Art. 94, Enseignements de saint Lewis a Philip soun fitz: Introduction

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Art. 94, Enseignements de saint Lewis a Philip soun fitz: Introduction

Abbreviations: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); DOML: Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; FDT: French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages (Sinclair 1979); FDT-1French Devotional Texts of the Middle Ages, . . . First Supplement (Sinclair 1982); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

The Teachings of Saint Louis to His Son Philip derives from an enormously popular Old French document, here provided in Anglo-Norman. Viewed as the true model of Christian kingship, Saint Louis IX (1214–1270) was the deeply pious monarch of France from 1226 until his death in Tunis while on crusade. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297. This letter formed part of the canonization effort. It was copied and recopied, and thus much promulgated, from the scriptorium at Saint-Denis, where lay the bodies of the kings of France. According to the incipit given here, Louis wrote the letter to his son Philip III of France (1245–1285) from his deathbed. The deathbed circumstance was a fiction spread widely to heighten the king’s saintly repute. Despite that embellishment, the authenticity of Louis’s authorship is not doubted.

The textual history of the epistle in Old French is complicated because copies are numerous and the letter frequently circulated inside other texts, such as Jean de Joinville’s biography of Louis, a context that highlights its political cast. Louis’s moral gravitas and royal status elevate Teachings above the genre of simple epistle from a noble father to his son, although it does share that element with Urbain the Courteous (art. 79). The letter is a mirror for a prince, that is, advice on sound governance. It is derived from a monarch of superior virtue and is to be bequeathed to his successor. Teachings stresses the necessity of good counsel to avoid bad decision-making, of seeking peace within the realm and outside it, and of exhibiting moral virtue. The ruler must maintain strong relations with the Church, award benefices wisely, reward all who exhibit virtue, and avoid oppression of the poor. He should administer finances with moderation. Pure intentions should guide all his actions.

Composed as a set of precepts and essential rules, the letter is aligned in MS Harley 2253 with Urbain the Courteous and Hending (art. 89), and, maybe more facetiously, with The Jongleur of Ely and the King of England (art. 75). As a reservoir of wisdom flowing from austere authority, it is like The Sayings of Saint Bernard and The Prophecy of Thomas of Erceldoune (arts. 74, 90). As a sanctified epistle that validates Christian belief, it is comparable to the Lentulus Letter extract and Letter for Pilgrims on the Relics at Oviedo (arts. 91, 97). Paragraphing in this edition follows the scribe’s marks in the manuscript, except for lines 27 and 32, which are not marked. Oddly, R. Dean, ANL, does not include this text. Corrie speculates on possible links between the Harley compiler (that is, the Ludlow scribe) and the Joinville family (2003, pp. 78–79). This Harley item has not been previously edited or translated. For further commentary and background, see O’Connell, pp. 16–29; Corrie 2003, pp. 69–76; Krueger, pp. xviii, xxi, xxiii; and Ashley, pp. 3–6.

[Fols. 128v–129v. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 14. Layout: Prose written with no columns. Editions: None. Other MSS: Numerous redactions in Old French; see Bossuat, pp. 345–46 (nos. 3688–97). For a critical edition, see O’Connell, pp. 55–63; for a translation, see Ashley, pp. 3–16. Translations: None.]

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