Rouse Award: Evelyn Marshall’s investigation into Charles V of France

Evelyn Marshall (Upper Sixth) earned the Rouse Award for her examination of how Charles V of France used visual culture to build his authority in medieval Paris.

As an A level history and French student, she wanted to tackle a topic combining her knowledge and interest of both subjects.

Evelyn chose to consider Charles V, who ruled France from 1364 until his death in 1380 and became known as ‘Wise King Charles’.

She said: “He is particularly interesting because he faced so many challenges to his authority when he ascended to the throne.

“These included pretenders to the throne, the threat from England, as this was during the time of the Hundred Year’s War, and dynastic legitimacy as he was from a new dynasty, the House of Valois.”

“I’d never really heard of him before, however I started reading about how he used the visual environment to try to combat this negative rhetoric and become a successful king.”

Evelyn used her linguistic skills to read a French biography of Charles V – “a really rewarding experience” – and delve deeper into the subject.

She considered how his additions to the Louvre Palace, which was initially constructed in the late 12th Century under the preceding Capetian dynasty, and statues around Paris had helped bolster his royal legitimacy.

However, she felt depictions of him reading or being surrounded by family in the numerous illuminated manuscripts that he had commissioned went a long way towards the way he was viewed by his subjects.

Evelyn said: “It added to this image of Charles V as a wise king. If his legitimacy couldn’t be grounded in actual lineage, it was grounded in his authority and wisdom.

“The depictions of him with his family might not seem that significant, but when you consider the end of the Capetian dynasty was just a tumultuous succession of crises, they projected that image of stability.

“I enjoyed learning about Charles V, who is someone totally different to who you would study in A level history, and I liked having the opportunity to give representation to someone I think was incredibly successful but whose reign is overlooked.

“If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said I was a modern historian. Having done this project, I’ve found I’m a little bit of a medievalist, so it’s helped widen the breadth of my historical interest.”


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