Volkswagen Fellowship Symposium 2014 – Punishment and Regicide: Iconographical Accounts of Ravaillac’s Public Execution in early Seventeenth-century England

Stefania Gargioni:

My proposal focuses on the visual representation of Ravaillac’s execution in early modern French pamphlets translated into English in 1610. Ravaillac, a Jesuit priest, assassinated king Henry IV in 1610. Based on the works of Orest Ranum and Natalie Zemon Davis, I will argue that the translations of Ravaillac’s execution could be understood as a deterrent against the regicide in early Stuart England. Ravaillac, who had committed the crime of the regicide, which was the worst act of subversion, had in certain sense captured the mana of the king, and consequently the crowd was motivated to collaborate with the executioner and his assistants in completely destroying the body of one who had attacked the bonum commune. The episodic account of Ravaillac’s execution for parricide, both written and depicted, reminds the observer of the return of the regicide to the centre of French political affairs. The depiction of Ravaillac’s death recounts a careful piece of judicial drama trough which the English government intended to send a clear message to the audience. The state made an example of Ravaillac as a deterrent to others and as a symbolic rejection to regicide. Through his public execution the English government sought to purify the community and reject what they defined as a foreign idea, regicide, from early Seventeenth-century England. Indeed, by all accounts the audience at the event supported and even sought to contribute to its message by growing on the traditional roles of the crowd at public executions.

After obtaining a joint MA degree in History at University of Milan and University of Grenoble, Stefania Gargioni is now an Erasmus Mundus Doctoral Fellow (University of Kent – Freie Universitat Berlin). Her thesis focuses on the figure of Henry of Navarre in the French texts translated into English (1570-1610).

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