In 1188, an eye-catching display of royal anger resulted in the destruction of the ancient elm tree at Gisors by Philip II of France. Building on recent reappraisals of anger and other emotions in the medieval context, this essay seeks to understand how contemporary observers may have interpreted their monarch's momentous outburst. The elm's longstanding significance as a site of diplomacy and peace negotiations in the border zone between France and Normandy makes its downfall especially symbolic, and suggests that the deliberate display of emotional excess may be an under-appreciated factor in the history of medieval diplomatic encounters. Examining chronicle sources and later literary renditions of the incident, retold from both French and an Anglo-Norman perspectives, the article reveals how medieval commentators made use of a rich emotional vocabulary in order either to celebrate or to deplore Philip's act of arboricide.
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Research Article| May 01 2010
Lindsay Diggelmann; Hewing the Ancient Elm: Anger, Arboricide, and Medieval Kingship. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2010; 40 (2): 249–272. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2009-022
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