The Age of Chivalry

Explain knighthood, the code of chivalry, and the roles and status of medieval women

Chivalry is a term related to the medieval knighthood and with ideals of honor, knightly virtues and love. From the 12th century on, chivalry became known as a moral, religious and social code of proper knight conduct. The code per se varies, but the whole idea emphasizes on the virtues of honor, courage and service. It also refers as to the idealization of the manners a knight should have at home and with his court. Knights of the time were trained to be excellent in arms, courageous, gallant and loyal. As with most of the things, Christianity had an influence on the virtues of chivalry. At about the 10th century, the church had become more tolerant of wars and begun to justify them, and liturgies (which blessed the knight’s sword) were introduced. This was the concept of “religious chivalry”. This concept advanced during the Crusades, which were seen as some kind of chivalrous enterprise and by Saladin, who was seen as a chivalrous knight by Christian writers of the time.

The relationship between the knights and nobility depended on the region. In Germnay, knights and the nobles were distinct classes. In England, the relationship between them was very complex.

The Technology of Warfare Changes

The saddle kept a warrior firmly seated on a moving horse. Stirrups enabled him to ride and handle heavier weapons. Without stirrups to brace him, a charging warrior was likely to fall off his horse.

The warrior's role in Feudal Society

To defend their territories, Feudal lords raised armies of knights, in exchanged for their service a feudal lords gave them land , the wealth from this fiefs allowed knights to devote their lives to war and they could afford afford to pay for costly weapons, armor, and warhorses. A lord demanded from his knights 40 days of combat a year. When they weren't in war they were always training, hunting, and wrestling this always helped to practice their skills that they would need in the battle field.

Brutal Reality of Warfere
By the 1100s, masive walls and guerd towres encircled stone castles.these castles domininated much of the countryside in Western Europe. Lord and lady, their family, knights and servants made their homes in the castle. Also it was designed for defence.
Attacking armies used a wide ranged of strategies and weaponds to force castles residents to surrender. Defenders of a castle poured boiling water, hot oil, or molten lead on enemy soldiers.

Siege Weaponds
´´Siege weapons were made to order! They were far too cumbersome to move from one place to another. In a siege situation the commander would assess the situation and the siege weapons design requirements to break a siege. Engineers would instruct soldiers as to the design and construction of siege weapons and siege engines.´´
The most famous Midddle Ages siege weaponds were:

  • Ballista
  • Mangonel
  • Battering rams
  • rebuchets
  • Catapult
  • Siege Tower

Chivalry in literature:

In medieval literature, chivalry can be classified into three areas:

1. Duties to countrymen and fellow Christians, which included virtues such as fairness, protection of the weak and the poor, courage, mercy and valor. It also brought the idea of giving your life for some one else.
2. Duties to God, which contained being faithful to God and the church, and a defeater of evil.
3. Duties to men, which contained courtly love (which was the idea that a knight has to serve his lady and all other ladies).

Literature of the time knighthood and chivalry. There were also songs about poems about a knight’s love for its lady. Epic poetry was very popular during the time, and was enjoyed by feudal lords and their ladies. These poems told hero’s adventures and many were stories about legendary kings such as Charlemagne. In many medieval poems, the hero’s difficulties resulted from the knight’s duty to his lord and to his lady, which were as equally important. This gave arouse to troubadour, which would sing about the pains and joys of love. Other songs talked about knights who loved ladies whom they will never get. This songs, however, created a fake image of women, since in the troubadours’ eyes, a woman was always pure and beautiful.

Knight’s code of Chivalry and the vows of Knighthood

- to fear God and maintain his church
- to serve the liege lord in value and faith
- to protect the weak and defenseless
- to give succor to widows and orphans
- to live by honor and for glory
- to despise pecuniary rewards
- to fight for the well fare of all
- to obey those placed in authority
- to keep faith
- to persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- to respect the honor of women
- never to refuse a challenge from an equal
- never turn your face upon a foe (enemy)
- at all times speak the truth

According to the Duke of Burgandy these was the virtues that the Knights should have:


Knighthood and the Code of Chivalry

A knight was expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat in the violent Middle Ages but was also expected to temper this aggressive side of a knight with a chivalrous side to his nature. There was not an authentic Knights 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 Code demanded that a knight fight in defense of three masters. The knight had to devoted himself to his heavenly Lord, to his feudal lord, and his chosen lady. They also protected the weak and the poor. The ideal or perfect knight was loyal, brave, and courteous.

"Protect the weak, defenseless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all." but rarely they achieve all these goals.

The code of chivalry dealt with three main areas: the military, social life, and religion. The military side of life was very important to knighthood. Along with the fighting elements of war, there were many customs and rules to be followed. A way of demonstrating military chivalry was to own expensive, heavy weaponry, horses were also extremely important, and each knight often owned several horses for distinct purposes. One of the greatest signs of chivalry was the flying of colored banners, to display power and to distinguish knights in battle and in tournaments. Warriors were not only required to own all these belongings to prove their allegiance: they were expected to act with military courtesy as well. In combat when nobles and knights were taken prisoner, their lives were spared and were often held for ransom in somewhat comfortable surroundings.

A knight's Training

The term knight was referred to a nobleman or a warrior in whom they would protect and fight for their lord, most of them used horse to fight. The power of the knight wasn’t only in skill and strength; they used the concept of honor, courtesy and bravery as their idea. Becoming a knight was like a sign of nobility in which later on knight became a formal title in the Middle Ages.

In order to become a knight you have to have a noble parent (that worked before for the lord). First the boy is sent to the castle at the age of 7, there he began to learn how to read, talk, write and pay respect to god. Also they learned how to fight and ride a horse, but in the morning he serves his lord by bringing the meal.

After he was 13 years old he passed from apprenticed to a squire. Where he learned skills with a sword, lance and the shield. Also was taught the duties and responsibility of a knight. He was trained with a dummy in which it has to be hit in the middle or either way the dummy would hit him, The squire was expected to serve his mentor and follow them to the battle to protect his master if he felt. But if a squire performed an outstanding job in the battlefield he could become right away a knight.

They were also trained to practice courteous, honorable behaviour, which was considered extremely important.


The Literature of Chivalry

The Knights Code of Chivalry was part of the culture of the Middle Ages and was understood by all. A Code of Chivalry was documented in 'The Song of Roland' in the Middle Ages Knights period of William the Conqueror who ruled England from 1066. The 'Song of Roland' describes the 8th century Knights of the Dark Ages and the battles fought by the Emperor Charlemagne. The code has since been described as Charlemagne's Code of Chivalry. The Song of Roland was the most famous 'chanson de geste' and was composed between 1098-1100, describing the betrayal of Count Roland at the hand of Ganelon, and his resulting death in the Pyranee Mountains at the hands of the Saracens. Roland was a loyal defender of his liege Lord Charlemagne and his code of conduct and his description of the meaning of chivalry.

Women's Role in Feudal Society

Most women in feudal society were thought to be powerless, inferior compared to men. Nontheless, women played valuable roles in the lives of both noble and peasant families.


  • A noblewoman could inherite an estate from her husband.
  • She could send his knights to war.
  • Noblewoman held little property, since lords passed them down to sons.
  • Females in nobles families were limited to activities in the home or the convent.
  • when her husband was away fighting and the lady of a medieval castle could act as military commander and a warrior and defend their castle by hurled rocks and fired arrows at attackers.

But after all life of medivial noblewomen was limited. It didnt matter if they were young or old, females in noble families were always attached to do work in the home or the convent. Noblewomens didnt posses much of propertys since lord passed their properties to sons not to daughters.
Peasant Women

  • Peasant women performed endless labor around the home and often in the fields.
  • They took care of children and of their families.
  • They were poor and powerless but were essential to the survival of their households.
  • Girls were tought by mothers not by tutors as rich girls.

A good knight was determined on four elements:

Weapons- A knight always beared a sword and a lance, both good for encountering in a close fight, but many were poor for long-distance fighting. In most cases, a knight’s equipment was really expensive that many knights could not afford to have good equipment.

Horses- Every knight had at least three horses. The first horse for battle only, a second horse for traveling a route, and the last horse for luggage as a pack-horse.

Attendants- These men were like a knight’s escort. An attendant disciplined a knight’s horses, carried his heaviest weapons, helped him mount his battle horse, and guardes the prisoners.

Flags- They distinguished one knight from another during battle. The flag was mostly seen on a knight’s lance and was to represent a constabulary consisting of at least ten knights.

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