Book Review: Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kings and Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds


by Lynette Mitchell and Charles Melville, editors

Leiden/Boston: E.J. Brill, 2013. Pp. xviii, 412. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $179.00. ISBN: 9004228977

Varying Ideas about Kingship from Antiquity through the Eve of the Modern Age

Every Inch a King examines ideas about monarchy across a thousand years, from c. 550 BC to c. AD 1650 , in a geographic swathe the sprawls from the British Isles to Iran , across a number of different cultures and in many different religious environments .  The essays view the subject in a variety of ways, with approaches th at often overlap. 

Some essay s look at the “divine” aspects of kingship among the Achaemenids,  Alexander, the “Successors,” and even the Christian Iberian Visigoths.  One look s at kingship as manifested by Cyrus the Great, as depicted by Xenophon in the Cyropaedia and then in Machiavelli’s interpretation of Xenophon. 

Four essays more or less deal with Medieval England, covering royal images in law books, the “Anomalous” kingship of William the Conqueror , “Tales of Adulterous Queens”, and the monarchy as depicted in Froissart’s Chronicles. 

Islamic Iran is the subject of three essays, which look at Turkish kingship in Iran, royal imagery in the Mongol era, and architecture and representations of kingship in the Safavid era.

Other essays include one that compares praise songs dedicated to Æthelstan of England and the Caliph ‘Abd-ar-Rahman III, a look a t Alfonso the Wise of Spain as an ideal and idealized king, the importance of the royal progression in Medieval Germany, and more.  Oddly, despite the fact that they are literally in the middle of both the temporal and geographic span of the work, no essays directly address either the Romans or the Byzantines, a curious omission , though it does not detract significantly from the overall value of the the work.  

A volume in the Brill series “Rulers & Elites: Comparative Studies in Governance”, Every Inch a King can be read with profit by those interested in the history of the countries covered or in the idea of monarchy.

Note: Every Inch a King is also available as an e-book, $179.00, ISBN 978-90-04-24214-2.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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