We learned of a call for papers for an international conference in Vienna on personal structures of informal decision-making at late medieval courts.
The papers that shall be presented at the conference are expected to either contribute to the working model/definition of Grey Eminences or to present case studies in order to enhance the comparative approach of the GREMIA project. Hence, papers may address the following research topics:
1. Proposing biographies to be compared with the case studies investigated within the GREMIA project: The starting point of the GREMIA project was the idea to trace the careers and biographies of several important decision-makers of the political entourage of late medieval Emperors and King of the Romans: Sigmund Huler (Bohemian vice-chamberlain or royal treasurer to King Wenceslas), Brunoro della Scala (key figure of the Italian party at the court of Emperor Sigismund), Sigmund Prüschenk (counsellor to Emperor Frederick III), Zyprian von Northeim (named Serntein, aulic and Tyrolean chancellor to Maximilian I) and Kaspar Schlick (imperial chancellor and leading diplomat to the Roman Kings and Emperors Sigismund, Albert II and Frederick III). We are keen to confront the chosen sample of people at the Imperial court with comparable and matching figures from other European royal and princely households.
2. Discussing and assessing one or several of the proposed characteristics attributed to Grey eminences: - Social ascent: Grey eminences often (but not always) rise to their position as the result of an advancement from comparably low social milieu (in contrast to courtiers belonging to the higher aristocracy). - Technicians of power (diplomacy, engineering, finance, legal matters, etc.): their specific technical knowledge helped them climbing the ladder and accessing the direct service of the prince, even more so, if they had training in more than just one of these areas of knowledge or retained a good general overview of political concepts and the modes of decision-making at court; - Secundus regi/imperatori, second to the ruler or to a minister in terms of power: it seems, however, that Grey eminences could not only rely on their close cooperation with the king himself; they rather had to work hand in hand with potentially rivalling courtiers; - Powerbroker/gatherer of symbolic capital, or the Grey eminence as a node of a wide-ranging network. Grey eminences often promoted family members or clients from their patronage systems, but they could also function as go-betweens for regional elites, promoting political interests of their countrymen at court and thus ensuring or intensifying interaction between the court as a political centre and its more or less distant peripheries and vice versa; - Founders of a bureaucratic and courtly dynasty: they pursued their own interests and expected to have their share in the redistribution of power and honours at court. Consequently, if the Grey eminence had gained a hold on power, they tried to retain it or to pass it on to their offspring, often seeking to achieve heredity of (formal) court offices or at least of landed property given to them. - Part of a group of Grey eminences: the ruler promoted more than one Grey eminence at a time, as a deliberate strategy to establish a counterbalance between favourites, so that none of them could entirely dominate the court or the counsel. - Rival of the sovereign: Grey eminences entering in a relationship of rivalry with the sovereign, a constellation typically appearing with the succession of a new sovereign when the office of the Grey eminence did not end with the death of the ruler.
3. Grey Eminences belonging to other political bodies/spheres of decision centres: the five reference characters selected for the GREMIA project as well as most of the theoretical material gathered refer to Grey eminences as members of a royal or princely court. However, it is true that other forms of decision centres (ecclesiastic court, city councils, republican institutions, representative assemblies) could have produced other forms of Grey eminences. Papers on such topics will also be highly welcomed.
The conference will take place at the Institut für Mittelalterforschung of the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Hollandstraße 11-13, 1st floor, Vienna, Austria), 12-14 October 2020. Conference languages will be English, German and French. Proposals (including an abstract of 1500 characters max. and a short bio-bibliographical presentation) for papers of 25 min should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com before 15 April.
The full call can be found here
More info here