Kathy Garay on Manufacturing Majesty, 1207-2007

Dr. Kathy Garay of the McMaster Library gave a lively and fast-paced talk exploring the nature of majesty to the Medieval and Early Modern Research Group. Her paper, “Manufacturing Majesty: Elizabeth of Hungary, Diana of England and the Construction of Royal Saints, 1207-2007,” reflected on the rather striking similarities between St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Lady Diana Spencer.
Particularly:

  • Lineage
  • Texts
  • Marital Love
  • In-Laws
  • Beauty
  • Motherhood
  • The Third Person
  • Charity
  • Agency
  • Funeral Rites
  • Legacy

stElizabeth.jpg

  • Lineage – both came from aristocratic stock;
  • Texts – Biography (hagiographies) emerged very quickly after the deaths of both women;
  • In Love with Husbands – When this was not always common in royal marriages;
  • Challenges from the Families they Married Into: Elizabeth was too pious for her in-laws ;
  • Appearance and Beauty – Both were remarkably beautiful;
  • Motherhood – Both were exemplary mothers and also recognized as mothers of the nation;
  • The Third Person – There were third people in each marriage, for Elizabeth it was her confessor Konrad and for Diana, the Camilla issue;
  • Dedication to Charity and Social Action – Elizabeth was constantly sharing wealth with the impoverished, Diana with Aids victim in particular;
  • Agency – Both were able to change the perceptions and affect the role into which they were cast;
  • Funeral Rites – The lives of both were celebrated with particularly elabourate state funerals;
  • Legacy – Both have been memorialised in statuary, edifice and raised to exalted positions in the national pysche.

Dr. Garay demonstrated the remarkable consistency in the nature of majesty over an 800 year span. She concluded with one of the most striking similarities between the two women: the engagement beyond ‘royal touch’. Lasting images of both show them not simply amongst the people, but often in a very tactile, hands-on and even subservient position. Dr. Garay is a superb presenter and her infectious enthusiasm for her subject matter was a real treat.

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