De instructione principis

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De instructione principis ("On the Education of a Monarch") is a Latin work by the 12th-13th century author Gerald of Wales. It is divided into three "Distinctions". The first contains moral precepts and reflections; the second and third deal with the history of the later 12th century, with a focus on the character and acts of king Henry II of England and especially his disputes with the kings of France, Louis VII and Philip II and with his own four sons, Henry the Young King, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, Richard, count of Poitou and John Lackland.

Gerald was learned in classical, Biblical and medieval Latin literature and in this work cites the Bible, Servius (the commentator on Virgil), Gildas, the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi and many other works.


  1. First distinction. Topics include Britain as a land fertile in tyrants; the Picts and Scots; old English laws about shipwrecks; the recent discovery of King Arthur's tomb in the isle of Avalon; King Edward the Confessor; the virtues of King Louis VII of France
    1. The monarch's moderation
    2. The monarch's gentleness
    3. The monarch's shyness
    4. The monarch's chastity
    5. The monarch's patience
    6. The monarch's temperance
    7. The monarch's clemency
    8. The monarch's munificence
    9. The monarch's magnificence
    10. The monarch's justice: especially on the admirable punishment of crimes in France, where a first offence is punished with public whipping, if once repeated with mutilation or branding, if twice repeated with blinding or hanging
    11. The monarch's prudence
    12. The monarch's foresight
    13. The monarch's modesty
    14. The monarch's boldness and bravery
    15. The monarch's glory and nobility
    16. The difference between a king and a tyrant
    17. Bloody deaths of tyrants
    18. Praiseworthy lives and deaths of good monarchs
    19. On the names of monarchs
    20. The monarch's religion and devotion: especially on the remarkable chastity of kings Louis VII and Louis VIII of France
    21. The monarch's good conduct and fitting end
  2. Second distinction
    1. The earlier years of king Henry II of England's reign and the vast increase in his territories
    2. Principal visitors to England during his reign
    3. His later crimes and the martyrdom of Thomas Becket
    4. The wheel of Henry II's fortune and his continual disputes with his sons
    5. Letter showing that Louis VII and Henry II agreed to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem together
    6. The two Cardinals who came to Normandy to enquire into the death of Thomas Becket
    7. The three monasteries promised in compensation for the failed pilgrimage, and how the promise was evaded
    8. God's punishment on Henry II and the death of Henry the Young King
    9. The titles of "Henry III" (the Young King)
    10. Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany's second estrangement from his father, and his sudden death
    11. The titles of Geoffrey and of John Lackland
    12. God's warnings to Henry II and how they were ignored
    13. The revelation of Robert of Estreby
    14. How God urged Henry II to change his ways, with warnings and punishments but also with kindnesses
    15. Letter detailing the agreement between Henry II and Philip II of France
    16. Letter showing that Henry II arranged peace between Philip II and Philip, Count of Flanders
    17. Letter showing that Henry II's testament was made at Waltham
    18. Privileges requested from Pope Alexander III, mainly concerning Wales
    19. Privileges concerning Ireland
    20. The Council of Cashel
    21. Titles of Henry II (copied from Gerald's work Topography of Ireland)
    22. Saladin's attack on the Kingdom of Jerusalem
    23. Pope Urban III's letter to England on this subject
    24. Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem's visit to England to ask king Henry II's help
    25. Pope Lucius III's letter of advice and warning to Henry II
    26. Gerald's own conversation with Henry II on this subject
    27. Henry II's reply, given at London, and the Patriarch's complete failure
    28. The Patriarch's prophetic warnings to Henry II
    29. A description and characterization of Henry II
    30. Notable contemporary events in England
    31. If the end is favourable the history is praiseworthy
  3. Third distinction
    1. The last meeting between Louis VII and Henry II, and Louis's prayer
    2. First territorial arrangements of Philip II of France
    3. Jerusalem meanwhile almost wholly conquered by the Muslims
    4. Pope Clement III's letter demanding the aid of the faithful
    5. Richard, Duke of Poitou takes the Cross, first among leaders north of the Alps, and sets a noble example
    6. On astrology
    7. Duke Richard sets out in spite of his father's obstruction
    8. Titles of Duke Richard
    9. Henry II's tithe intended to finance the Third Crusade
    10. Duke Richard estranged from his father and allied with Philip II of France
    11. Henry II's confusion and anger
    12. Why is Normandy less well defended than in the past? Question and answer
    13. King Henry II's groin trouble and his late and forced confession
    14. The dream of Richard de Riduariis and its fulfilment
    15. Frederick Barbarossa takes the Cross
    16. Gerald's dream about the Crusade
    17. The Emperor's bravery and his challenge to Saladin
    18. Saladin's reply
    19. The Emperor's journey through Hungary, crossing of the Danube, and journey through Bulgaria to Macedonia
    20. The messengers sent to Isaac II Angelos at first arrested, then released
    21. The deceptions of Kilij Arslan II of the Sultanate of Rûm
    22. The Emperor drowned in Lesser Armenia; the army reaches Antioch
    23. Frederick VI, Duke of Swabia leads them from Antioch to Tyre and Acre
    24. Henry II is driven from the burning city of Le Mans
    25. The French capture Tours and besiege Henry II at Azay-le-Rideau
    26. The death of Henry II
    27. The unfavourable family background of Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and of their children
    28. Events presaging Henry II's death
    29. Dreams presaging his death
    30. The dream of William II of England and the resemblance of his death to that of Richard I
    31. Some afterthoughts


  • Giraldus Cambrensis De instructione principum libri iii. London: Anglia Christiana, 1846. [Book 1 omitted]
  • Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France vol. 18 ed. M.-J.-J. Brial. New ed. Paris: Palmé, 1879. [Chapters irrelevant to French history omitted]
  • Giraldus Cambrensis ed. Brewer (Rolls Series). London

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