Frances Murray

BA (Oxon.), MLitt (University of St Andrews)


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Thesis title: Weeping Kings: Masculinity and Power in the Early Middle Ages
Supervisor: Prof. Simon MacLean

My thesis examines depictions of weeping rulers and explores how these contributed to the representation of power in texts of the eighth and ninth centuries. Rulers were described weeping by ninth century authors in many contexts. Thegan of Trier represented Louis the Pious weeping whilst praying, and Einhard painted a picture of Charlemagne as a grieving father, shedding tears for his children. These descriptions of crying rulers have been interpreted, until now, in two main ways: either as a straightforward reflection of reality – a king was sad and so wept – or as a highly charged political performance. I, on the other hand, view these accounts of weeping as textually constructed, and explore the ways in which they were used and manipulated by authors throughout the period. Furthermore, previous research has focused on the tenth and eleventh centuries; this thesis draws attention to the large number of Carolingian references to lachrymose rulership.

My research is funded by a '7th century scholarship', awarded by the School of History.