Frontview of the Cistercian abbey of Royaumont
Vincent of Beauvais has written three works for king Louis IX of France and members of his court. Two of these works were intended to be parts of Vincent's Opus universale de statu principis, the third is a letter of consolation to king Louis.
Opus universale de statu principis
By the end of 1246 or early 1247, having completed a first edition of the Speculum Maius, Vincent was appointed lector in theology at the Cistercian abbey of Royaumont.
Vincent began to work, late in 1247 or early in 1248, on a political compendium, an opus universale de statu principis, probably with the encouragement of king Louis IX. The king had founded Royaumont in 1228. His children were educated here, and Louis himself retired here several times to meditate and participate in the abbey's spiritual life. A few places in Vincent's works testify to the king's support of his scholarly activities, and the attendance of the king and the royal family at Vincent's preaching.
Vincent conceived the opus universale de statu principis as a work of four books. These books deal with
"... the status of the prince and the entire royal court, and on the administration of the commonwealth and the governance of the whole realm". [Vincent] intended to focus on the mores of princes and courtiers, and recommend to the various governors and officers of the commonwealth – "princes, knights (milites), counselors and ministers, bailifs and provosts, whether residing in the court or administering in the king's territories – whatever pertains to probity of life and the salvation of the soul." One volume would provide advice on the education of the royal children. [This work was] designed to address matters relating to the modes of life, responsibilities, duties, and education of rulers and their personal and official families ..." (quoted from the Introduction to Robert J. Schneider's edition of De morali principis institutione, Turnhout 1995, p. xxi).
The opus universale de statu principis remained uncompleted at Vincent's death. He only finished, in reversed order,
- the fourth book: De eruditione filiorum nobilium, completed before the end of 1250;
- the first book: De morali principis institutione, completed sometime after 1260.
Probably Vincent had prepared an outline of the entire work organizing general subject matter and specific topics into books and chapters. It enabled him to set aside the order of composition and complete first, at the request of queen Marguerite, the fourth book, the De eruditione filiorum nobilium, for the royal tutor Simon the Cleric. Vincent included in it specific references to books one, two and three; for these books two and three, they give a few indications of their contents.
Vincent completed the De eruditione filiorum nobilium before the end of 1250. Then the work on the opus universale de statu principis halted, since Vincent became involved in a thorough revision of the Speculum Maius. During the late 1250s he must have resumed the work, at the urging of Thibaut V, count of Champagne and king of Navarre, who had married Louis’ and Marguerite’s daughter Isabelle. The request was conveyed through Humbert of Romans, Magister General of the Dominican Order.
Due to intervening tasks, Vincent was unable to give the opus universale de statu principis his undivided attention. From a few places in Vincent's works (see below) it may be concluded, that he had left Royaumont by 1260 and completed the first book, the De morali principis institutione afterwards. Vincent submitted this first book to Louis and Thibaut sometime before he died. Vincent probably did not succeed to complete books two and three: no manuscripts of these books have ever been identified, nor any references to them are known, apart from Vincent's own words in De eruditione filiorum nobilium.
Liber consolatorius ad Ludovicum regem de morte filii
In the months following the death of crown prince Louis in January 1260, Vincent wrote a letter of consolation, the Liber consolatorius ad Ludovicum regem de morte filii (or Epistola consolatoria de morte amici), for a grieving king Louis. From this text it is evident that Vincent, at that time of writing, had stopped working at Royaumont.