A Mirror for a King: Guibert de Tournai's Eruditio regum et principum and Louis IX of France

Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Anne E. Lester

Second Advisor

Scott G. Bruce

Third Advisor

Paul E. J. Hammer


The aim of this study is to re-evaluate Guibert de Tournai's Eruditio regum et principum, a text that historians have long neglected, treating it only in passing if at all. Historians have generally assigned this text, written in 1259 for King Louis IX of France, to the genre of "mirrors for princes." This thesis, however, considers the Eruditio not only as a "mirror for princes" but also a homiletic text that fit neatly within Guibert de Tournai's corpus of writings, all aimed toward the care of souls. The Eruditio did not merely serve as advice for princes, but also offered spiritual guidance to its primary audience -- Louis. The Eruditio can be considered alongside other works, such as the Sainte-Chapelle, in which ideological programs conflating the King with Biblical monarchs and Christ Himself were an important feature. Like these other works, the Eruditio located the King in its midst, taking practices that Louis had implemented in France and recommending them as the practices of ideal kingship. The treatise praised the King while exhorting him to achieve the perfection offered by his idealized counterpart. As part of this argument, Guibert also is reconsidered, for historians have long given Guibert short-shrift in comparison to his philosophically-mind counterparts such as Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas. This thesis contends that Guibert, while holding a chair in theology at the University of Paris like his better-known counterparts, was interested in preaching and pastoral work and not in reconciling Aristotle with Christianity. This thesis demonstrates the variety to be found within the genre of "mirrors for princes," and the gains to be made by evaluating them within the context of their authorship, their audience, and the time and space in which they were produced. By considering the Eruditio in relation to visual works associated with Louis and as part of the agendas of Guibert and the King, the Eruditio reveals itself not as a programmatic advice manual for all princes, but rather a nuanced text that praised Louis and exhorted him to achieve spiritual perfection.

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