Forests, parks, palaces, and the power of place in early medieval kingship


  • The award by the Leverhulme Trust of a senior research fellowship for 2010–13 has enabled me to pursue the broader project from which this paper derives. For their comments and advice on this paper, I am very grateful to Eric Goldberg, Graham Jones, Tom Lambert, Jack Langton and Thomas Zotz.


Forests, parks and palaces were closely associated, so that palaces could not only have their own parks, but often occupied liminal positions between the forest and the more intensively cultivated land, or were surrounded by the forest. The power which forests and parks gave to palaces is here analysed in terms of categories of power derived from Max Weber's work: bureaucratic, personal and ideological. The first involved the forest administration and the revenues deriving from it; the second the relationship between the king and forest communities, and the role of hunting in enhancing the king's power; and the third the ideological statements about power which parks and forests could make, whether in terms of the similarity of the palace's situation to the heavenly kingdom, the symbolic representation of the king's power over the land, or the powerful traditions, ideas and literary constructs which the landscape could embody.