On coronation and abdication: two medieval examples.

June 8, 2014 Historia  No comments

Ramiro II de León, tumbo A de la Catedral de Santiago

These days people in Spain are talking about the abdication of Juan Carlos I, and the coronation of Philip of Bourbon. There has been much talk about abdication and monarchy, but the way this institution works today has very little to do with how these things were done in the Middle Ages. So I would like to talk a little about these procedures at the time of our game.

We are going to discuss two striking cases in medieval Spain: Ramiro II’s abdication in 951, and the coronation of Ferdinand I in 1038.

Ramiro II (931-951) was a great warrior king, son of another prominent Leonese monarch, Ordoño II (914-924). In January 951, king Ramiro, almost fifty, undertook a trip to Oviedo where he felt sick and falter. He returned to León where, conscious of his weakness and old age, decided to abdicate in his son Ordoño Ramirez. Unlike what happens at the present day, the power enjoyed by Ramiro came from God, not the Spanish people or the Constitution, so the king, at the ceremony of abdication, should return the ‘gift’ of power to God. Ramiro gathered in León the main ecclesiastical and civil personalities of the kingdom and, in a solemn ceremony, the chronicler Sampire tells us, he was stripped of all royal symbols: scepter, crown, royal mantle. The medieval theory of power was in full operation: nude was born, and God had invested him of maiestas, royal majesty; naked should return to the Lord, therefore, of no longer served him the attributes of royalty. Ramiro probably died in June of that year.

Fernando I, tumbo A de la Catedral de SantiagoFerdinand I (1037-1065) was the first king of León of the Jimena dynasty. Before King, he was Count of Castile. He succeeded the throne in 1037, after the death of his brother-in-law Vermudo III at the Battle of Tamarón, and thanks to his marriage to the sister, Sancha, daughter of Alfonso V. As the abdication, the coronation ceremony was also in a strong sense religious. This ritual imitated the coronations of the Visigoth kings of Toledo in the seventh century. The highlight was the anointing: holy oil was spilled by the chief bishop of the kingdom -in this case Servando, Bishop of Leon- on the head of the monarch, which symbolized his election by God. Then the king took the scepter and the crown, and sitted on the throne. This throne was prominently above all other nobles and priests stall, which came to represent the superiority of the king. As the future Philip VI, Ferdinand I also faced opposition when holding the golden diadem: the governor of León closed the doors of the city -Fernando was hated because he had caused the death of the young king Vermudo III-, and couldn’t get into it until 1038, the year of his coronation. Ferdinand had to fight to conquer the throne, but later became one of the most powerful monarchs of León.

In ‘Hispania: Saints & Warriors’ kings may abdicate, but only when they have some facet that makes them incapable to govern. Thus he will carry the title ‘King Father’ while his heir and new player character will be, simply, ‘King’.

That is all for now. Regards, good luck and see you soon!

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