6 – 7 October 2011

Ist Arenberg Conference for History: Dynastic Identity

back to the overview

Dynastic Identity in early modern Europe: The dynamics of aristocratic identity formation in comparative perspective. Actors, Motives and Strategies.

The conference’s theme ‘Dynastic identity in Early Modern Europe.  The dynamics of aristocratic identity formation’ is especially dear to the Arenberg Foundation, because identities are very much present in today’s discourses.  Too often they are seen as seemingly unchangeable safe havens in a constantly changing environment, and not enough as the immensely dynamic concepts that they truly are. - Leopold d'Arenberg

Few doubts can persist today on the existence of specific dynastic identities of Europe’s great families. The self-definition of these aristocrats focussed on claims of eternity and universality (as Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann recently defined it). Aristocrats developed a sense of lineage and continuity between past, present and future generations. So far, these identities have been studied mostly for ruling dynasties. However, exclusive identities were not just a prerogative of the “great dynasties” - as for instance the Habsburgs - they were carefully cultivated and promoted by noble houses throughout Europe.

These last few years, discussions on identity have dominated popular and scientific discourse alike. Definitions on identity are abundant, whether on national, ethnic or collective or other grounds. This conference will be concerned with identities relevant to families. Identities are rarely static or unchanging, and often influenced by a multitude of factors. It is not another definition of identity we seek, but rather an insight into the development of identity formation in the Europe of the Ancien Regime. This will allow us to reconstruct the worldview and motives of the most powerful individuals and families in early modern societies.

Early Modern aristocratic families were a dominant force in political, religious and cultural life throughout the early modern period. This conference aimed to reconstruct the worldview and motives of the most powerful individuals and families in early modern societies by focussing on their dynastic identities. 

During this conference speakers from all over Europe shedded light on the dynastic identities of aristocrats from Ireland to Bohemia and from Sweden to Italy.

Keynote speakers are Prof. dr. Ronald Asch, Prof.dr. Jane Ohlmeyer, Prof. dr. Bernardo Garcia-Gracia and Prof. dr. Jeroen Duindam. 

Organised by Mirella Marini (VU University Amsterdam) and Liesbeth Geevers (Utrecht University).

6-7 October 2011

Thursday October 6 2011 (Day 1) 

Keynote lecture: Prof. Dr. Jane Ohlmeyer: Aristocratic Identity Formation in seventeenth-century Ireland

  • Mirella Marini: From Arenberg to Aarschot: female inheritance and the disputed “merger” of two aristocratic identities
  • Sebastiaan Derks: In Alessandro's Shadow. The House of Farnese and the Politics of History
  • Liesbeth Geevers: The Nassau Orphans: the disputed legacy of William of Orange (1584-1625)
  • Jonathan Spangler: Mademoiselle de Guise’s Will and the Transferability of Dynastic Identity
  • Fabian Persson: Creating Swedish Aristocrats: the De La Gardies and the Brahes
  • Keynote lecture: Prof. Dr. Jeroen Duindam: Dynastic legitimacy: rulers and elites in Europe and Asia

Friday October 7 2011 (Day 2):

  • Prof. Dr. Bernardo Garcia-Garcia: The Glory of the Duke. Restoration and Greatness of the Sandoval Family
  • Violet Soen: The Croÿs at the Parlement de Paris: Noble Identity Formation between the Low Countries and France (1520-1580)
  • Petr Mat’a: False Orsini from beyond the Alps. Negotiating aristocratic identity between Bohemia, Croatia, Carniola and Carinthia
  • Keynote lecture: Prof. Dr. Ronald Asch: The Newcomer’s Dilemma: Henry IV of France and James I of England and their nobilities

Prof. Dr. Hamish Scott: Aristocracy, Nobility and the Sense of Dynasty