Emergence, Preservation and Transmission of Ceremonial Knowledge in the 18th Century Using the Example of the Gotha Court
Contemporary historians see the social interaction and counteraction of the 17th and 18th centuries as being decisively shaped by a great consciousness of rank in all social strata. The knowledge of one's own rank demanded its defense both against attacks from above and against ambitions from below. The frequently associated attempts to raise one's own status, if necessary, were the source of constant political, legal and social conflicts. In the controversial questions, for example, about the order in which documents were sealed, about the carriage parking spaces in the imperial Hofburg, or about the introduction of the office of chamberlain at imperial courts, the rank accorded to oneself and to others found its outward expression. Based on precedents, negotiations, and provocative pretensions, political and court ceremonial reflected the hierarchy in the Holy Roman Empire.
The research project examines the emergence, preservation and transmission of knowledge about ceremonial as a form of communication in the 18th century using the example of the Gotha ducal court. In this context, the extensive correspondence of the Gotha dukes with other ecclesiastical and secular princes of the empire plays just as important a role as the court's internal documentation of individual ceremonial events. In addition to the files of the Privy Council and the High Court Marshal's Office, including the well-known Fourier books, the holdings of ceremonial publications in the ducal libraries, the individual court orders and the private notes of the dukes also bear witness to the omnipresence of ceremonial knowledge at court. A high value was attached to the conscious outward communication of one's own status within the political and social structure of Europe. In order to live up to this claim, those in charge had to be well informed at all times and have large stores of ceremonial knowledge at their disposal.
How this politically vital knowledge about the numerous and interrelated questions of rank came into being, was preserved, and passed on will now be examined. The central question here is not so much what the ceremonies themselves looked like as acts, but rather what was considered worthy of being handed down and why, and what use was made of these traditions.