The History of Chivalry, or, Knighthood and Its Times - Vol. 2

The History of Chivalry, or, Knighthood and Its Times - Vol. 2

The History of Chivalry, or, Knighthood and Its Times - Vol. 2

The History of Chivalry, or, Knighthood and Its Times - Vol. 2

Excerpt

The sun of English chivalry reached its meridian in the reign of Edward III., for the King and the nobles all were knightly, and the image of their character was reflected in the minds of the people.* Tournaments and jousts, for the amusement and in honour of the ladies, were the universal fashion of the time. In little more than one year, chivalric solemnities were held with unparalleled magnificence at Litchfield, Bury, Guildford, Eltham, Canterbury, and twice at Windsor.* The gay character of Edward and his court was pleasingly displayed in the spring of the year 1359, three years after the battle of Poictiers. A solemn tournament of three days’ duration was proclaimed in London, and the lord mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen, proposed to keep the field against all comers. The time arrived, the martial games were held, and all the honor of arms appeared to be of right due to the officers of the city. The victors then threw aside their shields and surcoats impressed with the city’s bearings, removed their beavers, and King Edward, the Black Prince, the Princes Lionel, John, and Edmund, and nineteen noble barons, were recognised.

The round table at Kenilworth already mentioned was not a solitary instance of the love of romantic grandeur and gallantry among the people of England. Mortimer kept a round table of knights in Wales professedly in imitation of Arthur.‡ And afterwards Edward III. endeavoured to realise the golden imaginations of fable which had assigned one hundred and fifty knights as the complement of Arthur’s chivalry.§ We are assured that the round table which Edward established at Windsor in 1344 described a circumference of six hundred feet: but it is more interesting to know, that the nobility and knighthood of France, Germany, Spain, and other countries flocked to England on the invitation of the King, and that the chivalric bands at Windsor were graced by the presence of Queen Philippa and three hundred English ladies, who, in honour of the friendly union of knights, were all arrayed in splendid dresses of one form and fashion, and looked like the sisters of a military order. Policy was mixed with chivalric pride in Edward’s plan; for he wished to retain in his service some of the foreign knights who repaired to the tournament at Windsor. But his intention to strengthen his chivalry was defeated by his rival Philip of Valois, who established also a round table, to which the cavaliers of the Continent could more easily repair than to that of Edward.* The knights of France were expressly forbidden by their king to attend the . . .

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