‘Love service’

The following account of ‘love service’ toward women during the Middle Ages is from the book Masculine Submission in Troubadour Lyric by Sandra R Alfonsi – PW.

The troubadours lived and functioned within a society based on feudalism. Certain ones were themselves feudal lords; others were liegemen dependent on such lords for their sustinence. The troubadours who were members of the clergy were also actively involved in this feudal society. It is only natural that their literature reflect some traits of the age in which it was created. Scholars soon saw striking parallels between feudalistic practices and certain tenets of Courtly Love. The comparisons lie in certain resemblances shared by vassalage and the courtly “love service.” Fundamental to both was the concept of obedience. As a vassal, the liegeman swore obedience to his lord. As a courtly lover, the poet chose a lady to whom he was required to swear obedience. Humility and obedience were two concepts familiar to medieval man, active components of his Weltanschauung. Critics, such as Erich Kohler, have found them exhibited in both the life and literature of that time.

The entire concept of love-service was patterned after the vassal’s oath to serve his lord with loyalty, tenacity, and courage. These same virtues were demanded of the poet. Like the liegeman vis-a-vis his sovereign, the poet approached his lady with fear and respect. Submitted to her, obedient to her will, he awaited a fief or honor as did the vassal. His compensation took many forms: the pleasure of his lady’s company in her chamber or in the garden; an avowal of her love; a secret meeting; a kiss or even le surplus, complete unity. Like the lord, the woman who was venerated and served was expected to reward her faithful and humble servant. Her failure to do so was considered a breach of “contract.” Most critics who support the theory that the courtly-love-service was formed by assimilation to the feudal service inherent in vassalage, credit Guillaume IX with its creation. However, the universality of these parallels cannot be doubted:

The posture of the true lover is so familiar that we have come to accept it as the hallmark. A seal attributed to Cononde Bethune represents it perfectly. This depicts in an oval cartouche, an armed knight on his knees before a lady. His body is shrouded in a mail hauberk. His head is completely concealed in his helmet. He wears spurs but no sword. The lady stands at arms length, chastely robed, her regular nonedescript features framed in long braids, presumably blonde, and between her outstretched palms the knight’s hands are placed in the formal gesture of homage. Within the cartouche, in the space above the helmet of the kneeling knight is inscribed a single word: MERCI. 1

The similarities between courtly service and vassalage are indeed striking. Although of a more refined character than an ordinary vassal, the poet-lover is portrayed as his lady’s liegeman, involved in the ceremony of homage and pictured at the moment of the immixtio manuum. His reward for faithful service will doubtlessly include the osculum.

The influence of feudalism upon courtly love was, in my opinion, twofold: it provided the poets with a well-organized system of service after which they might pattern their own; it furnished them with a highly developed vocabulary centered around the service owed by a vassal to a lord. Feudalistic vocabulary was comprised of certain basic terminology indicative of the ties which legally bound a man to his lord in times of peace and war.

1. Servitium
In Merovingian Gaul the position of the feudal lord was expressed by the verb suscipere ‘to take into one’s charge,’ while the verb commandare ‘to put oneself in the charge of’ represented the role of the vassal. The obligations accepted by the latter formed the servitium ‘service.’ This term, used in Classical Latin to denote slavery, had begun to lose this connotation by the fourth century, and during the Middle Ages, and had come to mean the duties of a freeman vis a vis a feudal lord.

2. Dominus
The Latin term dominus was used to denote the feudal lord served by the vassal.

3. Homo
h2_ufarm_1From the beginning of the ninth century, suus homo ‘his man’ became the expression by which the position and duties of the vassal were expressed. During the eleventh century, the expression homo ligius ‘liegemen’ became popular.

4. Homage
The original terms used to denote homage were vassaticum and vassalaticum. Since the old French vasselage did not carry the meaning of homage due to the feudal lord, variations on the Latin hominum appeared in the eleventh century: hominagium, hominiaticum, homagium. The word hommage became popular during the twelfth century, denoting servitium homini, the honorable service due to the lord.

5. Legalitas
The term loyaute ‘loyalty’ was used to define the bond between vassal and lord.

6. Honor
The term onor was used to designate any compensation received by the vassal in return for his services. The concept of tenure tenire was attched to this idea. During the classical age tenire meant to occupy or possess; during the feudal age, it acquired as well the meaning of a rapport between former proprietor and the person now possessing the land through certain services rendered to the former. This relationship was expressed with the verb retenir ‘to retain,’ implying the retention of the vassal by the lord in return for his services. *

It was only natural that such terms, as well as their variants, should appear within the poetic love service created by the troubadours. Feudal vocabulary provided for all aspects surrounding the love service; it was well known and popularly understood. Its usage carried with it all the connotations inherent in the concept, without necessitating further explications by the poet. An extensive examination of the poetic love-service , its vocabulary and stylistic traits, is to be found in the second part of this work. It is questionable whether feudalism may be considered as the primary source for either the poetic love-service or the theme of masculine submission. The very essence of both rests in the elevation and adoration of the woman chosen by the poet. Feudalism, with its bellicose concerns and masculine point of view, could not have instilled the Cult of Woman in these poets. Even the elevated social position held by women in Southern France and her presence as the “mistress of the manor” during the absence of her husband cannot explain the origin of this cult. It cannot be denied that much of this poetry was written to please the women who provided the troubadours with a means of sustenance by engaging them to entertain them in their chateaux. But such external social realities do not explain the origins of the internal revolution which culminated in poetic worship of woman.

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Reference:

[1] Maurice Valency, In Praise of Love, Macmillan Co. 1958

Note:

*This configuration of unequal power is the central feature of the poet-lover’s positioning of himself with regard to the love object. Drawing on the stratification and class-consciousness of medieval society, the canso describes primarily in terms of social hierarchy the woman’s psycho-sexual power to determine the outcome of the relationship. Thus the troubadour’s lady is regularly portrayed in terms denoting aristocracy, such as ‘‘noble’’ rica, franca or ‘‘high born’’ de bon aire, de aut paratge, whereas the poet stresses his own subordination, describing himself as ‘‘humble’’ umil, umelian, ‘‘submissive’’ aclin, and ‘‘obedient’’ obedien. The culmination of this tendency is one of the most pervasive images of troubadour poetry, the ‘‘feudal metaphor,’’ which compares the relationship of the lover and his lady to that which obtains between a vassal and his lord. The poet-lover presents himself to his lady in an attitude of feudal homage omenatge, ‘‘kneeling’’ a/degenolhos with ‘‘hands clasped’’ mans jonchas. He declares himself to be his lady’s ‘‘man’’ ome or ‘‘liege man’’ ome lige and refers to the lady as his ‘‘lord’’ senhor, midons. He asks her to ‘‘retain’’ retener him as her ‘‘servant’’ ser, servidor or to take him into her ‘‘service’’ servizi. According to a military variant of the feudal metaphor, the lover ‘‘surrenders’’ se rendre to the lady, declaring himself ‘‘vanquished’’ vencut or ‘‘conquered’’ conques, and asks for her ‘‘mercy’’ merce. [Note excerpted from ‘Why is la Belle Dame sans Merci?’ by Don A. Monson]

Joseph Campbell on courtly love

Susan Sarandon introduces the following lecture by Joseph Campbell on the topic of chivalry and courtly-love as they took shape in the Middle Ages.

susan-sarandon-picture-5Susan Sarandon: “We like to think that romantic love is an idea as old as humanity. But it was only in the twelfth century AD that this concept appeared suddenly, not only in Europe, but in Islam and in India and the courts of East Asia. To quote Joe Campbell, for one brief shining moment in every castle in the world from the English Channel to the Persian gulf and the Sea of Japan, the one song was variously ringing the liege-man of love. Chrétien de Troyes was one of the great troubadours of this new song; he was the court poet to Marie de Champagne who ruled as the Queen Regent of France from 1181 to 1187 gathering around her the greatest poets of the age and inspiring a humanistic flowering that would lead in centuries to come to the renaissance.”

imagesJoseph Campbell: “Our particular topic today is one that I think can serve to guide us from the general universal themes of myth into the material specifically of the European consciousness which we inherit. The period of the Authurian and Grail romances is dated almost precisely from 1150 to 1250 AD. And in the historical context of this second great phase of occidental culture (the first phase being that of the Greco-Roman periods starting with the Homeric epics) the period of the Authurian romances is the counterpart for the Gothic and modern worlds of the Homeric period for the Greco-Romans. That is to say, it is in that period that the main themes are stated and developed in terms of culture values and the spiritual dimension. The great works appear suddenly and this is the remarkable thing about the dawn of civilizations: within 200 years the whole thing is there and it wasn’t there before.”

http://www.tudou.com/l/3Jatq_AkwEk/&bid=05&iid=178967041&resourceId=0_05_05_99/v.swf

The spirit of chivalry (1818)

Chivalry cover

 

The following excerpts describing gynocentric-chivalry
are taken from Sir Walter Scott’s 1818 essay in the
volume Essays on Chivalry, Romance, and the Drama

 

 

 

The main ingredient in the spirit of Chivalry, second in force only to the religious zeal of its professors, and frequently predominating over it, was a devotion to the female sex, and particularly to her whom each knight selected as the chief object of his affection, of a nature so extravagant and unbounded as to approach to a sort of idolatry. The original source of this sentiment is to be found, like that of Chivalry itself, in the Customs and habits of the northern tribes who possessed, even in their rudest state, so many honourable and manly distinctions, over all the other nations in the same stage of society. The chaste and temperate habits of these youth, and the opinion that it was dishonourable to hold sexual intercourse until the twentieth year was attained, was in the highest degree favourable not only to the morals and health of the ancient Germans, but must have contributed greatly to place their females in that dignified and respectable rank which they held in society.
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Amid the various duties of knighthood, that of protecting the female sex, respecting their persons, and redressing their wrongs, becoming the champion of their cause, and the chastiser of those by whom they were injured, was represented as one of the principal objects of the institution. Their oath bound the new-made knights to defend the cause of all women without exception ; and the most pressing way of conjuring them to grant a boon was to implore it in the name of God and the ladies. The cause of a distressed lady was, in many instances, preferable to that even of the country to which the knight belonged. Thus, the Captal de Buche, though an English subject, did not hesitate to unite his troops with those of the Comte de Foix, to relieve the ladies in a French town, where they were besieged and threatened with violence by the insurgent peasantry. The looks, the words, the sign of a lady, were accounted to- make knights at time of need perform double their usual deeds of strength and valour. At tournaments and in combats, the voices of the ladies were heard like those of the German females in former battles, calling on the knights to remember their fame, and exert themselves to the uttermost. “Think, gentle knights,” was their cry, “upon the wool of your breasts, the nerve of your arms, the love you cherish in your hearts, and do valiantly for ladies behold you.” The corresponding shouts of the combatants were, “Love of ladies! Death of warriors! On, valiant knights, for you fight under fair eyes? Where the honour or love of a lady was at stake, the fairest prize was held out to the victorious knight, and champion from every quarter were sure to hasten to combat in a cause so popular. Chaucer, when he describes the assembly of the knights who came with Arcite and Palemon to fight for the love of the fair Emilie, describes the manners of his age in the following lines;
 
Codex_Manesse_Heinrich_von_Breslau“For every knight that loved chivalry,
And would his thankes have a passant name,
Hath pray’d that he might ben of that game,
And well was him that thereto chusen was.
For if there fell to-morrow such a case,
Ye knowen well that every lusty knight
That loveth par amour, and hath his might,
Were it in Engellande, or elleswhere,
They wold hir thanked willen to be there.
To fight for a lady! Ah! Benedicite,
It were a lusty sight for to see.”

 

It is needless to multiply quotations on a subject so trite and well known. The defence of the female sex in general, the regard due to their honour, the subservience paid to their commands, the reverent awe and courtesy, which, in their presence, forbear all unseemly words and actions, were so blended with the institution of Chivalry as to form its very essence. But it was not enough that the “very perfect, gentle knight,” should reverence the fair sex in general. It was essential to his character that he should select, as his proper choice, “a lady and a love,” to be the polar star of his thoughts, the mistress of his affections, and the directress of his actions. In her service, he was to observe the duties of loyalty, faith, secrecy, and reverence. Without such an empress of his heart, a knight, in the phrase of the times, was a ship without a rudder, a horse without a bridle, a sword without a hilt ; a being, in short, devoid of that ruling guidance and intelligence, which ought to inspire his bravery, and direct his actions. The least dishonest thought or action was, according to her doctrine, sufficient to forfeit the chivalrous lover the favour of his lady. It seems, however, that the greater part of her charge concerning incontinence is levelled against such as haunted the receptacles of open vice ; and that she reserved an exception (of which, in the course of the history, she made liberal use) in favour of the intercourse which, in all love, honour, and secrecy, might take place, when the favoured and faithful knight had obtained, by long service, the boon of amorous mercy from the lady whom he loved par amours.

In these extracts are painted the actual manners of the age of Chivalry. The necessity of the perfect knight having a mistress, whom he loved par amours, the duty of dedicating his time to obey her commands, however capricious, and his strength to execute extravagant feats of valour, which might redound to her praise, –for all that was done for her sake, and under her auspices, was counted her merit, as the victories of their generals were ascribed to the Roman Emperors— was not a whit less necessary to complete the character of a good knight.
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Fotor091415394On such occasions, the favoured knight, as he wore the colours and badge of the lady of his affections, usually exerted his ingenuity in inventing some device or cognisance which might express their love, either openly, as boasting of it in the eye of the world, or in such mysterious mode of indication as should only be understood by the beloved person if circumstances did not permit an avowal of his passion. The ladies, bound as they were in honour to requite the passion of their knights, were wont, on such occasions, to dignify them by the present of a scarf, ribbon, or glove, which was to be worn in the press of battle and tournament. These marks of favour they displayed on their helmets, and they were accounted the best incentives to deeds of valour. The custom appears to have prevailed in France to a late period, though polluted with the grossness so often mixed with the affected refinement and gallantry of that nation. Sometimes the ladies, in conferring these tokens of their favour, saddled the knights with the most extravagant and severe conditions. But the lover had his advantage in such cases, that if he ventured to vencounter the hazard imposed, and chanced to survive it, he had, according to the fashion of the age, the right of exacting, from the lady, favours corresponding in importance. The annals of Chivalry abound with stories of cruel and cold fair ones, who subjected their lovers to extremes of danger, in hopes that they might get rid of their addresses, but were, upon their unexpected success, caught in their own snare, and, as ladies who would not have their name made the theme of reproach by every minstrel, were compelled to recompense the deeds which their champion had achieved in their name. Lady's shiftThere are instances in which the lover used his right of reprisals with some rigour, as in the well-known fabliau of the three knights and the shift; in which a lady proposes to her three lovers, successively, the task of entering, unarmed, into the mêlée of a tournament, arrayed only in one of her shift. The perilous proposal is declined by two of the knights and accepted by the third, who thrusts himself, in the unprotected state required, into all the hazards of the tournament, sustains many wounds, and carries off the prize of the day. On the next day the husband of the lady (for she was married) was to give a superb banquet to the knights and nobles who had attended the tourney. The wounded victor sends the shift back to its owner, with his request, that she would wear it over her rich dress on this solemn occasion, soiled and torn as it was, and stained all over with the blood of its late wearer. The lady did not hesitate to comply, declaring, that she regarded this shift, stained with the blood of her “fair friend, as more precious than if it were of the most costly materials.” Jaques de Basin, the minstrel who relates this curious tale, is at a loss to say whether the palm of true love should be given to the knight or to the lady on this remarkable occasion. The husband, he assures us, had the good sense to seem to perceive nothing uncommon in the singular vestment with which his lady was attired, and the rest of the good company highly admired her courageous requital of the knight’s gallantry.

It was the especial pride of each distinguished champion, to maintain, against all others, the superior worth, beauty, and accomplishments of his lady; to bear her picture from court to court, and support, with lance and sword, her superiority to all other dames, abroad or at home. To break a spear for the love of their ladies, was a challenge courteously given, and gently accepted, among all true followers of Chivalry, and history and romance are alike filled with the tilts and tournaments which took place upon this argument, which was ever ready and ever acceptable. Indeed, whatever the subject of the tournament had been, the lists were never closed until a solemn course had been made in honour of the ladies. There were knights yet more adventurous, who sought to distinguish themselves by singular and uncommon feats of arms in honour of their mistresses; and such was usually the cause of the whimsical and extravagant vows of arms which we have subsequently to notice. To combat against extravagant odds, to fight amid the press of armed knights without some essential part of their armour, to do some deed of audacious valour in face of friend and foe, were the services by which the knights strove to recommend themselves, or which their mistresses (very justly so called) imposed on them as proofs of their affection.
438px-Codex_Manesse_(Herzog)_von_Anhalt
Sometimes the patience of the lover was worn out by the cold-hearted vanity which thrust him on such perilous enterprises. At the court of one of the German emperors, while some ladies and gallants of the court were looking into a den where two lions were confined, one of them purposely let her glove fall within the palisade which enclosed the animals, and commanded her lover, as a true knight, to fetch it out to her. He did not hesitate to obey, jumped over the enclosure ; threw his mantle towards the animals as they sprung at him; snatched up the glove, and regained the outside of the palisade. But when in safety, he proclaimed aloud, that what he had achieved was done for the sake of his own reputation, and not for that of a false lady, who could, for her sport and cold-blooded vanity, force a brave man on a duel so desperate. And, with the applause of all that were present, renounced her love for ever. This, however, was an uncommon circumstance. In general, the lady was supposed to have her lover’s character as much at heart as her own, and to mean by pushing him upon enterprises of hazard give him an opportunity of meriting her good graces, which she could not with honour confer upon one undistinguished by deeds of chivalry.

 
Source: Essays on Chivalry, Romance, and the Drama, by Sir Walter Scott

Links

 

Websites deconstructing gynocentrism

A Voice for Men: Changing The Cultural Narrative
Purple Motes: A Journal of Whimsy and Hope
Honey Badger Brigade
Men Are Good
Feminist Critics
Gynocentrism Theory
GendErratic: Ending the Empathy Apartheid
Shrink for Men
An Ear For Men
Shedding Of The Ego
The Unknown History of Misandry
Ernest Belfort Bax: Father of the Men’s Rights Movement

International Men’s Day

Modern chivalry (1913)

The following article is an extract from Ernst Belfort Bax’ famous book ‘The Fraud of Feminism’ published in 1913. It is a fascinating article that describes the reduction of ancient chivalry to a mere function of gynocentric culture. Perhaps most remarkable about it is that as you read, you will not find yourself so much transformed back to a different age with different modes of thought. But rather you will read observations and conclusions that will, word by word and line by line, be largely indistinguishable from what what you would see today from any critical thinker when offering a candid review of the essence of feminism. You will see repeated references to the same shaming tactics and methods of manipulating the masses we find ourselves discussing today.

 
Chapter V
The “Chivalry” Fake

Ernest B. Bax - 1913

Ernest B. Bax – 1913

It is plain then that chivalry as understood in the present day really spells sex privilege and sex favouritism pure and simple, and that any attempts to define the term on a larger basis, or to give it a colourable rationality founded on fact, are simply subterfuges, conscious or unconscious, on the part of those who put them forward. The etymology of the word chivalry is well known and obvious enough.

The term meant originally the virtues associated with knighthood considered as a whole, bravery even to the extent of reckless daring, loyalty to the chief or feudal superior, generosity to a fallen foe, general open-handedness, and open-heartedness, including, of course, the succour of the weak and the oppressed generally, inter alia, the female sex when in difficulties.

It would be idle, of course, to insist upon the historical definition of the term.

Language develops and words in course of time depart widely from their original connotation, so that etymology alone is seldom of much value in practically determining the definition of words in their application at the present day. But the fact is none the less worthy of note that only a fragment of the original connotation of the word chivalry is covered by the term as used in our time, and that even that fragment is torn from its original connection and is made to serve as a scarecrow in the field of public opinion to intimidate all who refuse to act upon, or who protest against, the privileges and immunities of the female sex. [1]

I have said that even that subsidiary element in the old original notion of chivalry which is now well-nigh the only surviving remnant of its original connotation is torn from its connection and hence has necessarily become radically changed in its meaning. From being part of a general code of manners enjoined upon a particular guild or profession it has been degraded to mean the exclusive right in one sex guaranteed by law and custom to certain advantages and exemptions without any corresponding responsibility.

Let us make no mistake about this. When the limelight of a little plain but critical common-sense is turned upon this notion of chivalry hitherto regarded as so sacrosanct, it is seen to be but a poor thing after all; and when men have acquired the habit of habitually turning the light of such criticism upon it, the accusation, so terrible in the present state of public opinion, of being “unchivalrous” will lose its terrors for them.

In the so-called ages of chivalry themselves it never meant, as it does to-day, the woman right or wrong. It never meant as it does to-day the general legal and social privilege of sex. It never meant a social defence or a legal exoneration for the bad and even the criminal woman, simply because she is a woman. It meant none of these things. All it meant was a voluntary or gratuitous personal service to the forlorn women which the members of the Knights’ guild among other such services, many of them taking precedence of this one, were supposed to perform.

So far as courage is concerned, which was perhaps the first of the chivalric virtues in the old days, it certainly requires more courage in our days to deal severely with a woman when she deserves it (as a man would be dealt with in like circumstances) than it does to back up a woman against her wicked male opponent.

It is a cheap thing, for example, in the case of a man and woman quarrelling in the street, to play out the stage rôle of the bold and gallant Englishman “who won’t see a woman maltreated and put upon, not he!” and this, of course, without any inquiry into the merits of the quarrel. To swim with the stream, to make a pretence of boldness and bravery, when all the time you know you have the backing of conventional public opinion and mob-force behind you, is the cheapest of mock heroics.

Chivalry today means the woman, right or wrong, just as patriotism today means “my country right or wrong.” In other words, chivalry today is only another name for Sentimental Feminism. Every outrageous pretension of Sentimental Feminism can be justified by the appeal to chivalry, which amounts (to use the German expression) to an appeal from Pontius to Pilate. This Sentimental Feminism commonly called chivalry is sometimes impudently dubbed by its votaries, “manliness.”

It will presumably continue in its practical effects until a sufficient minority of sensible men will have the moral courage to beard a Feminist in public opinion and shed a little of this sort of “manliness.” The plucky Welshmen at Llandystwmdwy in their dealings with the suffragette rowdies on memorable occasion showed themselves capable of doing this. In fact one good effect generally of militant suffragetteism seems to be the weakening of the notion of chivalry – i.e. in its modern sense of Sentimental Feminism – amongst the populace of this country.

The combination of Sentimental Feminism with its invocation of the old-world sentiment of chivalry which was based essentially on the assumption of the mental, moral and physical inferiority of woman to man, for its justification, with the pretensions of modern Political Feminism, is simply grotesque in its inconsistent absurdity. In this way Modern Feminism would fain achieve the feat of eating its cake and having it too. When political and economic rights are in question, bien entendu, such as involve gain and social standing, the assumption of inferiority magically disappears before the strident assertion of the dogma of the equality of woman with man – her mental and moral equality certainly!

When, however, the question is of a different character – for example, for the relieving of some vile female criminal of the penalty of her misdeeds – then Sentimental Feminism comes into play, then the whole plaidoyer is based on the chivalric sentiment of deference and consideration for poor, weak woman. I may point out that here, if it be in the least degree logical, the plea for mercy or immunity can hardly be based on any other consideration than that of an intrinsic moral weakness in view of which the offence is to be condoned.

The plea of physical weakness, if such be entertained, is here in most cases purely irrelevant. Thus, as regards the commutation of the death sentence, the question of the muscular strength or weakness of the condemned person does not come in at all. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to many other forms of criminal punishment. But it must not be forgotten that there are two aspects of physical strength or weakness. There is, as we have already pointed out, the muscular aspect and the constitutional aspect.

If we concede the female sex as essentially and inherently weaker in muscular power and development than the male, this by no means involves the assumption that woman is constitutionally weaker than man. On the contrary, it is a known fact attested, as far as I am aware, by all physiologists, no less than by common observation, that the constitutional toughness and power of endurance of woman in general far exceeds that of man, as explained in an earlier chapter.

Be this as it may, however, the existence of this greater constitutional strength or resistant power in the female than in the male organic system – as crucially instanced by the markedly greater death-rate of boys than of girls in infancy and early childhood – should, in respect of severity of punishment, prison treatment, etc., be a strong counter-argument against the plea for leniency, or immunity in the case of female criminals, made by the advocates of Sentimental Feminism.

But these considerations afford only one more illustration of the utter irrationality of the whole movement of Sentimental Feminism identified with the notion of “chivalry.” For the rest, we may find illustrations of this galore. A very flagrant case is that infamous “rule of the sea” which came so much into prominence at the time of the Titanic disaster. According to this preposterous “chivalric” Feminism, in the case of a ship foundering, it is the unwritten law of the seas, not that the passengers shall leave the ship and be rescued in their order as they come, but that the whole female portion shall have the right of being rescued before any man is allowed to leave the ship. Now this abominable piece of sex favouritism, on the face of it, cries aloud in its irrational injustice.

Here is no question of bodily strength or weakness, either muscular or constitutional. In this respect, for the nonce, all are on a level. But it is a case of life itself. A number of poor wretches are doomed to a watery grave, simply and solely because they have not had the luck to be born of the privileged female sex.

Such is “chivalry” as understood to-day – the deprivation, the robbery from men of the most elementary personal rights in order to endow women with privileges at the expense of men. During the ages of chivalry and for long after it was not so. Law and custom then was the same for men as for women in its incidence. To quote the familiar proverb in a slightly altered form, then – “what was sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose.” Not until the nineteenth century did this state of things change. Then for the first time the law began to respect persons and to distinguish in favour of sex.

Even taking the matter on the conventional ground of weakness and granting, for the sake of argument, the relative muscular weakness of the female as ground for her being allowed the immunity claimed by Modern Feminists of the sentimental school, the distinction is altogether lost sight of between weakness as such and aggressive weakness. Now I submit there is a very considerable difference between what is due to weakness that is harmless and unprovocative, and weakness that is aggressive, still more when this aggressive weakness presumes on itself as weakness, and on the consideration extended to it, in order to become tyrannical and oppressive.

Weakness as such assuredly deserves all consideration, but aggressive weakness deserves none save to be crushed beneath the iron heel of strength. Woman at the present day has been encouraged by a Feminist public opinion to become meanly aggressive under the protection of her weakness. She has been encouraged to forge her gift of weakness into a weapon of tyranny against man, unwitting that in so doing she has deprived her weakness of all just claim to consideration or even to toleration.

Footnote

1. One among many apposite cases, which has occurred recently, was protested against in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 21st March 1913, in which it was pointed out that while a suffragette got a few months’ imprisonment in the second division for wilfully setting fire to the pavilion in Kew Gardens, a few days previously, at the Lewes Assizes, a man had been sentenced to five years’ penal servitude for burning a rick!!

Eleanor of Aquitaine and her ‘Courts of Love’

By Amy Kelly (1937)

ANDREAS CAPELLANUS furnishes in his Tractatus2 the principal source of our notions, which are scanty enough, of the institution known as the ‘courts of love’ in the twelfth century. In his work we come as near as possible to the original character of the courts before their ideas and practices became a stereotyped element in the chivalric convention, a part of a shaping influence in the social customs and the literary traditions of the Renaissance. The Tractatus (published 1190 AD) is based closely in theme and substance on Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (published 1 BC). In both works the conception of love is that of illicit passion; but there is a significant difference. Whereas in Ovid man is the master employing his arts to seduce women for his pleasure, in Andreas woman is the mistress, man her pupil in homage, her vassal in service.

What operated to change men’s attitude toward women from one of gross cynicism in Ovid to one of homage and deference in Andreas? What was the significance of the cult of women propounded in the Tractatus to the society in which it flourished? Furthermore there are internal evidences that Andreas, in spite of being ‘sapientissimus’ (wisest) was unable, in his redaction of Ovid, to make the free doctrines of the classical poet lie down comfortably in his clerical mind.

The Tractatus, in dealing with the theme of love, is so full of this conflict between pagan naturalism and Christian restraint, that one is tempted to imagine that Andreas did his redacting under some compelling influence. What was that influence? To recapture at this date the quality the court of love had for those who elaborated it, is doubtless impossible. There are, however, such puzzling incongruities between the bald erotic precepts of Ovid and the mystical transformation of these precepts in Andreas that curiosity reverts again and again to attempts to divine what, in the twelfth century, gave impetus to those alterations of doctrine before they passed into the social and literary conventions of the chivalric order.

Andreas reports, where lovers actually brought dilemmas before highborn ladies for judgment, but have been disposed to see in accounts of them mere literary redactions of the sophistical discussions of coteries of precieux, or attempts to reduce such discussions to juridical form. Some reflections of contemporary life – dramatized elements of feudal relationships, the hairspun scholasticism of the day, the formalism of ritual – are indeed discovered in the chivalric code as set forth by Andreas and as elaborated in the chivalric romances following the middle of the century. But the actual enactment of the little drama of the court of love in the feudal castle has seemed too fantastic to be taken literally. Without for the moment questioning these interpretations, it is suggestive to approach the inquiry as to what was the early character and significance of the courts and their code by studying in other connections the personages alleged to have presided in them, the circumstances affecting these personages in the third quarter of the twelfth century, and the atmosphere in which they lived. The contemporary materials for such study are fragmentary, but such bits as can be pieced together lead to speculation as to whether there are not other important elements than those suggested above in the grand assizes of the ladies known as the courts of love.

What we think of the actual courts of love depends ultimately upon what we make of the background of the work of Andreas Capellanus, recently assigned to the period between 1174 and 1182, and in modern studies attributed to Andreas, a chaplain of Louis vii associated at some time with the court of Louis’s daughter, Marie, Countess of Champagne. The Tractatus, which purports to be a guide to one Walter, a young man seeking to equip himself for admission to elect society, discourses with the precision of dialectic on the science of love in all its branches, defines the principles of love, its effect upon lovers, its disciplines, its code, its etiquette. It records twenty-one cases in which lovers (as litigants might appear at a feudal assize) present their dilemmas for judgment by a court of ladies. In these courts preside as judges Eleanor of Aquitaine, her daughter Marie of Champagne, her niece Isabelle of Flanders, and Ermengarde, Countess of Narbonne.

The only specific clue in the Tractatus to the date of the assemblies is the dating of a letter by Marie de Champagne to two petitioners, as of May, 1174. This date, as an approximation for establishing the period in which the courts flourished, is supported by historical circumstances which will presently be related. Presumably, though Andreas does not so state, the place of assembly is Poitiers, where from about 1170-74 Eleanor of Aquitaine was maintaining her independent court in the interests of her son, the youthful Coeur de Lion, who was in 1169 recognized by the treaty of Montmirail as hereditary Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine. That Marie and Eleanor presided together in the same court is intimated by the fact that they are associated as judges in the Tractatus, at least once in one and the same case. Nothing that we know of Marie’s life precludes the assumption that she was in Poitiers in the period in question. Though in the work of Andreas, Marie de Champagne appears more conspicuously than Eleanor as presiding genius of the courts of love, the queen herself is certainly the more dominant figure in Poitiers, the sustainer and patron of the society which gave substance to the chivalric ideal.

And as Andreas mentions the queen’s juries as including as many as sixty ladies upon occasion, it may be presumed that the revival of the ducal court brought to Poitiers the negotiable heirs and heiresses of the great counts’ fiefs of the south. The heirs of Poitou and Aquitaine who came to the queen’s high place for their vassals’ homage, their squires’ training, and their courtiers’ service were truculent youths, boisterous young men from the baronial strongholds of the South, without the Norman or Frankish sense of nationality, bred on feuds and violence, men with rich fiefs and proud lineage, but with little solidarity and no business but guerilla warfare and daredevil escapade. These wild young men were a deep anxiety not only to the heads of their houses, but to the kings of France and England and to the Pope in Rome. They were the stuff of which rebellion and schism are made. For two generations the church had done what it could with the problem of their unemployment, marching hordes out of Europe on crusade and rounding other hordes into the cloister.

The biographer of Guillaume le Marechal gives an idea of how this rabble of courtly routiers amused itself on the jousting fields of western Europe. To the tournaments, occurring in a brisk season about twice a month from Pentecost to the feast of St John, flocked the young bloods, sometimes three thousand strong, taking possession of the nearest town. Thither also flocked horse dealers from Lombardy and Spain, from Brittany and the Low Countries, as well as armorers, haberdashers for man and beast, usurers, mimes and story-tellers, acrobats, necromancers, and other gentlemen of the lists, the field, the road. Entertainers of every stripe found liberal patronage; troubadours singing of love and war and the ‘bel saison’ in the south country, story tellers out of Brittany, goliards from the Paris streets. The gossip of palace and fief and school, of shrine and cloister, of synod and assize, flew in the street. There were feasts in upper chambers, and forges rang in the smithies all night long. Brawls with grisly incidents – a cracked skull, a gouged eye – occurred as the betting progressed and the dice flew. To cry up their champions in the field came ladies of fair name and others of no name at all. There was dancing below the pavilions on the greensward, with heralds and knights clapping the measures and calling out the changes.
We do not suspect either Queen Eleanor or the Countess Marie of having invented the courts of love. But it seems possible that Marie, who knew not only her Ovid, but the poetical traditions of her Provengal forebears as well, appropriated its little drama, so apt for her purpose of dramatizing the disciplines of the renascent court of Poitiers. She made this familiar framework the vehicle for her woman’s doctrine of civility, and in converting it, she transformed the gross and cynical pagan doctrines of Ovid to something more ideal, the woman’s canon, the chivalric code of manners. For manners, she plainly saw, are after all the fine residuum of philosophies, the very flower of ethics.

So Marie began her academic program in the queen’s palace not with philosophies, but with a theory of conduct developing the ultimate refinements of the mind and heart. The lesson, if formal, was not dry. With Ovid for a model, she drew up, and her chaplain Andreas recorded for her, then or subsequently, the constitution of a society to be impelled not by force nor by casual impulse, but by an inner disciplined sense of propriety. What progress could be made in dialectic by untutored squires who rode hacks into mess halls, and by hoydens who diverted eyes from psalters in the very midst of mass? And upon what could one ground a code of chivalry save on the classic and universal theme of love?

‘How passing wonderful is love,’ exclaims Andreas, ‘which makes men to be effulgent in virtue, and teaches everyone to abound in good manners.’ And finally, to support the rather threadbare dicta of Ovid, who was after all in that court the passion of the elder generation, Marie’s code professed to derive from the authentic practice of chivalry in the court of King Arthur in Caerleon on Usk, than which nothing could afford a more unexceptionable pattern for chivalry. It elucidated for aspiring knights the true inwardness of Gawain, the sustaining principles of Arthur himself.

There is something ghoulish in exposing Andreas’s book, which is also Marie’s, to the callous scrutiny of an age hostile to sentiment. A faint odor of cloistral mould and feudal decay clings to it. But the soil in which it grew was valiant. The ideal of l’amour courtois which grew up in Poitiers had, as Mr Loomis has suggested, more than a little to do with freeing woman from the millstone which the church in the first millenium hung about her neck as the author of man’s fall and the facile instrument of the devil in the world. The court of Poitiers gave its high sanction to ideals which spread so rapidly throughout Europe that ‘the doctrine of the inferiority of woman has never had the same standing since.’

The code of Andreas gives glimpses of a woman’s notions of a society different in essential respects from the prevailing feudal scheme, which was certainly man-made. In the Poitevin code, man is the property, the very thing of woman; whereas a precisely contrary state of things existed in the adjacent realms of the two kings from whom the reigning duchess of Aquitaine was estranged. Incidentally, there is something to explain the puzzling conflict in the Tractatus between the secular and the ecclesiastical views of love in the fact that the clerk whom Marie employed to organize her code was earning his living by flattering feminine majesty.

There is reason to think that Andreas, sensing the perversive nature of the document upon which he was engaged, made good Latin of it only under a certain pressure from his sovereign ladies; and the Countess’s other servant, Chretien de Troyes, quite openly revolted from the too liberal implications of her scheme. As critics we may make what we please of this upside-down philosophy of women. There it is in the first two books of Andreas. There have always been two schools of thought about it.

With this anatomy of the whole corpus of love in hand, Marie organized the rabble of soldiers, fighting-cocks, jousters, springers, riding masters, troubadours, Poitevin nobles and debutantes, young chatelaines, adolescent princes, and infant princesses in the great hall of Poitiers. Of this pandemonium the countess fashioned a seemly and elegant society, the fame of which spread to the world. Here was a woman’s assize to draw men from the excitements of the tilt and the hunt, from dice and games, to feminine society, an assize to outlaw boorishness and compel the tribute of adulation to female majesty. The book, together with the poetry of the troubadours, enables us to catch a glimpse of those famous assemblies in the queen’s new hall to which lovers brought their complaints for the judgment of the ladies.

The female portion of the academy, disciplined by the fashionable example of the countess and the queen to a noble grace of bearing, a flattering condescension, mount the dais, an areopagus something sixty strong. They gather round the queen, and among them shine, besides Marie, Isabelle Countess of Flanders, who is the queen’s niece; Ermengarde Countess of Narbonne, doubtless familiar with some such proceedings in the South; probably also Henry’s sister, the lovely Emma of Anjou, perhaps also, if she was actually another sister of the king, Marie de France – all except Ermengarde, who was more nearly the queen’s contemporary, women from twenty-five to thirty, the notable high priestesses of art and beauty in the day.

The chronicle of Geoffrey of Vigeois leads us to conclude that the standards of the court impressed themselves upon Poitou and the Limousin. ‘Time was,’ he says, ‘when even the Bishop of Limoges and the Viscount of Comborn were content to go in sheep and fox skins. But today [the queen’s day] the humblest would blush to be seen in such poor things. Now they have clothes fashioned of rich and precious stuffs, in colors to suit their humor. They snip out the cloth in rings and longish slashes to show the lining through, so that they look like the devils that we see in paintings. They slash their mantles, and their sleeves flow like those of hermits. Youths affect long hair and shoes with pointed toes.’ As for women, he adds, ‘You might think them adders, if you judged by the tails they drag after them.’ The price of fur and cloth had doubled within the period of the chronicler’s observation.

While the ladies, well-accoutred, sit above, the sterner portion of society, purged (according to the code) of the odors of the kennels and the road, and free for a time from spurs and falcons, range themselves about the stone benches that line the walls, stirring the fragrant rushes with neatly pointed shoe. There are doubtless preludes of music luring the last reluctant knight from the gaming table, tensons or pastourelles, the plucking of rotes, the ‘voicing of a fair song and sweet,’ perhaps even some of the more complicated musical harmonies so ill-received by the clerical critics of London; a Breton lai adding an episode to Arthurian romance, or a chapter in the tale of sad-man Tristan, bringing a gush of tears from the tender audience clustered about the queen and the countess of Champagne.

After the romance of the evening in the queen’s court, the jury comes to attention upon petition of a young knight in the hall. He bespeaks the judgment of the queen and her ladies upon a point of conduct, through an advocate of course, so that he may remain anonymous. A certain knight, so the advocate deposes, has sworn to his lady, as the hard condition of obtaining her love, that he will upon no provocation boast of her merits in company. But one day he overhears detractors heaping his mistress with calumnies. Forgetting his vow in the heat of his passion, he warms to eloquence in defence of his lady. This coming to her ear, she repudiates her champion. Does the lover, who admits he has broken his pledge to his mistress, deserve in this instance to be driven from her presence?

The Countess of Champagne, subduing suggestions from the floor and the buzz of conference upon the dais, renders the judgment of the areopagus. The lady in the case, anonymous of course, is at fault, declares the Countess Marie. She has laid upon her lover a vow too impossibly difficult. The lover has been remiss, no doubt, in neglecting his vow to his mistress, no matter what cruel hardship it involves; but he deserves leniency for the merit of his ardor and his constancy. The jury recommends that the stern lady reinstate the plaintiff. The court takes down the judgment. It constitutes a precedent. Does anyone guess the identity of the young pair whose estrangement is thus delicately knit up by the countess? As a bit of suspense it is delicious. As a theme for talk, how loosening to the tongue!

A disappointed petitioner brings forward a case, through an advocate of course, involving the question as to whether love survives marriage. The countess applying her mind to the code, which says that marriage is no proper obstacle to lovers (‘Causa coniugii ab amore non est excusatio recta’) and after gravely deliberating with her ladies, creates a sensation in her court by expressing doubt whether love in the ideal sense can exist between spouses. This is so arresting a proposition that the observations of the countess are referred to the queen for corroboration, and all bend upon the opinion of this deeply experienced judge.

The queen with dignity affirms that she cannot gainsay the Countess of Champagne, though she finds it admirable that a wife should find love and marriage consonant. Eleanor, queen of France and then of England, had learned at fifty-two that, as another mediaeval lady put it, ‘mortal love is but the licking of honey from thorns.’ Of course they rationalize a conduct that has outburst the rigid feudal scheme for women; but disillusion speaks also in these noble ladies, who, though they divine some unattainable ideal value in life, know that actually they remain feudal property, but part and parcel of their fiefs. It is plain that each and every one of the judgments in the queen’s court is an arrant feudal heresy. Taken together they undermine all the primary sanctions, and are subversive of the social order.

REFERENCES:
1. Amy Kelly, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine and Her Courts of Love’ Source: Speculum, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1937), pp. 3-19 Published by: Medieval Academy of America

2. Title Tractatus de Amore et de Amoris Remedio referred to in English as ‘The Art of Courtly Love’