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Introduction

  • Matthew Glencross
  • Judith Rowbotham
  • Christopher Brennan
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Modern Monarchy book series (PSMM)

Abstract

This is a volume about modern monarchies and the ways in which various individual monarchies were tested by the Great War. Through its focused exploration of monarchy, as an institution, and of individual monarchs it challenges the conventional view on monarchy at this turning point in modern history. The chapter reviews the historiography of the conflict, and disputes the dismissal of the monarchy as outdated and irrelevant, and frames the subsequent chapters by explaining the realities of modern monarchy. By the twentieth century, and not just in Europe, it accepts that the public conceptualisations of what monarchy signified to various audiences were very different to those of an earlier period. However, it also argues that the issues of history and tradition cannot be ignored—because these have always been central to the claims to power and authority (titular and real) that monarchies possess. Above all, it provides an exploration of the issues of symbolism and monarchy. As an institution, monarchy has always had much to do with symbolism and even in modern monarchies, assessments of individual rulers as ‘good’ or ‘poor’, ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ sovereigns, have related very strongly to how they have been perceived to perform the ‘public relations’ duties expected of them by contemporaries. In other words, the public framing of the persona of an individual monarch (and the lesser royal luminaries surrounding the ruler) has always depended upon how he or she is imagined by contemporaries. Reflecting back on the experience of war post-1918, the line taken by many historical accounts of the post-war period has been along the lines that the experience of ‘total war’ worked to ‘show up’ how monarchies had become ‘irrelevant’ and ‘out of touch’. This chapter sets up the perspective for the rest of this volume to challenge such assumptions, by demonstrating that the issues surrounding monarchies and their ability to survive in the testing environment provided by the Great War are less predictable than has been assumed. Often, where monarchies did fall, the factors leading to their downfall can be shown to relate to issues either pre-dating or post-dating the war, rather than being created by the war itself.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Glencross
    • 1
  • Judith Rowbotham
    • 2
  • Christopher Brennan
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Plymouth UniversityPlymouthUK
  3. 3.London School of EconomicsLondonUK

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