The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology / Edition 1

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Overview

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.

In this classic we see the political theory of kingship and the realities being king under that theory. While the king may be fallible kingship is not.

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Editorial Reviews

American Political Science Review
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
The Law Quarterly 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
American Political Science Review - P.N. Riesenberg
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.
The Law Quarterly Review - B. Chrimes
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.
American Political Science Review - P. N. Riesenberg
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.
From the Publisher
"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691017044
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/29/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 705,446
  • Product dimensions: 7.94 (w) x 7.26 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet 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".

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Table of Contents

Preface (1997)
Preface
Introduction 3
I The Problem: Plowden's Reports 7
II The Shakespeare: King Richard II 24
III Christ-Centered Kingship 42
IV Law-Centered Kingship 87
V Polity-Centered Kingship: Corpus Mysticum 193
VI On Continuity and Corporations 273
VII The King Never Dies 314
VIII Man-Centered Kingship: Dante 451
IX Epilogue 496
List of Illustrations 507
Bibliography and Index 513
Addenda 568
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2007

    Political Analysis at its Best

    Quite possibly the best book on medieval political ideology that has ever been written. Dr. Kantorowicz, beyond any shade of doubt, had a mastery of the material at hand. His original introduction alone, a gentlemanly 'tip of the cap' to his associates, makes the book worthy of purchase. One caveat, however. The book is not for the faint of heart. The work is exceptionally well documented and detailed getting through it is not an easy task even for those with experience in the field. Still, this book is a great jumping off point for the field.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2003

    A stunning work!

    Being a medievalist, I have found this book to be of immeasurable importance and usefulness. I wrote my honors thesis on Western Christian sacral kingship; if there is one book that one should read to understand medieval kingship, this is probably it. It is exceptionally well documented; Dr. Kantorowicz was certainly a master of this subject. Although it can seem impenetrable to the less patient or interested, it is essential to a proper understanding of medieval and early modern European politico-theological thought.

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