p-favors-art - 9/21/94
Article on period favors by Ray Lischner.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: mittle at panix.com (Arval d'Espas Nord)
Subject: Re: documentation for a favour
Date: 30 Aug 1994 17:01:12 -0400
Organization: PANIX Public Access Internet and Unix, NYC
Cary Anderson wrote:
> I need some documentation for a favour I would like to enter into an
> arts compition.
The following article appeared on the Rialto on 5 Jan 1992, written by Ray
Lischner. It is copyright by Ray Lischner.
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From: lisch at dsd.mentorg.COM (Ray Lischner)
Date: 5 Jan 92 20:26:00 GMT
The historical evidence for the use of favors in tournaments is not always
clear. Most historical sources do not mention favors at all, leaving the
modern researcher in a quandary. In general, it seems that favors were
occasionally used since the early days of the tournament, but were never
very popular. Gifts and largesse, given as a token of esteem and respect,
rather than love, appear to have been more common.
There are three kinds of historical evidence one can examine: the
chronicles, the romances, and the sermons, each presenting a different
point of view.
The earliest source seems to be the romances of Chretien de Troyes, such as
the following mention in Erec et Enide, written in the mid-twelfth century:
Many an ensign of red, blue, and white, many a veil and
many a sleeve were bestowed as tokens of love. [Troyes, p. 28]
Soon after this, knights were clearly wearing favors because Jacques de
Vitry found it necessary to condemn the wearing of signs in battle to
please lewd women:
Non carent 7 mortali peccato quod dicitur luxuria, cum
placere volunt mulieribus impudicis, si probi habeantur
in armis, et etiam quedam earum insignia quasi pro vexillo
portare consuererunt. [de Vitry, CLXI, p. 63]
Robert of Brunne has a similar opinion, as he wrote in 1303:
Many tymes, for wymmen sake,
knyghteys tournamentys make;
And whan he wendyth to the tournament
She senyth hym sum pryvy present,
And byt hym do for hys lemman
Yn vasselage all that he kan; [Brunne, ll. 4605-4610]
Brunne does not explicitly state that the "pryvy present" is to be
worn, but it is not a stretch to imagine so.
In a similar vein, Christine de Pisan offers some advice
to ladies of high estate:
Since it is the established custom that knights and squires
and all men (especially certain men) who associate with women
have a habit of pleading for love tokens from them and trying
to seduce them, the wise princess will so enforce her regulations
that there will be no visitor to her court so fool hardy as to
dare to whisper privately with any of her women or give the
appearance of seduction. [Pisan, p. 75]
We don't know what kinds of "love tokens" were given, but we do know
that such favors are distinguished from other, more respectable gifts,
that a lady can offer a knight:
If this lady sees any gentleman, be he knight or squire, of
good courage who has a desire to increase his honor but does
not have much money to outfit himself properly, and if she
sees that it is worth while to help him, the gentle lady will
do so, for she has within her all good impulses for honor and
gentility and for always encouraging noble and valiant actions.
And thus in various situations that may arise this lady will
extend wise and well-considered largesse. [Pisan, p. 78]
This clearly is different from the use of favors as love tokens. Most of
the romances, however, typically refer to tokens from lovers, not gifts as
Guy of Warwick, in a story written in the thirteenth century, is given a
gold ring by his wife and lover, but no other token. [Warwick, l. 7449]
The lays of Marie de France contain numerous examples of chivalry,
jousting, and courtly love, but few examples of tokens and favors [Lais].
For example, Lanval, in the lay of the same name, receives from his lover
everything he could ever want, but no token or favor is ever mentioned. We
are more fortunate in Chaitivel, where the lady grants a token to each of
her four lovers:
She gave them all tokens of love [l. 57]
. . .
At the assembly of knights,
each one wanted to be first,
to do well, if he could,
in order to please the lady.
They all considered her their love,
all carried her token,
a ring, or sleeve, or banner [ll. 63-69]
In Eliduc, the lady sends a ring and a belt to her lover, by means of a
In turning to the chronicles of actual jousts and tournaments, there is
almost no mention at all of favors or other presents or tokens. One of the
earliest is the story of William the Marshal, and there does not seem to be
any mention of favors [HGM].
In the mid-thirteenth century, Ulrich von Liechtenstein undertook his Venus
journey in honor of his lady, but he does not bear any token of hers. No
mention is made of favors for any of this opponents, although they are keen
to gain gold rings by breaking spears against Ulrich, ostensibly to be
given to their ladies [Liechtenstein].
In the fifteenth century, Don Pero Nino prepares to join a pas d'armes, and
his lover, Jeannette de Bellengues, sends him a horse, a helm and a letter,
but no favor [Nino]. The French treatises of the fifteenth century do not
mention favors, either.
In 1520, at the Field of Cloth of Gold, we learn that "Francis [I of
France] and his partners wore sleeves on their head pieces[Russell, p.
128]." No mention is made of King Henry doing the same, so one is forced to
conclude that, although not unknown, the practice was not widespread.
There are two kinds of favors: love tokens and largesse. The former are
popular in the romances, and appear less frequently in history. The latter
appear in both fiction and fact. Various kinds of love tokens are
mentions, including sleeves, belts, rings, and banners. For largesse, the
gifts tend to be more practical, such as arms, armor, and horses. To use a
20th century context, imagine a modern athlete: some certainly wear or
carry tokens of their lovers and/or spouses, but most probably do not.
They do, however, solicit and accept "largesse" from corporations and
sponsors, which are the modern counterparts to the great medieval patrons.
[Brunne] Robert of Brunne. Handlyng Synne. F. J. Furnivall, ed.
London: Early English Text Society, 1901.
[de Vitry] Jacques de Vitry. The Exempla. Thomas F. Crane, trans.
London: Folk-lore Society, 1890.
[HGM] Paul Meyer, ed. L'histoire de Guillaume le Marechal. Paris:
Librairie Renouard, 1891-1901.
[Lais] Robert Hanning and Joan Ferrante, trans. The Lais of Marie de
France. Durham, NC: Labyrinth Press, 1978. ISBN 0-939464-02-0.
[Liechtenstein] Ulrich von Liechtenstein. Service of ladies. J. W.
Thomas, trans. and ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
[Nino] Gutierre Diaz de Gamez. The unconquered knight: A chronicle of
the deeds of Don Pero Nino. Joan Evans, trans. and ed. New York:
Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1928.
[Pisan] Christine de Pisan. The treasure of the city of ladies. Sarah
Lawson, trans. New York: Penguin, 1985.
[Troyes] Chretien de Troyes. Les Roman de Chretien de Troyes. Vol. 1,
Erec et Enide. Mario Roques, ed. Paris: Librarie Honore Champion,
1970. English translation by W. W. Comfort, in Arthur romances.
London: Dent, 1914, reprinted 1970. ISBN 0-460-00698-3.
[Warwick] Julius Zupita, ed. The romance of Guy of Warwick. London:
[Russell] Jocelyne G. Russell. Field of cloth of gold. New York:
Barnes and Noble, 1969.