Skip to Main Content
Theorizing the Ideal Sovereign

Theorizing the Ideal Sovereign: The Rise of the French Vernacular Royal Biography

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Theorizing the Ideal Sovereign
    Book Description:

    Delogu examines how biographical writings on kings contributed to nascent ideas of nationhood, exerted pressure upon traditional ideals of kingship, and ultimately redefined the theoretical and practical bases of medieval kingship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8938-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-21)

    Medieval kingship is a complex and original institution, one built on a variety of disparate traditions to meet a range of practical needs. Theories of kingship blend ideas from the Bible and classical antiquity with elements of the social organization of the Roman empire and the premedieval Celtic and Germanic worlds.¹ The ideal king was expected to exemplify a dizzying, and sometimes conflicting, array of qualities and behaviour. On the one hand, the medieval king had a quasi-sacral character, representing God on earth, and in particularChrist, Christus rex.² From the time of Pepin the Short and his sons the...

  5. 1 Models of Sanctity and Kingship in Joinville’s Vie de saint Louis: Will the Real Louis IX Please Stand?
    (pp. 22-57)

    While reading Jacques Le Goff’s seminal 1996 biography of Louis IX of France, Saint Louis, I was struck by the title of the chapter in which he discusses Jean de Joinville’s early-fourteenth-century biography of the king:Le ‘Vrai’ Louis IX de Joinville , or, The ‘Real’ Louis IX of Joinville. Le Goff’s use of the wordrealconveys his belief in, or perhaps simply a desire for, the possibility of attaining the truth of an individual, as well as his conviction that it was Joinville who had arrived at this truth. At the same time, the quotation marks serve to...

  6. 2 Hugh the Butcher: Lineage, Election, and Succession in the Chanson de Hugues Capet
    (pp. 58-91)

    Some thirty years after its inception in 1328, the nascent Valois dynasty found itself facing its most serious challenges to date. During its years of Valois rule France had experienced numerous and varied difficulties: the nobility had been severely discredited by France’s crushing loss to the English at Crécy (1346), while the general population had been afflicted by plague, the English raids known aschevauchées, and the rampaging Free Companies, all of which contributed to widespread economic decline.¹ As a consequence of yet another French defeat at Poitiers (1356), Jean II was made a prisoner of the English, with a...

  7. 3 The Crusading Ideal in Guillaume de Machaut’s Prise d’Alixandre
    (pp. 92-123)

    By the fourteenth century the heroic age of crusading appeared to have long past. Historians have offered a range of explanations for changes in late medieval approaches to crusade. Norman Housley points to the cost of crusading, as well as to the rising influence of the kingdoms, whose needs increasingly took precedence over those of Christendom, and to the reluctance of rulers to commit their resources to a crusade led by someone else.¹ Jonathan Riley-Smith argues that one should not view crusade in the fourteenth century as a period of decline, although the complexity of European politics, particularly those of...

  8. 4 The Herald Chandos’s Vie du Prince Noir: A prince très chrétien
    (pp. 124-152)

    Composed in approximately 1385, roughly a decade after the death of Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, by the herald of the renowned English knight Sir John Chandos, theVie du Prince Noirrecords ‘la vie / De le plus vaillant prince du mounde’ [the life of the most valiant prince in the world] (48–9).¹ The Herald Chandos was a witness to many of the events he describes, and was in a position to discuss others with those who had participated in them. For this reason, theViehas been prized as a historical document, in particular as one...

  9. 5 Reinventing Kingship: Christine de Pizan’s Livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V
    (pp. 153-184)

    If Guillaume de Machaut and the Herald Chandos struggled, with varying results, to map the lives of their biographical subjects onto conventional ideals of monarchy, Christine de Pizan took another route: she rewrote the book. Her 1404 biography of King Charles V takes the life of the wise king as a conceptual point of departure from which she is then able to trace the contours of a new paradigm of kingship. There is no doubt that Charles V provides an exemplum for his readers and successors, and that is because his life is used to forge and promote a new...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 185-256)
  11. Appendix Genealogical Table: The Last Capetians, the First Valois, and Claimants to the French Throne
    (pp. 259-260)
  12. Works Consulted
    (pp. 261-292)
  13. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 293-296)
  14. Index of Places and Proper Names
    (pp. 297-300)