chapter
19 Pages

THE DOCTRINES OF CHIVALRY, AS INCULCATED IN ANCIENT ROMANCES AND STATUTES OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD

No student of medieval history, when perusing codes of the rather severe laws of chivalry, can be otherwise than convinced that they must have had a salutary effect in regulating the lives and conduct of knights. The practice of degradation in the Middle Ages bears testimony to the high opinion which was then entertained of the character of all nobility. To break faith, to neglect one's post, to be guilty of adultery, or drunkenness, or of insolent boasting, or of injustice and cruelty to any poor helpless person, was to subject one's self to this punishment, which was equivalent to civil death.' The instrument by which the knight was corrected was a sort of switch, or gantlope, which Eustache Deschamps calls 'the branch of the tournament.' The valiant knight swore to defend the fair, to maintain the right, to succour the distressed, to practise courtesy-a virtue much needed-and to vindicate in every perilous adventure the honour of his character.