Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets:
Kingship and the Representation of Power, 1200-1400

Paul Binski

Publicaton Date
May 1995
Standard Number
Yale University Press
252 pages

One of the great royal treasure houses of the world, Westminster Abbey is an example of English medieval royal power and patronage. This text presents a study of Westminster Abbey and places the abbey's physical and artistic growth in the context of the political and religious culture of its time. Paul Binski challenges the predominant view that the abbey represented an international Parisian Court style that was a product of the rivalry between Henry III of England and Louis IX of France. Instead, re-examining the diverse character of high political patronage, he relates the abbey more closely to the myths and aspirations of English political culture. He reassesses the work of the major patrons associated with the abbey, especially Henry III, Edward I, and Richard II, and analyzes the various ideologies of power they sought to promote, particularly the cult of St Edward. The text shows how the royal mythology of nations - including Italy - influenced the development of the abbey. It also shows discusses the function of the abbey as the single most important site of royal burial and ritual, describing its tombs, its coronation ceremonies and its services to the nearby Palace of Westminster. Documenting and examining the abbey's collection of paintings, sculptures and illuminations, it relates them to the church's ritual and devotional practices.

About the author

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Paul Binski

    Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Cambridge University