heard Irene Kubiska-Scharl speak on the personal networks of chamber staff at the court of Vienna. Her great expertise in this topic due to her work on a database containing comprehensive lists of the staff of the court of Vienna provided an ideal background to our final discussion round of the day.

Of course, this was not the end of our exchange as we continued onwards to dinner, which was accompanied by further animated discussion. All in all, it was a particularly enriching day and a great way to launch the GHI research project ‘Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships’. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all participants whose readiness to discuss and exchange new ideas went well beyond our expectations and was crucial to the success of this day. Particular thanks also go to Jeroen Duindam, whose thoughtful comments punctuated the day impeccably.

Our final word of thanks goes to Konstanze Schiemann and Anna Parrisius, who not only were a crucial support in the running of this workshop, but who also took it upon themselves to write the preceding report.


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