The King's Body investigates the role of royal bodies, funerals, and graves in English succession debates from the death of Alfred the Great in 899 through the Norman Conquest in 1066. Using contemporary texts and archaeological evidence, Nicole Marafioti reconstructs the political activity that accompanied kings' burials, to demonstrate that royal bodies were potent political objects which could be used to provide legitimacy to the next generation. In most cases, new rulers celebrated their predecessor's memory and honored his corpse to emphasize continuity and strengthen their claims to the throne. Those who rose by conquest or regicide, in contrast, often desecrated the bodies of deposed royalty or relegated them to anonymous graves in attempts to brand their predecessors as tyrants unworthy of ruling a Christian nation. By delegitimizing the previous ruler, they justified their own accession. At a time when hereditary succession was not guaranteed and few accessions went unchallenged, the king's body was a commodity that royal candidates fought to control.
Nicole Marafioti is an assistant professor of history at Trinity University.
List of Tables and Figures Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction. The Politics of Royal Burial in Late Anglo-Saxon England 1. Royal Tombs and Political Performance: New Minster and Westminster 2. Tenth-century Royal Mausolea and the Power of Place 3. Funeral, Coronation, and Continuity: Political Corpses in the Eleventh Century 4. Royal Body as Executed Body: Physical Propaganda in the Reigns of Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut 5. Body and Memory: The Missing Corpse of King Edward the Martyr 6. Bodies of Conquest: Kings, Saints, and Conquerors in the Reign of Cnut 7. Conclusions: William of Normandy and the Landscape of Anglo-Saxon Royal Burial Epilogue Notes Bibliography Index