Session Title

The (False) Construct of "Chivalry" and the Brutal Reality of Explicitly Knightly Virtues, 1160-1475

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Seigneurie: Group for the Study of the Nobility, Lordship, and Chivalry

Organizer Name

D'Arcy Jonathan D. Boulton

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Notre Dame

Presider Name

Jonathan Lyon

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of Chicago

Paper Title 1

Why Both the Term and Construct of "Chivalry" Must be Abandoned: A Study of over Forty Proposed Codes and Their Use of Chevalerie and Its Cognates, ca. 1160-ca. 1475

Presenter 1 Name

D'Arcy Jonathan D. Boulton

Paper Title 2

Docility and Governmental Organization in the Thirteenth Century: How Noble Knights Lost the Ear of the King of France

Presenter 2 Name

Hagar Barak

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Independent Scholar

Paper Title 3

Defining, Performing, and Questioning: "Chivalry" and Gender in Late Medieval Conduct Literature and the Tournament

Presenter 3 Name

Constanze Buyken

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris

Start Date

13-5-2016 1:30 PM

Session Location

Schneider 1330

Description

On the dual basis (1) of a very unsystematic reading of a very limited set of the numerous didactic works setting out the qualities and behaviors thought by their authors to be appropriate to a noble knight, and (2) of a typical failure to distinguish clearly between actual historical usage and that of nineteenth-century historiography, historians have continued to believe in the existence of a generally-recognized knightly-nobiliary “code”, including such elements as liberality, loyalty, and a duty to defend the Church, ladies, widows, and orphans, and designated by its adherents by names ancestral to the modern English word “chivalry”. Recent studies have demonstrated that no true code of this sort existed at least before the year 1200, and that the words in question (principally the Old French chevalerie) bore no comparable sense. Nevertheless, convinced of the reality of the “code of chivalry”, historians have expected to find its origins in the early thirteenth century. The first paper of this session — based on a careful and systematic analysis (1) of the more than 40 codes proposed in works composed in Romance vernaculars between c. 1160 and c. 1475; and (2) of the semantic history of the words of the caballerius family in this period in those works and more generally — demonstrates that, while a large set of qualities and behaviors admired more or less strongly by different sets of noblemen can certainly be identified, these qualities and behaviors were never combined in anything that could be called a “code”, or identified at any time in that period with words related to “chivalry” — which continued to be associated exclusively with martial qualities, actions, activities, and expertise. The other two papers deal with related themes. The second paper is concerned with one of the consequences of the essentially martial, aggressive, and individualist values of noble knights in France in the thirteenth century: their progressive exclusion from the emerging royal bureaucracy, which increasingly demanded efficient and reliable service to the Crown. The third paper deals with the final stage of the relationship between noble knights and ladies long promoted in “chivalric” literature (but only rarely in treatises), analyzing its expression in the context of the increasingly formalised jousting competitions of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in terms of a dual gender-code in which the highly-masculinized virtues of the knights were validated by the highly-feminized virtues of the ladies who served as witnesses to their actions in the lists.

D'A. J. D. Boulton

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May 13th, 1:30 PM

The (False) Construct of "Chivalry" and the Brutal Reality of Explicitly Knightly Virtues, 1160-1475

Schneider 1330

On the dual basis (1) of a very unsystematic reading of a very limited set of the numerous didactic works setting out the qualities and behaviors thought by their authors to be appropriate to a noble knight, and (2) of a typical failure to distinguish clearly between actual historical usage and that of nineteenth-century historiography, historians have continued to believe in the existence of a generally-recognized knightly-nobiliary “code”, including such elements as liberality, loyalty, and a duty to defend the Church, ladies, widows, and orphans, and designated by its adherents by names ancestral to the modern English word “chivalry”. Recent studies have demonstrated that no true code of this sort existed at least before the year 1200, and that the words in question (principally the Old French chevalerie) bore no comparable sense. Nevertheless, convinced of the reality of the “code of chivalry”, historians have expected to find its origins in the early thirteenth century. The first paper of this session — based on a careful and systematic analysis (1) of the more than 40 codes proposed in works composed in Romance vernaculars between c. 1160 and c. 1475; and (2) of the semantic history of the words of the caballerius family in this period in those works and more generally — demonstrates that, while a large set of qualities and behaviors admired more or less strongly by different sets of noblemen can certainly be identified, these qualities and behaviors were never combined in anything that could be called a “code”, or identified at any time in that period with words related to “chivalry” — which continued to be associated exclusively with martial qualities, actions, activities, and expertise. The other two papers deal with related themes. The second paper is concerned with one of the consequences of the essentially martial, aggressive, and individualist values of noble knights in France in the thirteenth century: their progressive exclusion from the emerging royal bureaucracy, which increasingly demanded efficient and reliable service to the Crown. The third paper deals with the final stage of the relationship between noble knights and ladies long promoted in “chivalric” literature (but only rarely in treatises), analyzing its expression in the context of the increasingly formalised jousting competitions of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in terms of a dual gender-code in which the highly-masculinized virtues of the knights were validated by the highly-feminized virtues of the ladies who served as witnesses to their actions in the lists.

D'A. J. D. Boulton