How and to What Extent Did War and Violence Contribute to the Definition of Chivalry as Both an Historical and Social Phenomenon?

1929 Words Apr 18th, 2016 8 Pages
How and to what extent did war and violence contribute to the definition of chivalry as both an historical and social phenomenon?

It is largely acknowledged by historians that, while it is difficult to be definitive in the meaning of chivalry-with Maurice Keen believing it to be a ‘word elusive of definition’- it came to denote the culture of a martial estate which ‘regarded war as its hereditary profession’. Thus, it could be considered that the violence of war had large implications on what people began to perceive to be chivalry. Additionally, the focus on violence- such as the participating in tournaments and jousts- further emphasises the close link between carrying out violent acts and the idea that a knight was being chivalrous.
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This was demonstrated in the case of Rodrigue de Villandro, who while fighting for the cause of Charles VII, king of France, simultaneously gained the title ‘Emperor of the pillagers’. Such an instance provides evidence of violence being adopted into the framework of what it meant to be chivalrous.

Alternatively, it may be considered that religion influenced the defining of what it meant to be chivalrous. In some definitions, chivalry is spoken of ‘as if knighthood ought to be compared to a religious order’ and therefore one could perceive religion to have played a prominent role in defining chivalry. It may be believed that religion’s contribution to chivalry was an attempt to control and direct the knight’s fierce nature to focus on religious goals such as the Crusades. A French knight, Philippe de Mezieres, wrote that the principle of true chivalry was to fight for the faith; demonstrating the identification of chivalry being synonymous with fighting in the name of Christianity. Similarly Kaeuper argues the significance of religion in the development of chivalric ideology due to the ‘close parallels between Christ and knighthood’ in which knights were portrayed as courageous imitators of a warrior Christ. Thus, this idea of knights embodying Christ and exposing themselves to hardships just as he faced portrays religion as intrinsic to the definition of chivalry. The historian Keen emphasizes the importance of religion on chivalry as he

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