THE IDEAL OF CHIVALRY

The connection between religion and that system of social and military ethics and etiquette denoted by the term " chivalry " was particularly close. Not only was the code of chivalry, with its theoretical reverence for womanhood, much influenced by the cult of the Virgin, but also the actual orders of knighthood (Templars, Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Teutonic Order) were religiouscrusading indeed in origin. What the ideals of knighthood were appear in the pages of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, and their more mystical side particularly in the legends of a Parsifal or a Galahad. Chivalry also provided a system of education as well as an aristocratic ideal, for the young squire was supposed to learn playing, singing, versifying, and possibly even reading and writing, as well as etiquette and jousting. In the unsurpassed medievalportrait gallery of Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales we have a superb description of the " verray parfit gentil knight," who had done doughty deeds against the infidel, yet was in his bearing " as meeke as is a mayde," and of his son, the "yonge squyer," the apprentice in chivalry who carved " biforn his fader at the table."

The romantic side of knighthood must not, however, make us lose sight of the fact that primarily knighthood meant an often tiresome military obligation to a feudal superior, and that its chivalric side was an offshoot. The medievalmind was, indeed, apt to be niggling in matters of legal obligation or property. The wardships of heiresses and the right to dispose of their hands in marriage were bought and sold as investments, and on the whole the atmosphere seems to have been one of litigiousness and literal legalism. Feudalism, some aspects of which have been already discussed, was a pyramid of contractual arrangements, some implicit and some explicit, and even the king was limited by legal rights and obligations. There was no startlingly novel theory underlying John's sealing of Magna Carta in 1216, for we see what the attitude of the medieval political thinker was towards monarchy in the Assizes of Jerusalem, the rules of law drawn up in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem established by the Crusaders in the eleventh century. The king's power was limited by the law, and he could be deposed if he broke it. Despotism and theories about the Divine Right of Kings have no place in the medieval world.