Since the 18th century, political theory has focused on the making of the state rather than on the role of the king or sovereign as political ruler. Relying on minute details and exhaustive research, Bertelli, a historian at the University of Florence, demonstrates that from the early Middle Ages up through the 17th century the centrality of the sovereign provided the key element in maintaining the order of society. Societies thought of their kings as divine. The king's body thus became the ground where the sacred and the profane, the supernatural and the natural intersected. Consequently, Bertelli argues, rituals developed emphasizing the divine sovereignty of the king.
In one of his most interesting examples, Bertelli explores the ways that the death of a sovereign led to both an interregnum where the law was suspended temporarily as the realm waited for a new ruler and for the body of the king to decompose and to attempts to bury the king's body parts in various locations so that he would be present throughout the kingdom. In rich detail, Bertelli looks at sacred rituals surrounding birth, enthronement and death that defined kingship, showing that in the Middle Ages the modern distinction between the political and the religious did not exist. His study will be accessible and of interest primarily to scholars.