French Chivalry: Chivalric Ideas and Practices in Mediaeval France

By Sidney Painter | Go to book overview

IV
COURTLY LOVE

WHILE the clergy was bombarding the noblemen with the precepts of religious chivalry, the ladies of France were carrying on a more effective campaign of propaganda in favor of their conception of the ideal knight. Few ladies could write, but all could dispense good dinners, fine clothes, and rich gifts to the wandering minstrels who supplied the feudal caste with its literary entertainment. Hence the nobles were continually exposed to the ideas of courtly love which came to them neatly concealed among the tales of battles and tourneys which were the delight of their long evenings. This creation of the ladies and their allies the minstrels is in at least one respect the most interesting of the three sets of chivalric ideas. Feudal chivalry was simply the spontaneous development of the immemorial warrior virtues under the influence of mediaeval conditions. Religious chivalry grew naturally out of St. Augustine's conception of the Christian soldier. As complete concepts both were products of mediaeval life, yet their component ideas were not new Courtly love, on the other hand, was essentially novel. The romantic aura which has always surrounded the relations between men and women, waxing and waning in accord with contemporary conditions, was given a new form by the courtly writers. To them love was neither the god-sent

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