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The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology

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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Politics » History & Theory

The King's Two Bodies

A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology

By Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Willam Chester Jordan (Preface by)

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Format: Paperback / softback, 624 pages
Other Information: 32 pages of illustrations
Published In: United States, 29 December 1997
In 1957 Ernst Kantorowicz published a book that would be the guide for generations of scholars through the arcane mysteries of medieval political theology. In The King's Two Bodies, Kantorowicz traces the historical problem posed by the "King's two bodies"--the body politic and the body natural--back to the Middle Ages and demonstrates, by placing the concept in its proper setting of medieval thought and political theory, how the early-modern Western monarchies gradually began to develop a "political theology." The king's natural body has physical attributes, suffers, and dies, naturally, as do all humans; but the king's other body, the spiritual body, transcends the earthly and serves as a symbol of his office as majesty with the divine right to rule. The notion of the two bodies allowed for the continuity of monarchy even when the monarch died, as summed up in the formulation "The king is dead. Long live the king." Bringing together liturgical works, images, and polemical material, The King's Two Bodies explores the long Christian past behind this "political theology."It provides a subtle history of how commonwealths developed symbolic means for establishing their sovereignty and, with such means, began to establish early forms of the nation-state. Kantorowicz fled Nazi Germany in 1938, after refusing to sign a Nazi loyalty oath, and settled in the United States. While teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, he once again refused to sign an oath of allegiance, this one designed to identify Communist Party sympathizers. He resigned as a result of the controversy and moved to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he remained for the rest of his life, and where he wrote The King's Two Bodies.

Table of Contents

Preface (1997)PrefaceIntroduction3IThe Problem: Plowden's Reports7IIThe Shakespeare: King Richard II24IIIChrist-Centered Kingship42IVLaw-Centered Kingship87VPolity-Centered Kingship: Corpus Mysticum193VIOn Continuity and Corporations273VIIThe King Never Dies314VIIIMan-Centered Kingship: Dante451IXEpilogue496List of Illustrations507Bibliography and Index513Addenda568

About the Author

Ernst H. Kantorowicz taught at the University of California, Berkeley and was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. His books include "Frederick the Second" and "Selected Studies".


"Professor Kantorowicz has written a great book, perhaps the most important work in the history of medieval political thought, surely the most spectacular, of the past several generations. Here, in superbly designed chapters based upon the best scholarship in every field even remotely concerned with the Middle Ages, is the development of the theory and symbolism of the early national states from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries."--P. N. Riesenberg, American Political Science Review "Professor Ernst Kantorowicz has in this volume given us a monumental work of superb scholarship and profound learning, magnificently produced by Princeton University Press. Few, if any, contributions to the study of medieval thought comparable to this depth and width have been made for many years."--B. Chrimes, The Law Quarterly Review

EAN: 9780691017044
ISBN: 0691017042
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Dimensions: 23.52 x 15.7 x 3.58 centimetres (0.49 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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