Order and Chivalry: Knighthood and Citizenship in Late Medieval Castile

Order and Chivalry: Knighthood and Citizenship in Late Medieval Castile

Order and Chivalry: Knighthood and Citizenship in Late Medieval Castile

Order and Chivalry: Knighthood and Citizenship in Late Medieval Castile


Knighthood and chivalry are commonly associated with courtly aristocracy and military prowess. Instead of focusing on the relationship between chivalry and nobility, Jesús D. Rodréguez-Velasco asks different questions. Does chivalry have anything to do with the emergence of an urban bourgeoisie? If so, how? And in a more general sense, what is the importance of chivalry in inventing and modifying a social class?

In Order and Chivalry, Rodréguez-Velasco explores the role of chivalry in the emergence of the middle class in an increasingly urbanized fourteenth-century Castile. The book considers how secular, urban knighthood organizations came to life and created their own rules, which differed from martial and religiously oriented ideas of chivalry and knighthood. It delves into the cultural and legal processes that created orders of society as well as orders of knights. The first of these chivalric orders was the exclusively noble Castilian Orden de la Banda, or Order of the Sash, established by King Alfonso XI. Soon after that order was created, others appeared that drew membership from city-dwelling, bourgeois commoners. City institutions with ties to monarchy--including the Brotherhood of Knights and the Confraternities of Santa Maréa de Gamonal and Santiago de Burgos--produced chivalric rules and statutes that redefined the privileges and political structures of urban society. By analyzing these foundational documents, such as Libro de la Banda, Order and Chivalry reveals how the poetics of order operated within the medieval Iberian world and beyond to transform the idea of the city and the practice of citizenship.


This investigation arises from the question of how a social class is created. Such an inquiry belongs in an exceedingly complex territory where it is necessary to parse the diversity of voices that participate in this creation as well as the interests that motivate each of these voices. It is difficult to determine whether a social class is the object of a creation, or the subject of that creation. One of the aims of this study is to probe this difference by examining the various forces and voices that created the chivalric class.

Chivalry is an integral principle of Western politics, society, and morality. It encompasses the framework of moral and political categories that underpin interpersonal networks as well as relationships between genders or between institutions throughout Western culture—categories that have ramifications in everyday Western vocabulary, such as loyalty, gallantry, adventure, friendship, civil life, and honor. Some of its ramifications are also among the most questionable of Western political, military, and moral categories: crusade, reconquest, gender inequality, and social asymmetry. Nevertheless, knighthood subsumes all these concepts, as if this class in a permanent state of creation—a perennially inchoate poetics—were the ideal laboratory for the incorporation of all these ideas into discourse. The most cogent argument for the social and political worth of the chivalric class is the fascinating strategy that it represents: the creation of knighthood is a process that transforms disorderly violence into institutionally regulated violence, and sets a structure that buttresses the civic values of a peaceful society. This study also seeks to ascertain how this political transformation of civilian life took place during the advent of modernity.

This research is a radical departure from my previous work on chivalry. In it, I endeavor to overstep the traditional debate on chivalry presented in my 1996 book, El debate sobre la caballería en el siglo XV (The Debate Regarding Chivalry in the Fifteenth Century). I will venture into a scarcely studied field that is fundamental to understand the construction of modern structures of . . .

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