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Public Displays of Affection: Negotiating Power and Identity in Ceremonial Receptions in Amsterdam, 1580–1660

  • Author(s): Decemvirale, Suzanne
  • Advisor(s): Adams, Ann J
  • et al.
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The Union of Utrecht treaty (1579) established a confederation of Dutch provinces that previously had never formed a cohesive geographical or political entity. United mostly by a common enemy, this region and its inhabitants were soon in search of a common identity: a task that not only involved the consolidation of a varied range of locally defined power structures, but also that of a notably heterogeneous body politic. Mythic narratives regarding the nation’s ancient origins and heroic leadership and liberation were developed to provide an inspired cover for the political and religious strife living directly underneath its surface.

To gain insight into the processes by which idealized notions of patria were evoked differently by competing factions in the Republic, this dissertation examines ceremonial receptions of military leaders and royal visitors that took place in Amsterdam during the first eight decades of the Dutch Republic (1580- 1660). I argue that these events and their representations in print functioned as platforms for the formation and contestation of emerging hierarchies, and ask to what political end various media such as performance, poetry and print were employed to help negotiate a new system of government, as well as sustain proto-nationalistic narratives and diplomatic efforts on behalf of the city.

Seen through the lenses of urban space, print culture, cultural networks and cultural memory theory, this dissertation analyzes several ceremonial entries that took place in Amsterdam between 1580 and 1660. These are discussed in chronologically ordered chapters that trace how artistic and literary conventions were applied and transformed in relation to their immediate historic and political circumstances. In my first chapter I focus on the receptions of William of Orange (1533-1584) in 1580 and the Earl of Leicester (1533-1588) in 1586, taking place in the transitional period shortly before and after the Union of Utrecht (1581), as well as two triumphal entries of William’s son, Stadtholder Maurice (1567-1625) in 1594 and 1618. As I argue in this chapter, these entries demonstrate that a monarchical ceremonial language was used to explore, negotiate and legitimize the terms of a “mixed constitution” Republic, in which an aristocratic Captain-General (the Stadtholder) served the provinces and States-General.

The joyous entries of the exiled Maria de' Medici (1575-1642), Queen-Mother of France, in 1638 and her daughter Henrietta Maria Stuart (1609-1669), Queen of England, in 1642, form the topic of my second and third chapter. I contend that these remarkable receptions utilized tropes of Dutch Republican progress and state-making to bolster the credibility of the young state on the international diplomatic stage, through alternative emphases on Amsterdam’s merchant regents and the House of Orange. In my fourth and last chapter, finally, I argue that the marriage politics of the Oranges effectively pressured Amsterdam to orchestrate two receptions of Orange-Nassau family members during the First Stadtholderless Era (1650-1672), in 1659 and 1660. As such forcing a public consideration of the importance of the Stadtholders during the Revolt years, the events yielded mixed responses from Amsterdam’s polemical printing press.

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This item is under embargo until February 8, 2021.