Mirrors for princes

The mirrors for princes (Latin: specula principum or rather, principum specula) are a genre – in the loose sense of the word – of political writing during the Early Middle Ages, Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They are best known in the form of textbooks which directly instruct kings or lesser rulers on certain aspects of rule and behaviour, but in a broader sense, the term is also used to cover histories or literary works aimed at creating images of kings for imitation or avoidance. They were often composed at the accession of a new king, when a young and inexperienced ruler was about to come to power. They could be viewed as a species of self-help book. Possibly the best known (European) "mirror" is Il Principe (c. 1513) by Machiavelli, although this was not a typical example. Some further examples are listed below:

Classical texts

Greek and Roman

Eusebius of Caesarea's Life of Constantine may be a mirror for princes. This text's precise genre, audience, and aims has, however, been a subject of scholarly controversy.



Western European texts

Early Middle Ages

Carolingian texts. Notable examples of Carolingian textbooks for kings, counts and other laymen include:

Irish texts

High and Late Middle Ages


Byzantine texts

Islamic texts

See also: Nasîhatnâme

Slavonic texts

In popular culture

See also


  1. A. Dubreucq (ed.), Jonas d'Orléans, Le métier du roi (De institutione regia). Sources Chrétiennes 407. Paris, 1995. pp. 45–9.
  2. Rob Meens. "Politics, mirrors of princes and the Bible: sins, kings and the well-being of the realm." Early Medieval Europe 7.3 (1998): 352
  3. Kelly, Fergus (ed.). Audacht Morainn. ISBN 0901282677.
  4. Ireland, Colin A. (ed.). Old Irish Wisdom Attributed to Aldfrith of Northumbria: An Edition of Bríathra Flainn Fhína Maic Ossu. ISBN 0866982477.
  5. M. Pinto de Mencses (ed.). Espelho dos Reis por Alvaro Pais. Lisbon, 1955.
  6. Jean-Philippe Genet (ed.). Four English Political Tracts of the Later Middle Ages Camden Society, 4th ser. 18 (1977). 177-9.
  7. Salter, F.M. "Skelton's Speculum Principis" Speculum 9 (1934): 25–37
  8. Olden-Jørgensen, Sebastian (ed.). Alithia. Et dansk fyrstespejl til Christian IV. UJDS-Studier 14. Copenhagen, 2003.
  9. Dunlop, D.M. (tr.). Fusul al-Madani: Aphorisms of the Statesman. University of Cambridge Oriental Publications. Cambridge, 1961.
  10. Bosworth, C.E. (1998). "al-Maghribī, al-Ḥusayn ibnʿAlī". In Meisami, Julie Scott; Starkey, Paul. Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, Volume 2: L–Z, Chronological Tables, Index. Routledge. p. 488. ISBN 0-415-18572-6.
  11. Meisami, Julie Scott (tr.). Sea of Precious Virtues. Salt Lake City, 1991.
  12. Sajida Sultana Alvi. Advice on the art of governance. An Indo-Islamic Mirror for Princes. State University of New York Press. 1989.
  13. "Mirrors For Princes (2010): Torino Film Festival".

Further reading

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