Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Medieval chivalry (from the French, chevalier , knight; Latin, caballus , horse) was an ambivalent force in European history for more than 500 years. According to historian Maurice Keen (1984), chivalry may be defined as “an ethos in which martial, aristocratic and Christian elements were fused together” (p. 16); it functioned as “a secular upper-class ethic which laid special emphasis on martial prowess …” (p. 199). It was also, as Matthew Strickland maintains, a set of guidelines governing behavior toward other chivalric figures in war. It operated in the belief that its knightly practitioners possessed a special right to maintain and increase their honor through violence and that such activity, whether in the service of their “rights,” the state, the church, or women of nobility, was part of society's natural order. Central to the chivalric ethos was the conviction that the knight's sufferings while performing martial feats (“deeds of arms”) ...