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Nine Worthies

The Nine Worthies are nine historical, scriptural, and legendary personages who personify the ideals of chivalry as were established in the Middle Ages. All are commonly referred to as 'Princes' in their own right, despite whatever true titles each man may have held. In French they are called Les Neuf Preux, meaning "Nine Valiants", which term gives a slightly more focused idea of the sort of moral virtue they were deemed to represent so perfectly, that of soldierly courage and generalship. The study of the life of each would thus form a good education for the aspirant to chivalric status. In Italy they are i Nove Prodi.

The Nine Worthies include three pagans (Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar), three Jews (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus) and three Christians (King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon).

They were first described in the early fourteenth century, by Jacques de Longuyon in his Voeux du Paon (1312). Their selection, as Johan Huizinga pointed out, betrays a close connection with the romance genre of chivalry. Neatly divided into a triad of triads, these men were considered to be paragons of chivalry within their particular tradition: be it Pagan, Jewish, or Christian. Longuyon's choices soon became a common theme in the literature and art of the Middle Ages and earned a permanent place in the popular consciousness. The medieval "craving for symmetry" engendered female equivalents, the neuf preuses, who were sometimes added, though the women chosen varied. Eustache Deschamps selected "a group of rather bizarre heroines" selected from fiction and history, among them Penthesilea, Tomyris, Semiramis. Literature and suites of tapestry featured the full complement of eighteen, whose allegorical figures preceded King Henry VI of England in his triumphal royal entry to Paris, 1431. A "tenth worthy" was added by Deschamps, in the figure of Bertrand du Guesclin, the Breton knight to whom France owed recovery from the battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). Francis I of France still occasionally paraded himself at court dressed in the "antique mode" to identify himself also as one of the Neuf Preux.



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