Essay on Chivalry

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Chivalry, as defined by Encyclopedia Americana is a system of values and ideals of conduct held by knights in medieval Europe. In its institutional form, chivalry was an informal, international order to which many, but not all, of the ruling class (nobility) belonged. The word is derived from the Latin caballus (horse) through the French chevalier (“horseman” or knight). Chivalry was born from Feudalism in the late middle ages introducing a new, feminine point of view stressing virtue and ethics. It was a time of renewal and need. There were new towns and cities of trade everywhere, thus creating the need to travel. However, in order to travel there must be someone left behind to tend to the work that must be done.
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One of the most influential women of medieval times was Eleanor of Aquitane. She greatly contributed to the growth of Chivalry and Courtly Love. She was married several times, first to King Louis VII of France and then to King Henry II of England. Her travels allowed her to be influential to both countries. Even before her marriages she owned great amounts of land, making her very powerful. This was a rarity for a woman in her time and she was not afraid to use her power to gain advantage. She at one time accompanied her first husband, Louis VII, on his second Crusade contrary to what the church (ruling government at the time) said. Poets received encouragement from Eleanor to write poems and sonnets from a womans point of view, this was also unheard of before the late Middle Ages. During her marriages, there were rumors of affairs had by the “Great Queen”. Along with her plans to lead her sons in a rebellion against their father, these rumors were enough to cause Henry II to lock Eleanor away as a punishment until the time of his death. During the reign of her son King Richard, Eleanor started the “Courts of Love” which contributed to giving women a higher standing in society. The “Courts of Love” were a gathering of enthusiastic young women who debated and ridiculed the ideals of love presented to them by poets and knights of the court.

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