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Chivalry-art - 1/18/94


"Chivalry and Feudalism" by Peregrine Payne


NOTE: See also the files: chivalry-msg, chiv-orders-msg, courtly-love-msg, fealty-msg, fealty-art, knighthood-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: lisch at ws.mentorg.COM (Ray Lischner)

Date: 20 May 91 17:00:38 GMT

Organization: The Internet


Tournaments were expensive, especially for the lesser skilled.  How

could a knight afford to lose his horse and harness every other week?

To understand the answer, one must also understand what the victor

does with several new horses every other week: give them to his

unlucky friends.  Following is an article that I wrote for a

newsletter for a tournament that will take place this fall in An Tir.

The newsletter is one of three that we are producing as a way of

educating the participants.


Copyright (c) 1991 Ray Lischner.

Permission is granted to reprint the article below, provided nothing

is changed.  If you wish to add formatting information, please contact

the author who might be able to help you (especially if you use TeX).


                        Chivalry and Feudalism

                          by Peregrine Payne


``It is impossible to be chivalrous without a horse.''[1]


Tournaments in 1188 were conducted on a ransom basis. After unhorsing

an opponent, the victor usually seizes the horse and holds it for

ransom.  If the vanquished cannot afford the ransom, the victor keeps

the horse.  A knight with little skill can lose many horses, and one

with greater skill can quickly become quite wealthy, since horses are

very expensive.[2]


Of course, the Middle Ages do not consist solely of rich knights and

poor knights.  Instead, there is a balance of payments, a

redistribution of wealth among the chivalry.  The rich help the

poor---as part of feudal obligations, for friendship, out of courtesy,

or to show off one's wealth and station.


L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal paints a fascinating picture of

after-tournament activities, illustrating the dependency of knights on

friends, relations, and lords.


    The tournament is over now,

    And everyone prepares to go,

    Enough of fighting for this day,

    The crowd is great, but some must stay.

    Some ask about their friends who are

    Retained as prisoners so far.

    And others seek their harnesses,

    In ransom held, the poet says.

    And many knights who now must raise

    Their ransom price in diverse ways:

    Some ask their parents, some their friends,

    Acquaintances to make amends.

    After tournament, each knight

    Asks for ransom fees tonight.

    Great lords together,

    Help themselves and help each other.[3]


One who loses his horse and cannot afford to ransom it back can look

to his lord or to friends who were more successful in the tournament

to provide a horse.


When a knight cannot afford a horse, the medieval society provides an

immediate source of help.  A Lord is expected to provide for his

knights, often by giving horses, arms and armor as gifts. For

example, before his first tournament, William the Marshal did not own

a horse.  His lord, the Lord of Tancarville, made sure he had one for

the tournament:


    The room was full of knights, all bent

    To travel to the tournament.

    The Marshall, all alone, without

    The means to go, was lost in thought.

    Then asked the Lord of Tancarville,

    ``Ho, Marshal, why are you so still?''

    ``I have no horse, my lord, and so

    ``There is no way for me to go.''

    ``Then, Marshal, worry not at all,

    ``For you will have a horse to call.''[4]


The Marshal needed the help of his protector to get started, but after

that he was able to sustain himself on the strength of his arms.

During this first tournament, the Marshal captured four and a half

horses.[5] (The half horse is another story, and will be told another



The feudal society provides a hierarchy of responsibilities.  At each

level, a person is expected to provide for his dependents beneath him,

and can expect to be provided for by the lord above him. Usually,

this provision takes the form of gifts, such as the gift of a horse

from the Lord of Tancarville to William the Marshal.


Ramon Llull tells us how a knight should be generous with gifts in his

Book of the Order of Chivalry.  When a squire is made knight, for

example, he is expected


    to make a great feast and to give fair gifts and great dinners, to

    joust and sport and do other things that pertain to the order of

    chivalry, and to give to kings of arms and to heralds as it is

    accustomed of ancient, and the lord that maketh a new knight ought

    to give to the new knight also a present or gift, and also the new

    knight ought to give to him and to others that same day, for who

    so receiveth so great a gift as is the order of chivalry honoreth

    not his order if he give not after the power that he may give.[6]


In other words, a knight is expected to give out gifts according to

his means.  Not being generous is a blight on the order of chivalry,

and on the knight.


Such generosity also extends to squires, friends and companions.

Philip, Count of Flanders, had a great reputation for his generosity.


    He gave to all with open hands

    Of horses, money, arms, and lands.[7]


At one point, he offered to the Marshal land worth 500 pounds in rents

to join his retinue, or mesnie.[8]


At the time, the Marshal was in the mesnie of the young king Henry.

Also with the young king were about 200 other knights.  Of the 200,

there were 24 knights directly subordinate to the young king, of whom

fifteen carried banners.  Each of these fifteen knights banneret had

more knights in their own retinues.  As part of the feudal balance of

payments, these knights banneret were expected to help their

subordinate knights, giving them gifts and supporting them.  The young

king, in turn, helped his knights by paying them for each subordinate

knight they brought.[9]


A more concrete example of generosity and charity is an incident

involving William the Marshal.  At a tournament at Joigni, the

countess and her attendants were waiting for the tournament to begin, when someone asked for a dance to occupy their time, asking ``who will

be so courteous as to sing for us?'' The Marshal graciously sang for

them.  Then a minstrel, newly made a herald, sang a song with the

refrain, ``Marshal, give me a good horse!''  When the Marshal heard

the song, he left without a word, a squire brought him his horse, and

he entered the tournament. He unhorsed his first opponent, and, still

without speaking a word, led the horse over and gave it to the



By his act of generosity, the Marshal supported all of chivalry, and

garnered worship for himself.  He used the opportunity to demonstrate

his prowess at arms, his charity toward those outside of the chivalry,

and his generosity with gifts.


As shown by the Marshal, charity outside of the knightly class is as

important as generosity to ones peers.  Ramon Llull, therefore,

includes charity in the virtues of a knight.


    A knight without charity may not be without cruelty and evil will,

    and cruelty and evil will accord not to the office of chivalry

    because that charity behooveth to be in a knight, for if a knight

    have not charity in God and in his neighbor, how or in what way

    should he love God? And if he had not pity on poor men, not mighty

    and diseased, how should he have mercy on the men taken and

    vanquished that demand mercy, as not of power to escape and may

    not find the finance that is of them demanded for their

    deliverance? And if a knight were not charitable, how might he be

    in the order of chivalry? Charity is a virtue above other virtues

    for she departeth every vice.[11]


Generosity and charity are among the greatest knightly virtues.

Giving gifts is necessary for the maintenance of the feudal society,

and is a way of establishing a knight's reputation. Remember that,

for the Pride of the Lions, generosity, chivalry, and courtesy are

more important than prowess at arms.





HGM is L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal.  Paul Meyer, ed. 3 vols.

    Paris: Librairie Renouard, 1891--1901.  Quotes are from volume 1.

    Translations by the author.


BOC is Ramon Llull. The Booke of the Ordre of Chyvalry. William

    Caxton, trans. Alfred T. P. Byles, ed. London: Early English Text

    Society, 1926. Modern spelling and punctuation by the author.


[1] N. Denholm-Young. ``The tournament in the thirteenth century,''

    in Collected Papers of N.~Denholm-Young.  Cardiff: University of

    Wales Press, 1969. Originally published in Essays in Medieval

    History presented to Frederick Maurice Powicke, 1962.


[2] Christopher Dyer. Standards of Living in the later Middle Ages.

    Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. pp. 30, 72.


[3] HGM, 3013--3040

[4] HGM, 1218--1230.

[5] HGM, 1364--1372.

[6] BOC, chap. VI.

[7] HGM, 2682--2684.

[8] HGM, 6157--6161.

[9] HGM, 4750--4776.

[10] HGM, 3464--3420.

[11] BOC, chap. VII.



                     Suggested Additional Reading


David Herlihy, ed. The History of Feudalism. NY: Harper & Row, 1970.

    A collection of primary sources, translated into English.

    Includes a large part of the chanson de geste, Raoul de Cambrai, a

    modern English rendition of The Book of the Order of Chivalry, a

    variety of feudal contracts, writs, related documents, and more.



If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org