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Writing and Picturing History: Historical Manuscripts from the Royal collection

Latin
Chronicles
Royal Genealogy
Mythology and Legend
Vernacular
Chronicles
Further Reading



Introduction

This virtual exhibition will guide you through a selection of manuscripts of the historical writings preserved in the Old Royal library which was presented to the nation in 1757 by King George II and today forms the Royal collection at the British Library.

Books describing and picturing the past occupied a prominent place in royal manuscript holdings, as the large number of copies that survive in the Old Royal library suggests. Knowledge of history was highly recommended to royal readers. The deeds of their ancestors and other heroes from the past informed valuable models of kingship, gave lessons in wisdom and virtue, and provided a source of noble entertainment. History, recorded in both official documents and legend, was also used in political argument. Territorial claims and claims to the throne, as well as the legitimisation of new dynasties were formulated on historical precedent and with reference to royal genealogies. Therefore, history, constructed for the use of the present day played a vital role in royal ideology and propaganda.

The selection of manuscripts in this exhibition encompasses books commissioned by or for the English monarchs as well as volumes appropriated by them, including a large group of manuscripts seized from monastic libraries by agents of King Henry VIII before and after the dissolution of monasteries. Together they provide insights into the use of history books and the role of images within them. As expressions of political thought, beliefs, and concepts of group, social and national identities these images illustrate how the past was imagined, represented, understood and interpreted in the Middle Ages.

Note: This virtual exhibition was composed in conjunction with the exhibition Royal Manuscripts: Genius of Illumination (British Library, November 2011 - March 2012) as part of the Royal Manuscripts Project funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Joanna Frońska
Latin
Chronicles
Royal Genealogy
Mythology and Legend
Vernacular
Chronicles
Further Reading

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