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AbstractSince the pioneering work of Mayke de Jong, many historians have studied the political use of penance in the Carolingian empire. This article explores how eighth- and ninth-century texts turned demands for penance and penitential acts by members of the royal family into political propaganda, and changes in such approaches. The earlier Carolingians preferred to remain silent about their own sins, while making limited use of penitential punishment for rivals. Louis the Pious’ more ambitious use of self-confession for Christian exaltation was initially successful, but the rise of rival camps of propagandists led to this confession later being turned against him. By 840, there was a new reluctance by rulers and others to admit culpability, reflected in the rise of the “non-confession confession”, in which penitential tropes were used without any specific personal fault being admitted. Lothar II in the 860s made ingenious attempts to harness penitential discourse to support his divorce and remarriage. His claims show a keen awareness of the possibilities and pitfalls of public confession, but he was finally unable to counter his opponents’ arguments. By the 870s, the development of widespread legal-penitential expertise paradoxically led to a new royal penitential silence, in which no ruler would publicly confess to any offence, however notorious
CitationStone R (2024) 'Spin and silence: royal penance and Carolingian propaganda', Frühmittelalterliche Studien, 58 (1), pp.-.
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