- Visitors & Friends
- About the University
Database records Early Modern Europe's greatest festivals
Matt Pickles | 01 Oct 12
Official records of coronations, weddings, christenings, victory celebrations and tournaments in Early Modern Europe have been made freely for researchers in a new database.
The Early Modern Festival Books Database, led by Professor Helen Watanabe O'Kelly of the Modern Languages Faculty at Oxford University, allows researchers free online access to more than three thousand descriptions of 16th, 17th, and 18th century festivals at courts and cities throughout Europe.
The records are found in official publications of the time, written in twelve languages and are enriched with historical information about the event, the participants and the artists involved.
'Festivals are a vital source of information for art historians, musicologists and historians of early modern Europe', Professor Watanabe-O'Kelly said.
'This database will allow researchers to find these accounts of these events in five major libraries, allowing researchers to understand more easily the particular festival being described. They also often provide the key to the political significance of a particular festival.'
The database will be an invaluable resource for researchers, Professor Watanabe-O'Kelly says, because of the detail and colour it provides for major historical figures and events.
One figure of historical interest whose life is illuminated by the database is Christina, who was crowned Queen of Sweden in 1650. As the daughter of the King who had led the Protestant troops in the Thirty Years' War, she represented Protestantism as Elizabeth I had done 50 years before.
Christina's abdication and conversion to Catholicism in 1655 therefore sent shockwaves through Europe and Christina then travelled across Europe to settle in Rome.
'By using the database, the researcher working on Christina will find 42 festival books in Latin, French, German and Italian,' Professor Watanabe-O'Kelly explains.
'They describe her coronation, her entries into Paris and Bologna and the festivals staged for her there, her progress through Italy, the events that greeted her arrival in Rome, when she was welcomed by a triumphant papacy, and festivals she staged herself during the 33 years she lived in Rome.'
Would a similar database record the marriage of William and Kate in such detail for historians of the future? 'Commemorative volumes are still being produced for royal weddings, coronations and jubilees so there is a continuity there,' Professor Watanabe-O'Kelly says.
'But while William marrying Kate is a sign that the Windsors are going to continue as a dynasty - so it's not devoid of historical interest - it is insignificant in its meaning compared to Louis XIV marrying a Spanish princess or Charles II marrying Catherine of Braganza.
'These were real dynastic unions, often bringing about a peace between two nations.'
One wonders how many bank holidays a marriage like Charles and Catherine's would merit today...
Top image: Christina (copyright British Library); Bottom image: William and Kate on their wedding day in a 1902 State Landau carriage