Chapter 22

The Origin of Chivalry

March 20, 2020

Male connections with females are founded on=

  • the pleasure of enjoyment
  • the happiness of loving and being beloved and
  • the ambition of pleasing the ladies because they are the best judges of some of those things which constitute personal merit.

This general desire of pleasing produces gallantry. It is not love itself, but the delicate and perpetual dissembler of love. According to the different circumstances of every country and age, love inclines more to one of those three things.

The prevailing spirit at the time of our judicial combats was naturally of gallantry.

In the law of the Lombards, if one of the two champions were found to have magic herbs, the judge=

  • ordered them to be taken away, and
  • obliged him to swear that he had no more.

This law could be founded only on fear which leads to many imaginary inventions. The champions were fully armed, so those of a particular temper and force had an infinite advantage.

This led to a notion of some champions having enchanted arms which then turned the brains of many people. Hence arose the marvellous system of chivalry. The minds of the people quickly imbibed these extravagant ideas and led to the romantic notions of=

  • knight-errants
  • necromancers
  • fairies
  • winged or intelligent horses
  • invisible or invulnerable men
  • magicians who concerned themselves in the birth and education of great personages
  • enchanted and disinchanted palaces
  • a new world in the midst of the old one,

Knight-errants in armour, in a part of the world abounding with castles, forts, and robbers, placed all their glory in punishing injustice, and in protecting weakness. Hence, our romances are full of gallantry founded on the idea of love joined to that of strength and protection.

The usual course of nature was left only to the lower class of mankind.

Such was the original of gallantry, when they formed the notion of an extraordinary race of men, who at the fight of a virtuous and beautiful lady in distress, were inclined to expose themselves to all hazards for her sake, and to endeavour to please her in the common actions of life.

Our romances=

  • flattered this desire of pleasing, and
  • communicated to a part of Europe that spirit of gallantry which was very little known to the ancients
    • The luxury of Rome encouraged sensible pleasures
    • The tranquility of the plains of Greece gave rise to tender and amorous sentiments

The idea of knight-errants, protectors of the virtue and beauty of women led to gallantry. This spirit was continued by the custom of tournaments which united the rights of valour and love and further added importance to gallantry.


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