Codes Of Chivalry & Courtly Love

The Code of Chivalry

There was not an authentic Medieval Code of Chivalry as such - it was a moral system which went beyond rules of combat and introduced the concept of Chivalrous conduct - qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. The Medieval Code of Chivalry was understood by all but a Code of Chivalry was documented in 'The Song of Roland' in the early Medieval period of William the Conqueror. The 'Song of Roland' describes the 8th century Knights and battles of the Emperor Charlemagne and has been described as Charlemagne's Code of Chivalry. The idea of the Code of Chivalry were emphasised by the oaths that were sworn in Knighthood ceremonies. These sacred oaths were combined with the ideals of chivalry and with strict rules of etiquette and conduct. The idea and ideals of a Medieval Code of Chivalry was publicised in the poems, ballads, writings and literary works of Medieval authors. The myths of Arthurian Legends featuring King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table further strengthen the idea of a Medieval Code of Chivalry. The Arthurian legend revolves around the Code of Chivalry followed by the Knights of the Round Table - Honour, Honesty, Valour and Loyalty.

The entry into Knighthood was highly ritualised which started with a Night Vigil in the Chapel of the Castle

The Knight swore an oath of allegiance to the lord and swore the following oaths:

  • Never traffic with traitors
  • Never give evil counsel to a lady, whether married or not; he must treat her with great respect and defend her against all
  • To observe fasts and abstinences, and every day hear Mass and make an offering in Church

The Public ceremony of Knighthood followed a deeply religious ceremony with blessings from the Church to go forward and protect the church by the use of arms.

The Crusades

The Church sanctified wars fought on behalf of the Church which were called Crusades. Every Crusader had to swear "to defend to his uttermost the weak, the orphan, the widow and the oppressed; he should be courteous, and women should receive his especial care". This further enhanced the ideals of the Code of Chivalry.

  • Live to serve King and Country.
  • Live to defend Crown and Country and all it holds dear.
  • Live one's life so that it is worthy of respect and honor.
  • Live for freedom, justice and all that is good.
  • Never attack an unarmed foe.
  • Never use a weapon on an opponent not equal to the attack.
  • Never attack from behind.
  • Avoid lying to your fellow man.
  • Avoid cheating.
  • Avoid torture.
  • Obey the law of king, country, and chivalry.
  • Administer justice.
  • Protect the innocent.
  • Exhibit self control.
  • Show respect to authority.
  • Respect women.
  • Exhibit Courage in word and deed.
  • Defend the weak and innocent.
  • Destroy evil in all of its monstrous forms.
  • Crush the monsters that steal our land and rob our people.
  • Fight with honor.
  • Avenge the wronged.
  • Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause.
  • Fight for the ideals of king, country, and chivalry.
  • Die with valor.
  • Always keep one's word of honor.
  • Always maintain one's principles.
  • Never betray a confidence or comrade.
  • Avoid deception.
  • Respect life and freedom.
  • Die with honor.
  • Exhibit manners.
  • Be polite and attentive.
  • Be respectful of host, women, and honor.
  • Loyalty to country, King, honor, freedom, and the code of chivalry.
  • Loyalty to one's friends and those who lay their trust in thee.

The Ten Commandments of the Code of Chivalry

  • Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt observe all its directions.
  • Thou shalt defend the Church.
  • Thou shalt repect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  • Thou shalt love the country in the 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 shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  • Thou shalt be generous, and give largess to everyone.
  • Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

The Code of Courtly Love

Chivalric or Courtly Love (known in medieval France as "fine love" or fin amour) originated with the so-called troubadours of the late eleventh century. Promoting a suave new form of paganism which they called Gai Saber (literally, "the happy wisdom" or "gay science"), these colorful figures from the Provence region of southern France effectively challenged and sought to redefine traditional Christian ideals of love, marriage, manhood, virtue, and femininity. Under the sponsorship of powerful nobles like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Marie de Champagne, their influence gradually spread throughout France and into England and Germany. By the middle of the 13th century, the troubadour philosophy had become practically institutionalized throughout the courts of Europe, and "fine love" had become the basis for a glamorous and exciting new style of life.

Properly applied, the phrase l'amour courtois identified an extravagantly artificial and stylized relationship - a forbidden affair that was characterized by five main attributes. In essence, the relationship was:

  • Aristocratic: As its name implies, courtly love was practiced by noble lords and ladies; its proper milieu was the royal palace or court.
  • Ritualistic: Couples engaged in a courtly relationship conventionally exchanged gifts and tokens of their affair. The lady was wooed according to elaborate conventions of etiquette (cf. "courtship" and "courtesy") and was the constant recipient of songs, poems, bouquets, sweet favors, and ceremonial gestures. For all these gentle and painstaking attentions on the part of her lover, she need only return a short hint of approval, a mere shadow of affection. After all, she was the exalted domina - the commanding "mistress" of the affair; he was but her servus - a lowly but faithful servant.
  • Secret: Courtly lovers were pledged to strict secrecy. The foundation for their affair - indeed the source of its special aura and electricity - was that the rest of the world (except for a few confidantes or go-betweens) was excluded. In effect, the lovers composed a universe unto themselves - a special world with its own places (e.g., the secret rendezvous), rules, codes, and commandments.
  • Adulterous: "Fine love" - almost by definition - was extramarital. Indeed one of its principle attractions was that it offered an escape from the dull routines and boring confinements of noble marriage (which was typically little more than a political or economic alliance for the purpose of producing royal offspring). The troubadours themselves scoffed at marriage, regarding it as a glorified religious swindle. In its place they exalted their own ideal of a disciplined and decorous carnal relationship whose ultimate objective was not crude physical satisfaction, but a sublime and sensual intimacy.
  • Literary: Before it established itself as a popular real-life activity, courtly love first gained attention as a subject and theme in imaginative literature. Ardent knights, that is to say, and their passionately adored ladies were already popular figures in song and fable before they began spawning a host of real-life imitators in the palace halls and boudoirs of medieval Europe. (Note: Even the word "romance" - from Old French romanz - began life as the name for a narrative poem about chivalric heroes. Only later was the term applied to the distinctive love relationship commonly featured in such poems.)
  • Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.
  • He who is not jealous cannot love.
  • No one can be bound by a double love.
  • It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing.
  • That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved has no relish.
  • Boys do not love until they reach the age of maturity.
  • When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor.
  • No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.
  • No one can love unless he is propelled by the persuasion of love.
  • Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.
  • It is not proper to love any woman whom one would be ashamed to seek to marry.
  • A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.
  • When made public love rarely endures.
  • The easy attainment of love makes it of little value: difficulty of attainment makes it prized.
  • Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
  • When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved his heart palpitates.
  • A new love puts an old one to flight.
  • Good character alone makes any man worthy of love.
  • If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.
  • A man in love is always apprehensive.
  • Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.
  • Jealousy increases when one suspects his beloved.
  • He whom the thought of love vexes eats and sleeps very little.
  • Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.
  • A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved.
  • Love can deny nothing to love.
  • A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved.
  • A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved.
  • A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love.
  • A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.
  • Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.

The Twelve Chief Rules in Love

  • Thou shalt avoid avarice like the deadly pestilence and shalt embrace its opposite.
  • Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her whom thou lovest.
  • Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in.
  • Thou shalt not chose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry.
  • Be mindful completely to avoid falsehood.
  • Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affair.
  • Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of Love.
  • In giving and receiving love's solaces let modesty be ever present.
  • Thou shalt speak no evil.
  • Thou shalt not be a revealer of love affairs.
  • Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous.
  • In practicing the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover.