Where do our loyalties lie?

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This past week I assisted the first of the two lecture series required for my masters program: La Doble Lealtad. Entre el servicio al Rey y la obligación a la Iglesia (s. XVI-XVII) [Double Loyalty.  Between Service to the King and Obligation to the Church].

Like many seminars of this type, we heard over 17 interventions over two days.  Although slightly an overload of information, I found the seminar as a whole to be incredibly stimulating. We discussed two main figures in 16th and 17th century history, the Cardinal and the Ambassador attempting to discover where each’s loyalties lay.  In theory, in the case of the Cardinal it should be to the Pope and in the Ambassador to the King.  However, this was not always the case. The different talks warned against the risks of making sweeping generalizations about the different historical figures and instead focused primarily on one person in particular. Each stressed the importance of closely examining the documents, which do not openly speak of loyalty or fidelity, but rather of demonstrate the web of connections that each person cultivated.  Furthermore, as a whole they illustrated the futility in attempting the separate religious and political actions, for during this historical period, they were two sides of the same coin.

Additionally, we discussed how literature and art played a vital role in the formation of such relationships. I absolutely loved this session because it spoke to my inner art historian and also gave me many different thoughts about future studies, especially portraits of monarchs in the New World.

I had quite good fortune because one of the speakers at the conference is the Head Archivist at the Convent La Encarnación, and also works closely with the archival records of Las Descalzas Reales. In her talk she spoke about how the women in the cloisters of Madrid and their ability to act as intermediaries between the Pope and the King of Spain. I found the talk to be very stimulating, especially her description of what it meant legally to be a cloistered woman.  I believe that conferences are one of the few chances that historians have to not only present their passions, but also to meet fellow scholars in their field. And so I took advantage of this chance to introduce myself to various professors, including the Conservator of La Encarnación. We are currently in contact, and hopefully we can arrange for a visit to help me better understand the spatial changes that have occurred throughout the centuries to the convent.

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