ANST - Knight's Oaths, Part 2
C. L. Ward
gunnora at vikinganswerlady.org
Sun Mar 4 17:59:44 PST 2001
Her Grace, Duchess Willow, had said:
> I found this list in "Romance of the Feudal Chateaux " by Elizabeth
> W. Champney,1899. She states it came from a "leading authority". Have
> any of you seen this list before or heard a mention of it in any reading
> you have done? I would really like to document this list. If you know
> someone who be able to tell me where it came from please send it on.
> The only hint I have is that the new knights where asked to swear by"in
> the name of God and of St. Michael and St. George."
With her permission, I forwarded the question to the SCA-Laurels list, and
here are the responses.
Mistress Lyanna <Jsrechts at aol.com>:
I've never seen this before but the publishing date of 1899 makes me
suspicious already since a lot of 19th century scholarship tends to be
shaky, especially when it comes to chivalric culture. Knightings and
feudal oaths were not uniform during Middle Ages. I must write that it
looks like a bunch of hooey to me and I've never seen such a list before.
For instance the promise to serve their king and country. The idea of a
nationalistic nation state really didn't start to form until the 15th
There are much better sources on chivalric culture. I highly recommend
Maurice Keens _Chivalry_. Keen is a leading scholar in the field and has
written a number of books on knighthood. Another good one is _The Laws of
War_. Marc Bloch (though a little dated but still a good authority) devotes
a good chunk of his book _Feudal Society_ to oaths. David Herlihy is
another good secondary source.
Some good primary sources are Honore Bonet, _Tree of Battles_ (L'Arbre des
Battails), Cretien de Troyes _Authorian Romances_, and Geoffrey de
Charney's _Book of Chivalry_, the vita of Marshall Boucicault etc. There
are numerous other authors such as Christine de Pizan, Froissart, Mallory,
Raymond Lull and St. Bernard of Clairveaux (for the ecclesiastical views)
Happy reading and for the most part, just stay away from those 19th century
Mistress Nicolaa de Bracton <nicolaa at columbus.rr.com>
I had a similar reaction. I have had a number of people come ask me at
various times where I could find "the Code of Chivalry." The answer, of
course, was that there was not one. The chivalric code was not a law
written down somewhere, but a collection of ideals about behavior that
varied from place to place and were honored as much in the breach as in the
observance. There is certainly nothing like this list in the chivalric
manuals I have examined (e.g. the _Ordene_, Raymond Lllull, or de Charny),
nor in the one actual extant knighting ceremony I've seen (for the Knights
of the Bath). It also does not resemble any feudal oath I've ever seen,
which were usually pretty succinct about specific duties and/or properties
involved (either that or short and vague).
The list as given sounds like a Victorian compilation of things knights
might have been expected to do, with a few extras thrown in for good
Master Johannes <kingskeep at qwest.net>
The biggest problem with knightings and chivalric codes is not just the fact
of Victorian romantic ideals of the medieval period, but with the modern
orders of knighthood. The ceremonies for entry to the English orders of
knighthood, which are now even given to actors and occasional foreigners,
were formulated during the Georgian and Victorian eras. And to lend
antiquity to them, various references and allusions to an "Ancient Code"
which did not actually exist.
There are many books of chivalry from the middle ages, but they are like the
book of Tour de Landry, books of instruction for how to live as one's
station, not a rigid twelve step type of list.
There are so many Victorian twists in this list it is obviously from the era
of its dating, and has no founding in medieval accuracy. But it would make
a nice Ren Faire speech.
Master Johannes <kingskeep at qwest.net> further commented:
> There are much better sources on chivalric culture. I highly recommend
> Maurice Keens _Chivalry_. Keen is a leading scholar in the field and has
> written a number of books on knighthood. Another good one is _The Laws of
> War_. Marc Bloch (though a little dated but still a good authority)
> a good chunk of his book _Feudal Society_ to oaths. David Herlihy is
> good secondary source.
> Some good primary sources are Honore Bonet, _Tree of Battles_ (L'Arbre des
> Battails), Cretien de Troyes _Authorian Romances_, and Geoffrey de
> _Book of Chivalry_, the vita of Marshall Boucicault etc. There are
> other authors such as Christine de Pizan, Froissart, Mallory, Raymond Lull
> and St. Bernard of Clairveaux (for the ecclesiastical views) etc. etc.
The above reading list is a tremendous place to start. I would just add a
few comments. Beware of Malory as a source of medieval ideals. His book is
written in the 15th Century, well after chivalry had been "revived" by
various European courts, like Burgundy and Anjou. By the time of his
writing, the old crusty knights who had been walking around complaining of
the youngster's playing at war with weapons and armour that amounted to
little more than sports equipment had already died. His Morte is a
phenomenal work, it just isn't completely true to
the flavour of the works he compiled.
I would recommend to try some of the less travelled 12th and 13th C.
romances, many of which are revisions of de Troyes' tales to get some of the
regional differences. von Aue's Erek is marvelous, and more fun than the
usual de Troyes translation, and the Germans like Gottfried von Strasbourg
and von Aue have a more earthy tone than the court of Champagne writers.
There are also a great deal of research and translation being done in this
area, and new things are coming out all the time. The Arthurian Studies
series has been great, for instance I just found the Romance of Yder, an
Anglo Norman romance from the 13th C. which is #8 in the series.
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