We want to thank our guests Professors Péter Kasza and Szymon Wróbel, as well as Álvaro Carvajal Castro and David Napolitano who agreed to contribute to the seminar, and all the participants and followers for taking the interest in our enterprise. We want to thank as well the IT section of the Faculty “Artes Liberales”, Mr Robert Przybysz and Mr Krzysztof Miziołek, without whom it wouldn’t be possible to bring together people from all the parts of the world to dissect collaboratively the King’s bodies.

The feet of the king that served as a background are part of the illustration of translatio imperii in a form of royal statue of Daniel. The seminar has ended, but the study of the king’s bodies doesn’t need to end at 4 p.m today. If you have afterthoughts, replies to the seminar or any comments we’ll gladly take part in this translatio studii and publish them on our blog.

Ágnes Máté, Karolina Mroziewicz, Aleksander Sroczyński


The Netherlands is a very progressive nation, so it’s easy to forget at times that it’s also a monarchy. The opportunity to remember this trivial fact was the recent abdication of Queen Beatrix and the ascent to throne of Willem-Alexander. This transition of power in the house of Oranje-Nassau will be also remembered for the protests of some 100 thousand people against the official “King’s Song” released on 21st April 2013. Was this social upheaval just a question of the silly lyrics? Or was it an opposition to the promotion of sentimental patriotism? At any rate blessed art thou who don’t know  Dutch:

Apparently, the only Oranje who are allowed to be celebrated with pop songs that actually unite the the Dutch people is the national football team in Albert Heijn commercials. At least I can’t recall any protests.

YES to “Hup Holland!”, NAY to “De W van Willem”. It’s hard to be a king nowadays.;)

Charles Clarke, the secretary of education in the United Kingdom in Tony Blair’s cabinet, allegedly said several years ago: “I don’t mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them.” cf [1]  [2]  [3]

This citation might serve as a synecdoche of the general uproar of the policy makers in higher education around the globe against teaching of arts and research in humanities. These fields of studies simply don’t look well in the books of expenditures and profits kept at the Exchequer. This citation is also a signal of shifts in the understanding of the social function and public mission of academia and higher education. Tony Blair’s cabinet is gone, but the policy epitomized in the secretary Clarke’s Worcester speech seems to be in operation.

The “Dissecting the King’s Body” seminar is a part of the PhD program “The Traditions of Mediterranean Humanism and the Challenges of Our Times: the Frontiers of Humanity.”  As indicated in the title of the program, the “Traditions of Humanism” are supposed to be more relevant to the modern world than just ornamental embroidery. This semester is devoted to finding out if that’s true. We began with two meta-academic seminars organized by our faculty, now being followed by a series of seminar run by the PhD candidates. We witnessed “Urban Neurosis” of Macedonian capital Skopje, and how training in the humanities is complementary to IT in understanding of the digital world on the seminar on “Wikipedia, Church and Academic Research: Three Case Studies of Decoding Representations of Identity.” So should “the ornaments” have anything to say about the king’s “body politic” and the direction its policy is heading? Can we offer societies with the historically rooted self-knowledge about the political power?

Funerals of royals, influential men and women of state or beloved celebrities bind communities and give voice (even if for the short moment of the funeral only) to their own interests, ambitions and aspirations. The pompous obsequies staged in the most symbolical spaces such as the cathedrals, royal courts or presidential palaces give an occasion to built a meaningful visual setting for the ceremony, filled with religious symbols and political emblems. The former promise salvation and eternal life of the deceased in heaven – they assure his or her immortality, whereas the latter assure the immortality of the ‘body corporate’ – the enduring political community. It worked that way in the times of the spectacular obsequies of the Holy Roman Emperors such as Ferdinand I (1565), but it worked just as well in the nineteenth (Lajos Kossuth, 1894), twentieth (Imre Nagy, 1989) or twenty first century (Lech Kaczyński, 2010). hungary prezydent

Part of the funeral procession during the burial ceremony of Ferdinand I (engraving from: Parentalia Divo Ferdinando Caesari Augusto … Viennae : Anno Domini MDLXV…) and Lech Kaczyński (2010).

What are then the consequences of the death of the sovereign’s ‘body natural’ for the community? How does the ‘body corporate’ – the composite state or its parts – say goodbye to its leader? How does this intertwine with the (proto-) national interests and their agents? The case of Ferdinand I (1503-1564), which I will present during the seminar, can provide some answers to these questions.

The body natural of Ferdinand I, the brother in law of Louis II (1506-1526), died at 7 pm on the 25th of July 1564 and left his half-Austrian, half-Spanish corpse to be buried in a spectacular series of ceremonies. It took more than a year to prepare and to stage them first in Vienna, then in Prague. The long preparation for two burial ceremonies, that were to gather representatives of all the Habsburg’s domains (a pompous one in Vienna on the 7th of August 1565 and a more modest one in Prague fortnight later), gave enough time to panegyrists to polish and publish their flattering pieces from all over the empire. Among them were two Hungarians – famous humanist János Zsámboky (1531-1584), better known under his Latinized name as Johannes Sambucus, and diplomat Márton Berzeviczy (1538-1596), whose funeral orations came out in print in Vienna (Johannes Sambucus, Oratio cum epigrammatis aliquot epitaphiis in obitum Imp. Ferdinandi primi, 1565) and in Paris (Márton Berzeviczy, Oratio funebris de invictissimo Ferdinando I. Romanorum Imp. Augustissimo à Martino Berzevicaeo Pannonio conscripta, 1565). Both prints were beneficial for their authors and the community they represented. Above the imperial catafalque, over the exhibited imperial crown and apple, issues concerning the proto-national matters of state were pronounced and heard out.


Catafalque of Ferdinand I (fragment of the title page of Ein andere Christliche …Predigt … Durch … Mathiam Citardum … [1565]).

The ones articulated by Zsámboky and Berzeviczy attracted some publicity to the history of the Hungarian kingdom, told anew, and brought a social elevation for their authors – Zsámboky was appointed to court historiographer of the successors of Ferdinand I – Maximilian II (1527-1576) and Rudolf II (1552-1612). It almost seemed as if the deceased sovereign listened more carefully to his people after his death than during his lifetime. Was the dead natural body of the king more beneficial for the corporate body than the living royal body? Do the deceased political leaders and statesmen consolidate, or rather divide, the body corporate today?

Karolina Mroziewicz

PS Reply to the post:

Karolina ended her recent post with the question “Do the deceased political leaders and statesmen consolidate, or rather divide, the body corporate today?” Two recent examples might give us further food for thought about how political bodies are constructed, and also used, in current societies.

The first is Hugo Chávez´s death. While his physical body was undergoing the procedures for preservation, his political body seemed to be just one more of the actors in the race for the elections that took place shortly after his death. In a divided country and in an electoral context, that lead to very strong feelings both for and against his political afterlife, and so his was a much contested body.

We could also take Margaret Thatcher´s case. Her depiction in the film The Iron Lady prepared the road for a less politically loaded, more human and commonsensical –in the end, more widely acceptable, even though still contested–, approach to her political past and ideas, something which her funeral gave the opportunity to sanction. Given the current situation in Western Europe, hers might be a successful addition to the corpus of elements on which the neo-cons and neo-libs are trying to find legitimacy for their policies.

Álvaro Carvajal-Castro

Nowadays, thanks to the Internet all the petty news of the so-called celebrities and elites are available almost instantly. If spreading the news requires translation, it takes just few hours for a fresh gossip to be released world-wide. And people do follow, read, watch and like these gossips. They share them via forums and virtual communities. Who does not remember that years ago Prince Harry of Windsor was wearing an SS uniform at a Halloween party, or was it a masquerade? Anyway, everybody remembers because Prince Harry’s act was against good sense and good taste. And first of all, everybody remembers, because it was Prince Harry who did it. We, the people, are in a love-hate relationship with our royal celebrities, willing to know everything about them, through foul and fair, but more likely in foul. As they are so fortunate, life sometimes really has to take revenge on them as well! So newspapers carefully collect all the childish misdeeds of teenagers who were unlucky enough to be born in important dynasties.

What happened to Prince Harry, happened to many other elite teenagers in the past. My favourite black sheep of Hungarian history is king Louis II (1506-1526). He was famous for his taste for hunting, dancing, taking long hot bathes etc. Like most teenagers, sometimes he dared his friends to do very silly things. Istvánffy’s Chronicle, one of the most important sources of Hungarian history for centuries, mentions the young king daring Péter Kórogyi to eat dead dogs and living mice:

“Amongst the other youngsters in the king’s service who perished (lest we omit any of them) there was a certain Péter Kórogyi. It is uncertain whether he died flighting from the battle or fighting. He is memorable for his admirable and stupendous, and even more, iron-like nature and because of the power of his stomach to digest anything. On the request of the young King, Kórogyi used to eat and digest without any horror or shuddering living mice, cats’ cut-off tails and corpses of dogs thrown out on the streets lying in the dirt, which were putrefying and full of worms. The long lasting noble family of Kórogy died out with him. During the times of King Andrew, the first of this name, when Hungarians despised Christian religion, the Kórogyis reportedly committed the cruel and ungodly murder on Saint Gerard. The evidence of their sin was that whenever their descendants approached (willingly or otherwise) the sanctuary built in the memory of this saint on the hill in front of the city of Buda, they could hardly contain themselves. They would suffer from a sudden diarroheia and would sully themselves. The young king, oft causing trouble, wanted to test this legend on the above-mentioned Péter, not without laughter as well as astonishment of many.”

Praeter alios e peculiari Regis famulitio juvenes, ut neque hoc praetermittamus, occubuit in fuga an in conflictu incertum, Petrus ille Corogius, admirabili et stupendo, planequae ferreo naturae, ac omnia conficientis stomachi robore memorabilis, qui poscente Rege juvene mures vivos, praecisasque felium caudas, et abjecta in plateis canum cadavera, terra sanie, et tabo vermibusque scatentia, absque horrore atque gulae contumelia manere, ac confiscere erat solitus. In eo vetusta nobilium Corogiorum progenies defecit, qui olim Andreae Regis, ejus nominis primi tempore, dum Pannonii religionem Christianam posthabuissent, Divo Gerardo, ut crudelem sic impiam necem intulisse memorabantur; ejusque rei argumento fuisse, posteros illorum in sacellum ejusdem divi memoriae in colle urbi Budensi opposito aedificatum, sponte aut secus ingressos, continere se nequaquam potuisse, quin soluta repente alvo faede contaminarentur; regemque juvenem non sine multorum risu simul et admiratione in hoc Petro ejus rei experimentum, facto saepius periculo, sumpsisse.”

Istvánffy Miklós, Historiarum liber Coloniae, 1685, p. 87.

Most probably this and all the other strange entertainments of Louis’ youth would have fallen into oblivion, if only he had survived the battle of Mohács and Hungary had remained integral and intact. But the opposite happened and consequently the history remembers Louis II as a self-indulgent puerile figure. To the perverted satisfaction of people, life took its toll for all the fortunes it previously granted to the king. All in all, he was indeed only a man, and all men must die.

by Ágnes Máté

Louis II

“Dissecting the King’s Body.” Seminar program:

Aleksander Sroczyński, a PhD Student at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw, for the seminar he will deliver a presentation: “Killing the Peasant King’s Two Bodies”, exploring the cruel execution of György Dózsa in 1514, the leader of the folk crusade that turned into a peasant rebellion, suggesting that Dózsa’s physical body was not the only body the Hungarian elites wanted to kill and that the act was not merely a sophisticated form of revenge.

Ágnes Máté, a PhD Student at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw, a specialist on Hungarian and Italian language and literature. Her main areas of interest are the Italo-Hungarian cultural relations during the 14th -16th c., especially the influence of the works of Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Enea Silvio Piccolomini on the Hungarian literature during the 16 th -18 th c. For the seminar she will deliver a presentation: “Desperately Seeking for the King’s (Two) Bodies” Her case study will present the story of Louis II, died in the battle of Mohács in 1526. She wishes to demonstrate the contradiction of his life: how was it possible that he when losing his body physic finally found his body politic? She intends to discuss if a sovereign/politician’s death is likely to change its memories in a positive or a negative way. Is the proverb De mortuis nil nisi bene pertinent still nowadays?

Dr Péter Kasza, Department of Classics University of Szeged, a specialist in the Neo-Latin culture (especially the works of István Brodarics) will take a different approach to the Louis II body at Mohács battleground and will present the arguments for the necessity of a king’s body to be buried in the autumn 1526 in a presentation entitled: “What a dead king’s body is good for?” More details on the current research interest and publications of Dr Péter Kasza are available at the Department’s website http://www2.arts.u-szeged.hu/cla/Staff/kasza.htm

Karolina Mroziewicz, a PhD Student at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw, is progressing her work on the dissertation entitled “Imprinting Identities: Hungarian Latin-Language Illustrated Histories of St Stephen’s Kingdom”. She is interested in the visual and literary culture of late medieval and early modern Hungary and its consequences for the self-identification of the political elites of the Hungarian Kingdom. The main objective of her short presentation: “The Imperial Body of the King of Hungary or How a Smaller Polity can Benefit from a Dead Emperor” is to demonstrate that the deceased rulers were more useful for supporting numerous minor and major claims of different polities and to serve needs of numerous micro- and macro- narratives than living ones.

David Napolitano is a Ph.D Candidate in History at the University of Cambridge (2011-2014). Under the supervision of Professor David Abulafia he is preparing a thesis, entitled “The professional profile and moral code of conduct of the podestà in thirteenth-century Italy”. His academic interest lies primarily in examining the political history of medieval Italy with an emphasis on the functioning of the podestà, the development of the podestà literature, and the nexus between ethics and politics. He will contribute to the seminar with the presentation on “Creating Public Trust in the Figure of the City Magistrate in Thirteenth-century Italy”.

Álvaro Carvajal-Castro, a PhD candidate at the University of Salamanca, will ponder on “The Contested Body of the King: Building and Dismantling Political Consensus in Contemporary Spain and Early Medieval León.”

Abstract: Even in times when the doctrine of the king´s two bodies doctrine is not part of political discourses, thinking in terms of how political bodies become part of certain political consensuses might still prove to be a useful way of analysing how political discourses are built or, rather, challenged. The Leonese kingdom and contemporary Spain could be considered as examples of each of these two processes. Thinking in strictly contemporary terms, we could also ask for whom, how, for what and how effectively political bodies are given life today.

Prof. Szymon Wróbel, Faculty “Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw, a philosopher and a psychologist will offer to us a philosopher’s take on the legacy of Kantorowicz. For more details on the current research interest and publications of Prof. Szymon Wróbel’s visit http://al.uw.edu.pl/en-208, for his curriculum vitae: http://www.mpd.ibi.uw.edu.pl/cv/WrobelSzymonCV.pdf

Before a medicine doctor can perform a surgery she or he has to learn anatomy. It is pertinent to the seminar organizers, as we decided to specialize in pathology, and this branch of medicine requires expertise in anatomy as well. To this purpose we started this blog. Here we shall publish the materials, the program of the seminar on 9th May, the serious and on-topic thoughts on the king’s bodies and as well as less solemn observations about kingship.