page contents

courtly love

An Ode to Love - Medieval Europe

tumblr_lci8gdc9Qk1qbpeano1_400.jpg

Love. This subject has never lost its popularity throughout history and even up till today. But have you ever wondered how men and women went 'steady' during the Dark Ages, the time of Knights and other honorable things? For this last post, we'll look through how courtly love shaped relationships during medieval times, and listen to one of my favorite songs (of all time!!) that I personally think gives a modern interpretation of the old-fashioned way of love :) -

There are 9 stages in the art of courtly love.

  1. Attraction to the lady, usually via eyes/glance.

  2. Worship of the lady from afar.

  3. Declaration of passionate devotion.

  4. Virtuous rejection by the lady.

  5. Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty.

  6. Moans of approaching death from unsatisfied desire (and other physical manifestations of lovesickness).

  7. Heroic deeds of valor which win the lady's heart.

  8. Consummation of the secret love. (*smirk emoji*)

  9. Endless adventures and subterfuges avoiding detection.

Even though #8 says that it's a "consummation", courtly love wasn't really about sex. It was more like a playground romance, full of giggles and adoration. Sex was considered to be something of a duty in a marriage.

Speaking of marriage, courtly love did not necessarily lead to marriage, nor did a marriage mean that you were in love with your spouse. Back then, marriages were arranged, and the prosperity of the marriage was based on the material wealth that both involved parties could get from matrimony.

But wait! Does this mean that infidelity was commonplace during these times? Well, yes. Since marriage was more for political gain, that didn't mean there was love present in this union. Why else would there be a stage #9 that required them to be discreet about their affairs? Ah... everything should click by now.

All in all, courtly love (as it was practiced) was a very passionate way of falling in love. The men faced an enigmatic balance between the pleasure of love and being in pain (which they felt because no matter how strong their feelings were for the woman, they could never have her). So now I'll bring you to one of my favorite songs of all time, Edge of Desire by John Mayer!!!

If you closely at the lyrics (it's at the bottom!), you'll notice that there are certain elements that I can personally relate to carry these same emotions that the people who practiced courtly love felt- the strong desire to want to be with someone, the intense emotions felt in the heat of passion... You get it. Alright, it's time to press play. Enjoy!

-

[embed]https://soundcloud.com/johnmayer/edge-of-desire[/embed]

Lyrics

Young and full of running tell me where is that taking me? just a great figure eight or a tiny infinity?

love is really nothing but a dream that keeps waking me for all of my trying we still end up dying how can it be?

don't say a word just come over and lie here with me 'cause I'm just about to set fire to everything I see

I want you so bad I'll go back on the things I believe there I just said it I'm scared you'll forget about me

so young and full of running all the way to the edge of desire steady my breathing silently screaming I have to have you now

wired and I'm tired think I'll sleep in my clothes on the floor Or maybe this mattress will spin on its axis and find me on yours

don't say a word just come over and lie here with me cause I'm just about to set fire to everything I see

I want you so bad I'll go back on the things I believe there I just said it I'm scared you'll forget about me

don't say a word just come over and lie here with me cause I'm just about to set fire to everything I see

I want you so bad I'll go back on the things I believe there I just said it I'm scared you'll forget about me

Sir Henry William, Knight of Windsor

Medieval knights were courageous, dedicated to God and love. They were known to rescue damsels in distress and gave chivalry its name. At least, that's how we picture the Knights as fairy tales have shown us. But were they like that? Today, we hear the recounts of Sir Henry William, Knight of Windsor.

Disclaimer: This is a work of contemporary fiction, based on historical facts. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Accolade (Dubbing/Adoubement)

“I dub thee, Sir Henry William, Knight of Windsor.”

Knights on Horses

In the year c. 1200, I was appointed as a Knight of Windsor. I remembered it clearly. The journey to becoming a knight was not easy. There were a lot of challenges I had to face. I must say; I was lucky to be the son of a nobleman, an advantage from birth. The sons of the nobles, including me, were sent to live in the castle of the Lords. This commenced our education of learning the skills required to be a Knight. For me, training began when I was only 9 years old. Combat training includes archery and hand to hand combat using swords and other weapons. These were part of the training to prepare my comrades and I to become a skillful Knight, and to prepare us for future jousting tournaments. At that time, as a mere nine-year-old, I was petrified. I was afraid that I would execute a wrong move and endanger my comrades. But God has been good. Not only were we taught about combat fighting, but we were also taught about Christianity and our Heavenly Father Himself.

We started our duties as a Knight at the age of 16. Practicing in heavy armor, tending to my horse, and cleaning my weapon were all part of my daily activities. This was before I was dubbed as an official Knight of the Land. At the age of 20, I was then made a Knight in a ceremony.

The Vigil

I had to go through a ritual bathing before my formal entry to Knighthood. My body was thoroughly cleansed as a symbol of purification. We were told to wear a white vesture that represented purity, covered by a red robe that symbolized nobility. The black shoes and hose stood for death.  A sword and shield were placed on the altar.  I, then knelt at the Chapel altar, in silent prayer for ten hours. Following the next morning, I was joined by others to hear Mass and a lengthy sermon on the duties of a Knight. A sponsor then took possession of the sword and shield that had been blessed by the priest and was passed to the Lord who was to conduct the Knighthood ceremony. Finally, my comrades and I swore an oath of allegiance to the Lord.

Knights’ Armor

My armor was part of what made me a Knight. It showed the people how I was always prepared to serve my Land, my people, and to protect them from vice. With the armor being made up of many different parts, it was not the easiest thing to put on daily.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEuhKRhrvRM[/embed]

My fellow comrades and I began to follow the practice of chivalry. We were expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat, but also a chivalrous heart to accompany this aggressive side of ours. I was expected to follow morals and virtues, such as:

  • Live to serve his King and his Country
  • Avoid Lying
  • Cheating or Torture
  • Believe in Justice for All
  • Respect Women
  • Avenge Wrongs

Courtly Love

As a Knight, I fell in love with someone I should not have. I sworn to secrecy, a relationship that only two of us could share. It was because her life belonged to a King, but her heart was mine. Her marriage did not deter my undying love for her. My lady and I would exchange tokens of gifts. I would write her poems, and serenade her in the gardens. I’d give her flowers and make grand gestures. Everything I did, I had her in mind. She made my world beautiful. 

As I ponder of the lives that will come after me, I can only hope that the Knighthood can continue its glory and importance in the future. With the progress of the Kingdom, our society could become very different from what we have now. Knighthood, with all possibility, could be abolished in the coming future. If it is continued, it might not have the same meaning or purpose anymore.