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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Blanche Françoise Marie Darbord

  France, Switzerland

  History of Art, Girton College

  PhD thesis: Representing Kingship in Plantagenet England: A Study of Alexander the Great in
  Manuscript Illumination



Research interests:

  1. Manuscript illumination
  2. The legend of Alexander the Great in the Middle Ages
  3. The representation of kingship in Plantagenet England
  4. Text-image relationship within a codex

My PhD focuses on the representation of Alexander the Great in illuminated manuscripts in relation to the representation of kingship in Plantagenet England (1154-1485). While anchoring my analysis within considerations of manuscript provenance and text-image relationship, I consider how manuscript illuminations borrow from a wide range of visual references and codes that the audience could have recognised. A conqueror at the head of an empire, Alexander was praised as the ideal king, the paragon of chivalry, or instead as a tyrant of excessive authority, guilty of hubris. Changes and continuities in the representation of Alexander across this period, with a focus on kingship, will demonstrate illuminations’ active participation in a manuscript’s discourse, contribute to the growing field of research on the importance of Alexander the Great during the Middle Ages, and provide a fresh perspective on the representation of kingship in Plantagenet England.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

I completed an MPhil in History of Art at Cambridge, focusing on the figure of Alexander the Great, especially in relation to the Wren Library’s manuscript of the Roman de toute chevalerie (MS O.9.34). Most publications on the medieval figure of Alexander have been literary, or focused on a specific manuscript of exceptional quality (for instance, MS Bodl. 264), which calls for more research on the topic that is of increasing interest, as testified by the British Library’s recent exhibition on Alexander. Moreover, I look forward to working once more under the supervision of Dr Laura Slater.