Ernst Kantorowicz: Man of Two Bodies

In 1927, entirely unknown and at the absurdly young age of thirty-one, Ernst Kantorowicz, Professor (1951–63) in the School of Historical Studies, had stunned the academic world when he published the first biography ever written of a man loved and feared in equal measure, to some a tyrant and to others the Messiah. ... Frederick II, with its enthralling glorification of absolute power and ruthless ambition, predictably appealed to the new overlords of Germany ... and may have sufficed to secure his place in the scholarly pantheon. But he managed to outdo himself with the even more influential The King’s Two Bodies, which appeared in 1957, shortly before he died in 1963.

... Most striking is that these two monumental books exist at opposite ends of the ideological and historiographic spectrums: the first, written in the overwrought, mystagogic style cultivated within the “circle” around the poet Stefan George, celebrates an almighty, autocratic ruler who held sway over a vast realm. ... The latter book, written in English in American exile in Berkeley and Princeton, is a sober, meticulous, but no less scintillating study of an esoteric historical problem in what Kantorowicz called “political theology.”

...Kantorowicz’s life, then, is a study of two extremes, exemplified by these two books, and reflective of two radically different political and cultural universes.

Read more at the Times Literary Supplement.