Early Modern Exchanges


VIRTUAL MREMS: Confessions of an English Salon; On Arthur and Excalibur

19 November 2020, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

MREMS King Arthur and Mazarin Salon

MREMS (Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies) is pleased to welcome Lisa Nicholson, Cambridge and Ethan Darden, UCL for two thought-provoking papers.

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Ethan Darden

Confessions of an English Salon: French Exiles in London (Lisa Nicholson; Cambridge)

Founded by Hortense Mancini, Duchesse de Mazarin, and Charles de Saint-Évremond in London in 1676, the Mazarin salon was the first major salon to be established outside of France. Its members ranged from French Catholics and Huguenots, to Anglicans, and European Protestant exiles. The salon's multiconfessionalism drew criticism and suspicion from multiple strata of society, all of which came to a head with Mancini's implication in the Popish Plot. In this paper, I'll trace the salon's formation and multiconfessional membership before discussing the dramatic events of 1678, which saw Mancini accused of involvement in a Jesuit plot to assassinate Charles II.

On Arthur and Excalibur (Ethan Darden; UCL)

This paper explores the different lives and narratives of Excalibur across the ages, the sword of all swords and the Holy Grail of weapons. As we understand it today, Excalibur seems an object of fantasy and fairytale; it is the magical blade of King Arthur, granted to him by a water nymph, which over the centuries has come to symbolise such ideals as power and justice. Most consider Excalibur—as well as Arthur himself—an invention of fiction; however, the historical register tells a different story. Specifically, medieval British chronicles from the likes of Geoffrey of Monmouth (d. 1155), Benedict of Peterborough (d. 1193), Roger of Hoveden (d. 1201), Gerald of Wales (d. 1223) and Ralph of Coggeshall (d. 1227) attest to the earthly existence of both man and sword. These accounts—of questionable veracity—warrant further study of Arthur and Excalibur and force us to consider how such ‘historical’ texts informed the processes of later Arthurian writers up through the Renaissance.

The event will run via Zoom. To get the link please join the MREMS mailing list by emailing ethan.darden.18@ucl.ac.uk