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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies


New monograph by Dr Nicole Reinhardt

(18 October 2016)

"Voices of Conscience: Royal Confessors and Political Counsel in Seventeenth-Century Spain and France"

Oxford University Press


What did morally responsible action mean for Catholic monarchs after the Reformation? How were they supposed to identify what just war or just taxation were, and how royal justice was exercised?

This is what this book examines by focusing on the role of royal confessors as political counsellors in Spain and France, the two competing Catholic monarchies of the period. It explains why royal confessors emerged as political counsellors, why their expertise was believed to deliver significant insights in the political decision-making process, and how they dealt with the problems they had to confront. Looking at a wide variety of sources from theological and political treatises to popular pamphlets, this study uncovers the intellectual framework and institutional mechanisms of seventeenth century politics but also why around 1700 the role of royal confessors dramatically declined.

As this book shows ‘counsel of conscience’ was not a peripheral feature of early modern political culture but fundamental for the definition of politics and conscience. Putting theological concepts and religious dimensions back into political theory and practice sheds new light, not only on the importance of counselling for early modern statecraft, but also on the reconfiguration of normative frameworks underlying it. The notion of ‘counsel of conscience’ of which this books provides the first in-depth analysis therefore allows to re-examine and challenge fundamental historical paradigms such as the emergence of ‘absolutism’, individualisation, and the division of public and private.

Voices of Conscience at Oxford University Press