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Between c.1780 and c.1820, revolutions and wars transformed the political geography of Europe. By the end of this turbulent phase, a new power balance had taken shape. The majority of smaller players was now side-lined, whereas others achieved great power status. At the same time, notions of political power and the role of the monarch were upturned. Princes were forced to adapt their rule to these transitions; yet their efforts have never been studied in detail. The project ‘Monarchy in Turmoil’ traces princely adaptations and innovations in the Low Countries and adjacent German territories, where a sequence of traditional, Napoleonic and Restoration rulers faced particularly far-reaching changes in terms of territory, government, sovereignty and legitimacy.

Traditionally, the princely court had been the focal point of representation and government. Courts gradually lost this position in the nineteenth century, but it remains unclear to what extent this process occurred during the transition period. We examine this question in two domains: court styles and decision-making. Princes in these challenging times were forced to choose between different styles of court life, but needed to carefully consider the impact of their choices on elites and the population. In addition, they were keen to use the strengthened and rationalized state apparatus introduced by the revolution, although this forced them to reconsider their personal role and the role of their household in decision-making.

Boven de drie Noord-Nederlandse vorsten: v.l.n.r. erfstadhouder Willem V, koning Lodewijk Napoleon en koning Willem I. Onder de drie Duitse vorsten: v.l.n.r. Wilhelm IX, landgraaf van Hessen-Kassel, Jérôme Napoleon, koning van Westfalen, en Friedrich Wilhelm III, koning van Pruisen.


The project ‘Monarchy in Turmoil’ includes three sub-projects. Each of these follows the same layout and work programme, moving from court styles and the ‘economy of honour’ to the prosopography of leading circles and selected cases of decision-making.

Sub-project 1: Two Late Ancien Régime ‘Monarchies’: Tradition in the Face of Reform and Revolution
In this sub-project a PhD candidate compares the ‘monarchies’ of William V, stadtholder of the United Provinces (c. 1780-1795), and William IX, landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1785-1803). How did the revolution-plagued Dutch stadtholder and Hessian landgrave try to enhance their (quasi-)monarchical legitimacy and their political freedom of action, in a context of rising domestic opposition and growing foreign interference?

Sub-project 2: Two Napoleonic Monarchies: an Amalgam of Revolutionary Government and Resuscitated Kingship
In this sub-project senior postdoctoral researcher dr Jos Gabriëls compares the monarchies of Louis Napoleon, King of Holland (1806-1810), and Jerome Napoleon, King of Westphalia (1807-1813). How did these Napoleonic kings try to acquire legitimacy for their newly created monarchies, and how did they retain some discretionary power in the face of a highly efficient state bureaucracy and the incessant interventions by the French emperor?

Sub-project 3: Two Early Restoration Monarchies: the Bricolage of Modernization and Tradition
In this sub-project a PhD candidate compares the monarchies of William I, Prince/King of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1813/1815-c.1820), and Frederick William III, King of Prussia (1810 – c.1820). After two decades of revolution and war, how did these Restoration kings define their reinstated monarchical power between traditional legitimacy and the strengthened state bureaucracy, within a changed and volatile international context?

The project’s research team comprises three senior researchers, two PhD candidates, and an advisory board. The main applicant, prof.dr Jeroen Duindam, is a leading authority on the early modern court and an experienced comparative historian. The co-applicant, prof.dr Ida Nijenhuis, adds expertise on representation and decision-making in early modern political regimes and has a specific knowledge of sources related to decision-making practice. The senior researcher, dr Jos Gabriëls, who acts as postdoc, combines extensive research experience on the Dutch Stadtholderate in the late eighteenth century with detailed knowledge of Napoleonic France and its sister regimes. He will be able to effectively support the two PhD candidates. The research team has invited leading specialists on monarchy and politics in the early modern age as well as in the nineteenth century to join the advisory board.

The project will start on 1 September 2017.


dr Jos Gabriëls