Sean Heath

BA (Hons) (Cantab), MPhil (Cantab), FRCO

Contact Details

Thesis Title: Saint Louis in early modern France
Supervisor: Dr Guy Rowlands

Research Interests:

This thesis will examine the ways in which Saint Louis (Louis IX, r. 1226-70) was perceived, used and manipulated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The thirteenth-century king’s cult experienced a huge expansion in this period, as is evident from the sheer variety of media in which he was celebrated and discussed, ranging from panegyrics and poems to statues, paintings and even oratorios. His memory was harnessed to the monarchy’s glorification but also provided a space in which Henri IV and his successors could be criticised by comparison to their pious ancestor. He appears in all sorts of contexts, from seventeenth century spiritual texts to conflicts between the crown and the parlements in the eighteenth century, from the activities of French missionaries overseas to pamphlets criticizing Louis XIV’s luxurious habits or his failure to start a new crusade. I will explore several themes: the extent of contemporary factual knowledge about Saint Louis; the impressions and opinions formed from this information and how they changed over time; and the ways in which such impressions were used in various political and religious contexts. The result will hopefully be a PhD that combines various strands of early modern French history and provides an interesting example of the ways in which long-gone figures and periods are received, manipulated and reinterpreted to suit the changed circumstances, debates and agendas of later generations.

I have always had an interest in seventeenth-century France and am enjoying getting underway with this research. Another fascination of mine is the history and culture of China, where I lived for a year between finishing my MPhil and coming to St Andrews. I hope one day to tie these interests together by writing a comparative biography of Louis XIV and the Kangxi emperor. Outside of history I am an experienced musician and enjoy playing the organ and harpsichord.