Essay about Chivalry in the Middle Ages: Illusion or Reality?

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The ideals of chivalry are inextricably linked with the medieval period, and even today it is an ideal we still pay lip service to. Many historians however have questioned whether the knights and nobility of the time actually took it any more seriously than we do. Johan Huizinga described it as “a cloak for a whole world of violence and self-interest” , an “illusion of society [that] clashed with the reality of things” , and in our rather cynical age, this is probably the predominant view of the middle ages. Nonetheless, it is not a view that has gone unchallenged by more recent historians, and even Huizinga concedes that for the nobility, chivalry constituted “an amazing self-deception” , an ideal that resonated with many young nobles who …show more content…
The romantic authors of the period such as Chrétien de Troyes are fairly consistent in providing us with one interpretation of the proper chivalric virtues a knight should aspire to: prowess, loyalty, largesse, courtesy and franchise . However, whilst these stories certainly may have exerted some influence over the thinking of knights, we might expect a more accurate conception of chivalry would be found in the writings of actual knights such as Llull and Charny. Ramon Llull, in his 'Book of the Order of Chivalry', claims that the chivalric knight must adhere to seven virtues, comprising the three 'theological' virtues of “faith, hope [and] charity” and the four 'cardinal' virtues of “justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude” . Given that he also requires courtesy and loyalty in his knights, his definition in large part encompasses that of the romantics and expands upon it by adding a religious element, for he continually stresses the need for a knight to be pious and god-fearing .

Geoffroi de Charny, writing a little over half a century later, was famed for his chivalry even in his own lifetime, but advanced a rather more pragmatic view of knighthood and chivalry. Nevertheless, his work is overflowing with references to God and Judas Maccabeus, whom he regards as a splendid example of the ideal knight , and it is clear

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