Chivalry

Chivalry

Overview
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour. It is often associated with ideals of knightly virtues
Knightly Virtues
Knightly Virtues were part of a medieval chivalric code of honor. The virtues were a set of 'standards' that Knights of the High Middle Ages tried to adhere to in their daily living and interactions with others. Today, this term still carries similar meanings.Some organizations attempt to continue...

, honour
Honour
Honour or honor is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation...

 and courtly love
Courtly love
Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....

: "the source of the chivalrous idea," remarked Johan Huizinga
Johan Huizinga
Johan Huizinga , was a Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history.-Life:Born in Groningen as the son of Dirk Huizinga, a professor of physiology, and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after his birth, he started out as a student of Indo-Germanic languages, earning his...

, who devoted several chapters of The Waning of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages, or The Waning of the Middle Ages, is the best-known work by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga....

to chivalry and its effects on the medieval character, "is pride aspiring to beauty, and formalized pride gives rise to a conception of honour, which is the pole of noble life."


In English, the word is first attested in 1292, as a loan from Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 chevalerie "knighthood", an abstract noun formed in the 11th century based on chevalier "knight", ultimately from Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages, primarily as a medium of scholarly exchange and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors,...

 caballārius "horseman"; cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

is from the Italian form of the same word, loaned via Middle French
Middle French
Middle French is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from 1340 to 1611. It is a period of transition during which:...

 into English around 1540.

Between the 11th century and 15th centuries medieval writers often used the word shivalry, in meanings that changed over time, generally moving from the concrete meaning of "status or fee associated with military follower owning a war horse" towards the moral ideal of the Christian warrior ethos propagated in the Romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

 genre which became popular by the 12th century, and the ideal of courtly love propagated in the contemporary Minnesang
Minnesang
Minnesang was the tradition of lyric and song writing in Germany which flourished in the 12th century and continued into the 14th century. People who wrote and performed Minnesang are known as Minnesingers . The name derives from the word minne, Middle High German for love which was their main...

 and related genres.

By the 15th century, the term had become mostly detached from its military origins, not least because the rise of infantry in the 14th century had essentially confined knightly horsemanship to the tournament grounds, and essentially expressed a literary ideal of moral and courteous behavior.


Regardless of the diverse written definitions of chivalry, the medieval knightly class was adept at the art of war, trained in fighting in armor, with horses, lances, swords and shields.
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Encyclopedia
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour. It is often associated with ideals of knightly virtues
Knightly Virtues
Knightly Virtues were part of a medieval chivalric code of honor. The virtues were a set of 'standards' that Knights of the High Middle Ages tried to adhere to in their daily living and interactions with others. Today, this term still carries similar meanings.Some organizations attempt to continue...

, honour
Honour
Honour or honor is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or corporate body such as a family, school, regiment or nation...

 and courtly love
Courtly love
Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....

: "the source of the chivalrous idea," remarked Johan Huizinga
Johan Huizinga
Johan Huizinga , was a Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history.-Life:Born in Groningen as the son of Dirk Huizinga, a professor of physiology, and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after his birth, he started out as a student of Indo-Germanic languages, earning his...

, who devoted several chapters of The Waning of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages, or The Waning of the Middle Ages, is the best-known work by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga....

to chivalry and its effects on the medieval character, "is pride aspiring to beauty, and formalized pride gives rise to a conception of honour, which is the pole of noble life."

Etymology



In English, the word is first attested in 1292, as a loan from Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 chevalerie "knighthood", an abstract noun formed in the 11th century based on chevalier "knight", ultimately from Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages, primarily as a medium of scholarly exchange and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors,...

 caballārius "horseman"; cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

is from the Italian form of the same word, loaned via Middle French
Middle French
Middle French is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from 1340 to 1611. It is a period of transition during which:...

 into English around 1540.

Between the 11th century and 15th centuries medieval writers often used the word shivalry, in meanings that changed over time, generally moving from the concrete meaning of "status or fee associated with military follower owning a war horse" towards the moral ideal of the Christian warrior ethos propagated in the Romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

 genre which became popular by the 12th century, and the ideal of courtly love propagated in the contemporary Minnesang
Minnesang
Minnesang was the tradition of lyric and song writing in Germany which flourished in the 12th century and continued into the 14th century. People who wrote and performed Minnesang are known as Minnesingers . The name derives from the word minne, Middle High German for love which was their main...

 and related genres.

By the 15th century, the term had become mostly detached from its military origins, not least because the rise of infantry in the 14th century had essentially confined knightly horsemanship to the tournament grounds, and essentially expressed a literary ideal of moral and courteous behavior.

Origins in military ethos



Regardless of the diverse written definitions of chivalry, the medieval knightly class was adept at the art of war, trained in fighting in armor, with horses, lances, swords and shields. Knights were taught to excel in the arms, to show courage, to be gallant and loyal and to swear off cowardice and baseness.

Related to chivalry was the practice of heraldry
Heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

 and its elaborate rules of displaying coats of arms. When not fighting, chivalric knights typically resided in a castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 or fortified house, while some knights lived in the courts of kings, dukes and other great lords. The skills of the knight carried over to peacetime activities such as the hunt
Medieval hunting
Throughout Western Europe in the Middle Ages, men hunted wild animals. While game was at times an important source of food, it was rarely the principal source of nutrition. Hunting was engaged by all classes, but by the High Middle Ages, the necessity of hunting was transformed into a stylized...

 and tournament.

Christianity had a modifying influence on the classical concept of heroism and virtue, nowadays identified with the virtues of chivalry. The Peace and Truce of God
Peace and Truce of God
The Peace and Truce of God was a medieval European movement of the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions in order to limit the violence of private war in feudal society. The movement constituted the first organized attempt to control civil society in medieval Europe through non-violent...

 in the 10th century was one such example, with limits placed on knights to protect and honor the weaker members of society and also help the church maintain peace. At the same time the church became more tolerant of war in the defense of faith, espousing theories of the just war
Just War
Just war theory is a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophical and Catholic origin, studied by moral theologians, ethicists and international policy makers, which holds that a conflict ought to meet philosophical, religious or political criteria.-Origins:The concept of justification for...

; and liturgies were introduced which blessed a knight's sword, and a bath of chivalric purification.The first noted support for chivalric vocation, or the establishment of knightly class to ensure the sanctity and legitimacy of Christianity was written in 930 by Odo, abbot of Cluny in the Vita of St. Gerald of Aurillac, which argued that the sanctity of Christ and Christian doctrine can be demonstrated through the legitimate unsheathing of the “sword against the enemy.” In the 11th century the concept of a "knight of Christ" (miles Christi) gained currency in France, Spain and Italy. These concepts of "religious chivalry" were further elaborated in the era of the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

, with the Crusades themselves often being seen as a chivalrous enterprise. Their ideas of chivalry were also further influenced by Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

, who was viewed as a chivalrous knight by medieval Christian writers.

Medieval literature


From the 12th century onward chivalry came to be understood as a moral, religious and social code of knightly conduct. The particulars of the code varied, but codes would emphasize the virtues of courage, honor, and service. Chivalry also came to refer to an idealization of the life and manners of the knight at home in his castle and with his court.

Medieval courtly literature glorifies the valor, tactics and ideals of ancient Romans. For example the ancient hand-book of warfare written by Vegetius
Vegetius
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, commonly referred to simply as Vegetius, was a writer of the Later Roman Empire. Nothing is known of his life or station beyond what he tells us in his two surviving works: Epitoma rei militaris , and the lesser-known Digesta Artis Mulomedicinae, a guide to...

 called De Re Militari
De Re Militari
De Re Militari , also Epitoma Rei Militaris, is a treatise by the late Latin writer Vegetius about Roman warfare and military principles as a presentation of methods and practices in use during the height of Rome's power, and responsible for that power...

was translated into French in the 13th century as L'art de chevalerie by Jean de Meun
Jean de Meun
Jean de Meun was a French author best known for his continuation of the Roman de la Rose.-Life:...

. Later writers also drew from Vegetius such as Honore Bonet who wrote the 14th century L'arbes des batailles, which discussed the morals and laws of war. In the 15th century Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pizan was a Venetian-born late medieval author who challenged misogyny and stereotypes prevalent in the male-dominated medieval culture. As a poet, she was well known and highly regarded in her own day; she completed 41 works during her 30 year career , and can be regarded as...

 combined themes from Vegetius, Bonet and Frontinus in Livre des faits d'armes et de chevalerie.

In the later Middle Ages, wealthy merchants strove to adopt chivalric attitudes - the sons of the bourgeoisie were educated at aristocratic courts where they were trained in the manners of the knightly class. This was a democratization of chivalry, leading to a new genre called the courtesy book
Courtesy book
A Courtesy book or Book of Manners was a book dealing with issues of etiquette, behaviour and morals, with a particular focus on the life at princely courts...

, which were guides to the behavior of "gentlemen". Thus, the post-medieval gentlemanly code of the value of a man's honor, respect for women, and a concern for those less fortunate, is directly derived from earlier ideals of chivalry and historical forces which created it.

The medieval development of chivalry, with the concept of the honor of a lady and the ensuing knightly devotion to it, not only derived from the thinking about the Virgin Mary, but also contributed to it. The medieval veneration of the Virgin Mary was contrasted by the fact that ordinary women, especially those outside aristocratic circles, were looked down upon. Although women were at times viewed as the source of evil, it was Mary who as mediator to God was a source of refuge for man. The development of medieval Mariology
Mariology
Roman Catholic Mariology is theology concerned with the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ as developed by the Catholic Church. Roman Catholic teachings on the subject have been based on the belief that "The Blessed Virgin, because she is the Mother of God, is believed to hold a certain...

 and the changing attitudes towards women paralleled each other and can best be understood in a common context.


When examining medieval literature
Medieval literature
Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages . The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works...

, chivalry can be classified into three basic but overlapping areas:
  1. Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians: this contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valor, fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, and in the servant-hood of the knight to his lord. This also brings with it the idea of being willing to give one’s life for another’s; whether he would be giving his life for a poor man or his lord.
  2. Duties to God: this would contain being faithful to God, protecting the innocent, being faithful to the church, being the champion of good against evil, being generous and obeying God above the feudal lord.
  3. Duties to women: this is probably the most familiar aspect of chivalry. This would contain what is often called courtly love
    Courtly love
    Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....

    , the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.

These three areas obviously overlap quite frequently in chivalry, and are often indistinguishable.

Different weight given to different areas produced different strands of chivalry:
  1. warrior chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to his lord, as exemplified by Sir Gawain
    Gawain
    Gawain is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as the greatest knight, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight...

     in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table. In the poem, Sir Gawain accepts a challenge from a mysterious warrior who is completely green, from his clothes and hair to his...

    and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
    The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
    The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle is a 15th-century English poem, one of several versions of the "loathly lady" story popular during the Middle Ages...

  2. religious chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to protect the innocent and serve God, as exemplified by Sir Galahad
    Galahad
    Sir Galahad |Round Table]] and one of the three achievers of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend. He is the illegitimate son of Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic, and is renowned for his gallantry and purity. Emerging quite late in the medieval Arthurian tradition, he is perhaps the knightly...

     or Sir Percival
    Percival
    Percival or Perceval is one of King Arthur's legendary Knights of the Round Table. In Welsh literature his story is allotted to the historical Peredur...

     in the Grail legends
    Holy Grail
    The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

    .
  3. courtly love chivalry, in which a knight's chief duty is to his own lady, and after her, all ladies, as exemplified by Sir Lancelot
    Lancelot
    Sir Lancelot du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is the most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories...

     in his love for Queen Guinevere
    Guinevere
    Guinevere was the legendary queen consort of King Arthur. In tales and folklore, she was said to have had a love affair with Arthur's chief knight Sir Lancelot...

     or Sir Tristan
    Tristan
    Tristan is one of the main characters of the Tristan and Iseult story, a Cornish hero and one of the Knights of the Round Table featuring in the Matter of Britain...

     in his love for Iseult
    Iseult
    Iseult is the name of several characters in the Arthurian story of Tristan and Iseult. The most prominent is Iseult of Ireland, wife of Mark of Cornwall and adulterous lover of Sir Tristan. Her mother, the Queen of Ireland, is also named Iseult...


Late Middle Ages


Chivalry underwent a revival and elaboration of chivalric ceremonial and rules of etiquette
Etiquette
Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group...

 in the fourteenth century that was examined by Johan Huizinga
Johan Huizinga
Johan Huizinga , was a Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history.-Life:Born in Groningen as the son of Dirk Huizinga, a professor of physiology, and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after his birth, he started out as a student of Indo-Germanic languages, earning his...

, in The Waning of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages
The Autumn of the Middle Ages, or The Waning of the Middle Ages, is the best-known work by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga....

(1919, 1924), in which he dedicates a full chapter to "The idea of chivalry". In contrasting the literary standards of chivalry with the actual warfare of the age, the historian finds the imitation of an ideal past illusory; in an aristocratic culture such as Burgundy and France at the close of the Middle Ages, "to be representative of true culture means to produce by conduct, by customs, by manners, by costume, by deportment, the illusion of a heroic being, full of dignity and honour, of wisdom, and, at all events, of courtesy. ...The dream of past perfection ennobles life and its forms, fills them with beauty and fashions them anew as forms of art".

Modern debates


There are a number of questions historians debate related to chivalry. In his monumental study of Chivalry, The Broad-Stone of Honour
The Broad-Stone of Honour
The Broad Stone of Honour, or Rules for the Gentlemen of England, is a book written by Kenelm Henry Digby and published first in 1822 by F. C. & J. Rivington of London. Then the work was subdivided into its constituent parts and published as Godefridus , Tancredus , Morus and Orlandus...

, Kenelm Henry Digby
Kenelm Henry Digby
This article is about Kenelm Digby, the Anglo-Irish writer. For other people with the same name, see Kenelm Digby Kenelm Henry Digby was an Anglo-Irish writer born at Clonfert in Ireland, though he certainly did not regard himself as Irish...

 offered the following definition: 'Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.' It is still debated as to what extent the exploits of notable knights and historical figures such as Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

, Godfrey of Bouillon
Godfrey of Bouillon
Godfrey of Bouillon was a medieval Frankish knight who was one of the leaders of the First Crusade from 1096 until his death. He was the Lord of Bouillon, from which he took his byname, from 1076 and the Duke of Lower Lorraine from 1087...

, William Marshal and Bertrand du Guesclin
Bertrand du Guesclin
Bertrand du Guesclin , known as the Eagle of Brittany or the Black Dog of Brocéliande, was a Breton knight and French military commander during the Hundred Years' War. He was Constable of France from 1370 to his death...

 set new standards of knightly behavior, or were instead reflections of existing models of conduct. Another common debate is whether, since knights bore arms, the ranks of knights were open to anyone who had the physical requirements and skills, or restricted to only those who were born into knightly families.

See also



  • Bushido
    Bushido
    , meaning "Way of the Warrior-Knight", is a Japanese word which is used to describe a uniquely Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and...

  • Chinese knight-errant
    Chinese knight-errant
    Youxia was a type of chivalrous hero which came into existence during the Han Dynasty and disappeared during the Qing Dynasty ....

  • Chivalric order
    Chivalric order
    Chivalric orders are societies and fellowships of knights that have been created by European monarchs in imitation of the military orders of the Crusades...

  • Chivalric romance
  • Courtly love
    Courtly love
    Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....


  • Court of Chivalry
    Court of Chivalry
    Her Majesty's High Court of Chivalry of England and Wales is a civil court in England. It has had jurisdiction in cases of the misuse of heraldic arms since the fourteenth century....

  • Domnei
    Domnei
    Domnei is an Old Provençal word meaning the attitude of chivalrous devotion of a knight for his Lady.-The Cabell Book:In modern times the word is especially known for the use made of it in the title and plot of Domnei: A Comedy of Woman-Worship , a fantasy novel by James Branch Cabell, set in the...

  • Don Quixote
  • Feliciano de Silva
    Feliciano de Silva
    Feliciano de Silva was a Spanish writer.de Silva was born in Ciudad Rodrigo to a powerful family, Silva wrote “sequels” to Celestina and Amadis de Gaula. Silva was a prolific writer. His first chivalresque work, Lisurate de Grecia , was published in 1514. It is a relatively short work...

  • Furusiyya
    Furusiyya
    is the historical Arabic term for knightly martial exercise during the Middle Ages, during the Crusades and Mamluk period in particular, especially concerned with medieval Islamic martial arts and equestrianism...

  • Gender role
    Gender role
    Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...


  • Jomsvikings
    Jomsvikings
    The Jomsvikings were a possibly-legendary company of Viking mercenaries or brigands of the 10th century and 14th century AD, dedicated to the worship of such deities as Odin and Thor. They were staunchly pagan, but they reputedly would fight for any lord able to pay their substantial fees, and...

  • Nine Worthies
    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...

  • Pas d'Armes
    Pas d'Armes
    The pas d'armes or passage of arms was a type of chivalric hastilude that evolved in the late 14th century and remained popular through the 15th century...

  • Spanish chivalry
    Spanish Chivalry
    During the Middle Ages, Medieval Europe was engaged in almost constant warfare and conflict. European warfare during the Middle Ages was marked by a transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity, changing military tactics and the role of cavalry and artillery...

  • Warrior code


External links


  • "Chivalry", Old Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914.
  • "Chivalry", Encyclopædia Britannica
    Encyclopædia Britannica
    The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

    , full-article, newest edition.
  • "Chivalry during the Reign of Edward III", from Shadow Realms.