Concept of Chivalry
Chivalry is a moral, social and religious code of conduct that was followed by knights of the medieval age. This code often emphasized honor, courage, and service. This concept of chivalry arose in the Holy Roman Empire from the idealization of the cavalrymen – who were well known for their bravery, courage, and service to others. So the concept of chivalry first appeared in the middle ages during the military activities against non-Christians – Crusades.
Chivalry towards Women
Chivalry demanded that knights should honor, serve, and do nothing to displease women. Knights’ interactions with the ladies are also a part of courtly love.
Chivalry in Battlefield
Knights followed strict rules in the battlefield. The chivalric code of conduct applied to when and how a knight fought. For example, a knight fought only when it was necessary or by the king’s orders. Certain weapons and techniques were also considered not to be chivalrous according to this code.
Chivalry towards People
A knight’s conduct towards his fellow countrymen was another main aspect of the code of conduct. Knights were always expected to respect and protect others.
Léon Gautier, in his “La Chevalerie” attempts to provide a summary of the chivalry by creating the following ten commandments:
- Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches and thou shalt observe all its directions.
- Thou shalt defend the Church.
- Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
- Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
- Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
- Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.
- Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
- Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
- Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
- Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil
In sum, respecting, obeying and defending the Church, protecting and helping the country and countrymen, remaining loyal and faithful to the king, being brave and courageous and fighting against injustice are the duties and obligations of a medieval knight.
However, it should be noted that Gautier wrote this in 1883, several centuries after the age of chivalry.
How Did the Concept of Chivalry Influence Medieval Life
The concept of Chivalry is described in fictional medieval works such as Song of Roland, Don Quixote and Le Morte d’Arthur. According to these literary works, the concept of chivalry formed the character of knights. The knights defended the weak, were courteous to women, loyal to the king, and served the god at all times. Thus, the concept of chivalry protected the medieval men, women, and children as well as the royalty and religion.
Although there is controversy about the actual existence of chivalry and the knights who followed this code of conduct, the notion of chivalry could have instilled a sense of security in the minds of common people.
“Meister der Manessischen Liederhandschrift 001” By Meister des Codex Manesse (Grundstockmaler) – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia