Indecorum, compromised authority and the sovereign body politic in “The Fortunes of Nigel” and “The Heart of Mid-Lothian”


  • A.D. Cousins Macquarie University
  • Dani Napton Macquarie University



Walter Scott, Two bodies theory, Sovereignty, Stuart monarchy, Hanoverian monarchy, Indecorum


In “The Fortunes of Nigel” (1822) and “The Heart of Mid-Lothian” (1818), Walter Scott’s respective characterizations of both James I and Caroline, George II’s regent, enable him to create the duality of a historically recognizable and deeply qualified representation of the sovereign as natural body and as body politic. He considers how each monarch sought to establish, consolidate and legitimate their respective authorities in the dynamic politico-religious environments they presided over. To do so, Scott positions James’ and Caroline’s monarchical authority as inherently compromised and achieves this using three stratagems. First, he positions them both as either personally or politically indecorous, displaying actions unbefitting sovereignty. Second, he demonstrates how each monarch’s perceived or actual lack of masculinity reduces the authority each wields. Finally, he shows that the justice and social harmony sought by the protagonists of each novel is effected, yet emphasizes that this is not due solely to the monarch’s involvement, but to others better positioned to assist the respective hero and heroine at an individual level (and thus the sovereign at a macrocosmic level) to achieve that lasting form of justice and societal harmony. As such, Scott is able simultaneously to affirm the positive nature of both Stuart and Hanoverian monarchical rule yet maintain a qualified, wary and less than wholehearted appreciation of these two specific monarchs.


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Author Biographies

A.D. Cousins, Macquarie University

Department of English, Macquarie University

Honorary Associate

Dani Napton, Macquarie University

Department of English, Macquarie University



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How to Cite

Cousins, A., & Napton, D. (2018). Indecorum, compromised authority and the sovereign body politic in “The Fortunes of Nigel” and “The Heart of Mid-Lothian”. Journal of English Studies, 16, 27–46.