Code Of Chivalry: The Bridles Of Medieval Europe

Although the chivalric tradition has not been codified, its influence can be seen throughout medieval history. This includes the wars fought and the manner in which the nobles behaved. The Old French term “chevalerie”, or “horse soldiery”, originally referred only to a certain class of knighthood. It was later expanded to include knightly ideals. The medieval European aristocracy adopted these ideals and redefined the virtues of nobles. At the end the Middle Ages this term came to define a morality system based on the three pillars of military ethos and knightly virtue. However, the Christian clergy didn’t always approve of chivalry.

Christian societies were often against chivalry because of its war-eccentric nature. The Catholic Church considered killing and warfare to be sinful. After Ronald’s Christian Just War theory (Jeremy), which argues war is justified by God if the conflict can only be resolved with it as a last resort, the City of God started to reconsider chivalry. The Knightly Piety, a catholic and equitable Christian denomination, was the result of this. It was adopted by knights as well as clerics. Knightly Piety was a key factor in knights participating in the Crusades. It helped to endear them as they justified their war participation by claiming it to be a holy cause. Knightly Piety dictated how a person’s religion and their ability to co-exist in a warlike environment.

Military ethos is a far more comprehensive concept that encompasses the ethics of all types of combatants and warriors. This ideology was heavily influenced by earlier war ideologies, like the Chinese Confucian theory, in an attempt to develop a universal code of conduct. War ethos has always been and will continue to be a way to ensure soldiers take actions with ethical considerations in mind. It is a means to protect soldiers from the immoral use of their power to exploit conquered people and to harm them by using weapons on unarmed opponents (Ronald). Its first principle is to show compassion to those who appear weak, and not to hurt them. Military courtesy is a good example of this. Military courtesy is a term that is used to describe the manner in which military personnel interact with each other, irrespective of their ranks.

The military courtesy only applies to members of the military. Chivalric courtesy, however, uses social standings to determine a person’s status and how he/she should be treated. The chivalric courtesy imposes an attitude of politeness, civility, and adherence to basic decorum and etiquette based on the person’s status. These dignified qualities were practiced by the upper-classes in medieval Europe. As a consequence, chivalric manners became an integral part of society. Middle and lower class people started to imitate the behavior and adopted it in everyday life. In perpetuity, chivalric courtesy would be shown in all aspects of life. These works explored medieval notions of courtesy as well as the life and times of a knight.

According to many researchers, the ideals of chivalry in Medieval Europe were merely a means to curb the blood-lusting warriors. When viewed from a philosophical standpoint, many scholars concluded that the essence of chivalry was a man who must enjoy war in order to be a knight. A knight’s “sadness”, or his ability to comprehend death, was another factor that determined his courage. In the Christian perspective, some scholars see knightly virtue and the “Just War,” as mere manipulation tools devised by Churches to amass and exploit a substantial force consisting of knights. Katie L. Walter argues, through the rhetoric of her book, “Peril, Flight, And The Sad Man: Medieval theories of the Body During Battle”, the chivalric rule was simply a tool to prevent knights from acting indecently, since the unscrupulous abuse of power was prevalent in medieval Europe.

In one sense, chivalry has been a part of Middle Ages history. It represents a kind of idealistic living in an age of bloodshed and conflict. The goal is to make knighthood a more exemplary, personal creed, and less of a barbaric warrior sect. The other side of the coin is that chivalry was a complex apparatus used to control the chaos of the time and use warriors for self-serving purposes under the pretense of an alleged holy cause. Although the truth of either statement can be debated, it is undeniable that the chivalric Code of Conduct was largely respected in Europe during the medieval period.

Works Cited

Walter, Katie L. “Peril, Flight and the Sad Man: Medieval Theories of the Body in Battle.” Essays and studies, vol. 67, 2014, p. 21+. Literature Resource Center provides information on authors and their works. Accessed on 21 November 2019.

Adams, Jeremy duQuesnay. Classical And Medieval Literature criticism, edited Lawrence J. Trudeau. 154, Gale, 2013. The Literature Resource Center provides information about authors and works of literature. Originally published by Howell Chickering, Thomas H. Seiler and Medieval Inst. Western Michigan U. in 1988. 41-89. Accessed on 18 Nov. 2019.

Musto Ronald G. Just Wars And Evil Empires: Erasmus And The Turks. 231, Gale, 2014. The Literature Resource Center provides information on literary topics. Original publication in Renaissance Society and Culture by John Monfasani and Ronald G. Musto. Italica 1991, pages. 197-216. Accessed on 18 Nov. 2019.


  • spencerknight

    I'm Spencer Knight, a 29-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about a variety of topics related to education, from teaching strategies to student success stories. I hope to help others achieve their educational goals and help them develop a lifelong love of learning.



I'm Spencer Knight, a 29-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about a variety of topics related to education, from teaching strategies to student success stories. I hope to help others achieve their educational goals and help them develop a lifelong love of learning.

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