Horses and Courts: The Reins of Power
An International Symposium

The Wallace Collection, London 

21-23 March 2018

Horses and Courts: The Reins of Power

 (Jean-Louis-) Ernest Meissonier, Napoleon and his Staff (1868) @The Wallace Collection, London. 


Organised by the University of Kent’s Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth  Century, the Society for Court Studies, and the Wallace Collection.


For centuries horses have played a vital part in court ceremonies, political events and battles around the globe. Carriage processions, tournaments, carrousels, hunting and racing are just some of the activities in which horses have taken centre stage. Horses were also crucial performers in diplomatic exchanges and military confrontations. The culture of equestrianism at court was reflected in architecture, equipment and treatises, in bloodlines, riding and driving practices. Horsemen and horsewomen today maintain traditions that originated at medieval and early modern courts. However, despite their ubiquity in historical events, horses have been neglected in studies of court culture. ‘The Reins of Power’ seeks to fill this gap.   

© The Wallace Collection, London.

Edwin (Henry) Landseer, The Arab Tent, (c.1865-66) @The Wallace Collection, London.


The Society for Court Studies and the Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth Century at the University of Kent will be hosting a major symposium on courts and horses from the thirteenth century to the present, taking in equestrian, sporting, military and ceremonial history. The event will be international in scope and open up questions of hybridity and cross-cultural exchanges between the monarchies of   Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, several German princely states, African kingdoms, and South East Asian courts, Armenia, the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian), Ottoman, and Mughal empires, and French colonial Algeria.      


Peter Paul Rubens, The Defeat and Death of Maxentius (c.1622) @The Wallace Collection, London. 


What was the connection between horsemanship and power at different courts? What were the relationships between equestrian practices and military training? In a period when having ‘an eye for a horse’ was part of a gentlemanly as well as royal education, what codes of breeding and connoisseurship were operating? These are some of the questions that this symposium will seek to answer.   



Top Image: Attributed to Roger Schabol, Detail Louis XIV on Horseback (c.1700-1705) @The Wallace Collection, London.