Courting Disaster: Astrology at the English Court and by Hilary M. Carey


By Hilary M. Carey

Astrology has been anything of an enduring characteristic at the face of Western tradition. This publication, on formerly unexplored manuscript fabric, makes an attempt to accumulate a case examine of the position performed through astrology in later medieval England. Dr Carey has chanced on horoscopes in relation to English monarchs from Edward II to Edward V. Astrology fought tough during this interval to hold a few form of educational respectability. after all, astrologers have been crushed by way of the damaging politics of the past due medieval court docket. In its glory, astrology shared and contributed to the outstanding courts of Charles V of France, Richard II of britain and his Lancastrian usurpers. through the mid 15th century, it had turn into a dicy career which however dramatically elevated admired and impression, first at court docket and eventually in any respect degrees of society.

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The problem seems to have been of particular concern to John of Salisbury, whose guide for statesmen, the Policraticus, was written about 1159 and may weIl have been directed at the court of Henry 11 (1154-1189) with whom he was then in disfavour. The Policraticus had the sub-title De Nugis Curialium et Vestigiis Philosophorum, and it is dear from John's account that one of the favourite pastimes or 'trifles' of courtiers was the practice of divination. 2o Book 11 of the Policraticus, which is about 13 per cent of the whole work, is entirely devoted to a commonsensical and good-humoured attack on magicians, diviners, fortune-tellers, omens, dreams, signs and occult practices and practitioners of all kindS.

30 Other reIigious foundations seem to have made an exception in the case of medical astrology. It is not uncommon to find in monastic Iibraries tracts on bleeding according to the mansions of the moon, or on the influence of the planets on the progress of disease, sometimes bearing the name of the infirmarian. 31 A good illustration of the ambiguity of the status of astrology in reIigious houses is provided by a manuscript that was once in the Augustinian Priory of Thurgarton, the horne of the EngIish mystical writer Walter Hilton.

In the final stage, astrologers established themselves at court behind the respectable front of the medical practitioner. The medieval history of astrology can be seen as a prime exampIe of the triumph of a sodal movement over intellectual and theological argument. :ied to Christian models, in which both human action and natural events depended on the omnipotent and loving intervention of God. To a lesser extent it was also opposed because, as the medieval inheritors of Greek rationalism, most notably St Augustine, could argue, its basic premises were mere articles of faith without logical foundation.

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