One of the hallmarks of the medieval era was the emergence of the court as the hub of political clout and social influence. As the nobility became more cultured and worldly, their posturing for power became more sophisticated. Great store was set on display, pageantry, courtly manners and formal behavior. The role of the courtier evolved from that of the king's brutish henchman, to that of the suave manipulator, as gifted in the subtleties of ceremony and protocol as in the hard, cold strategies of empire-building.
At the center of this intricate web was the monarch, the bright sun around which all else rotated . . .and seldom was this sun's splendor, its ability to nurture or to scorch, as apparent as it was during the Christmas courts of the medieval and Tudor eras. Here, under the guise of devotion, celebration and festivity, the monarch and those closest to throne engaged in nearly two weeks of concerted power politics: networking, lobbying, favor-asking - and favor granting. It is appropriate that one of the favorite forms of Christmas entertainment was the masquerade . . . at Christmas court, the maneuvering was often disguised, the intrigue sub rosa.
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