Romance and dating have changed a lot since medieval times, but many women today probably wish that chivalry has survived the ages. The word chivalry is associated with courteous behavior – usually courteous behavior of men towards women.
History of Chivalry
In medieval times, chivalry did not just refer to virtuous behavior. In fact, the term originally applied to the order of knights. Over time, the way they behaved towards women began to be associated with the term chivalry, which is where its current meaning comes from.
An important aspect of being a knight in medieval times involved knowing and living by something called The Ten Rules of Chivalry. The first two rules state that a knight must believe everything the church teaches, observe its directions, and defend the church. The third rule says that a knight must respect the weak and defend them. They must love their country and they must not retreat from battle. Another rule states that they must make war with “Infidels” without mercy. They must perform all their knightly duties. They should never lie and always keep their word. They must be generous to everyone. The last rule states they shall always be the “champion of the Right and Good against Injustice and Evil.”
Another set of rules is probably where the idea that chivalry applied to romance originated. This set of rules is called Rules of Chivalrous Love . The first rule says knights must avoid avarice at all costs. They must keep themselves chaste for the sake of the woman he loved. They must never strive to break up another couple’s love. They must never love someone they are ashamed to marry. They cannot lie. They must not speak any evil; they must not reveal love affairs; and they must be polite and courteous in all things. When in love, they should not “exceed the desires of their lover.” They must be obedient to the commands of ladies. The rules also mention that patience is love’s greatest virtue and when “giving and receiving love let modesty be present.”
As a result of these strict rules, a knight’s behavior towards women was always very pleasant. These rules are also why the term “chivalry” now applies to a man treating a woman with great love and respect.
Knights and Ladies
Courtly love was how most romances were known at the time, and they were often secret because many knights and ladies engaged in affairs. Couples would exchange gifts and tokens. Women were in charge and the knights were trying to woo the ladies. These gifts could be everything from poems to songs to sweets. Another example would be a woman giving a knight a token before a battle. One of the most famous romances from medieval times is definitely that of the knight Lancelot and Guinevere.
Guinevere was the wife of King Arthur and Lancelot was one of his most trusted knights. The two of them fell in love and began an affair that lasted years. Eventually, the affair was discovered and the two died apart; Lancelot died a hermit and Guinevere became a nun.
You may not think knights made good poets, but in fact many knights spent a good deal of time romancing a woman – and they did it with poetry! These are examples of poems written by knights:
Other Chivalry Resources
Many people still feel that the virtues of chivalry have survived today and you just have to find the right man!
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