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Restoration and Representation: Architecture and the Body of Charles II

Research Lunch – Sarah Hutcheson

  • 28 June 2024
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

The troubles facing the monarchy on its Restoration in 1660 were many and varied. Problems of rehabilitating the splendour of the monarchy after the Interregnum, of resanctifying kinghood, of absentee rule in Scotland and Ireland, of sheer lack of funds, of an infertile queen but a plentitude of royal bastards – all of these issues have their spatial articulations in Charles II’s building projects. One of the Crown strategies for strengthening the newly returned monarchy involved centring the body of the king, and representing the restoration of the king’s body physical with his body politic.

The body of the king dictated the arrangement and etiquette of the State Apartments that Charles built or remodelled at several palaces, including Whitehall, Windsor Castle, the Queen’s House at Greenwich, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and at the unfinished Palace of Winchester. It provided the logic for ornament at Holyrood Palace in Scotland. His body was deified – depicted amongst Greco-Roman gods – in murals at Windsor, where the beheaded body of his father was interred, where the memory of the violence against monarchy was physically located. But the issue of Charles’ body was illegitimate, highlighted by the placement of his brother and heir’s apartments, and Charles’ own body was the object of purported assassination plots. Architecturally, Charles II’s body was both a problem and a solution.

Image credit: Antonio Verrio, Charles II, 1684, oil on plaster, 82.8 x 68.7 cm. Image courtesy of Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2024 (RCIN 407412).

About the speaker

  • Sarah Hutcheson is a PhD candidate in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urbanism at Harvard University, with a focus on the political meanings of architecture in early modern Britain and the British Empire. Their dissertation research examines royal building projects after the restoration of the monarchy, and the problems of renegotiating the relationship between politics and space in the years following regicide and revolution. Other projects have considered gender and poetry in English landscape gardens, early modern London in times of plague and reflections of Union in Edinburgh’s New Town. Sarah holds an MSc in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in History from Vassar College.