Chivalry, as defined by Encyclopedia Americana is a system of values and ideals of conduct held by knights in medieval Europe. In its institutional form, chivalry was an informal, international order to which many, but not all, of the ruling class (nobility) belonged. The word is derived from the Latin caballus (horse) through the French chevalier (“horseman” or knight).
Chivalry was born from Feudalism in the late middle ages introducing a new, feminine point of view stressing virtue and ethics. It was a time of renewal and need. There were new towns and cities of trade everywhere, thus creating the need to travel. However, in order to travel there must be someone left behind to tend to the work that must be done. From this a Feudal Court was developed. The Feudal Lords (landowners or people of nobility), who later were granted Knighthood, split their land between vassals who pledged their allegiance to said lord. The land was not theirs to own, but theirs to tend and feed their family as well as the family of the presiding lord. Food provisions were not the only things pledged to these lords. They were also given an annual sum of money as well as additional funds should they be needed. Women played a large role during this time. Often, they were left to run the household and make decisions pertaining to domestic matters of the manor while the men were away. This brought etiquette and rules of conduct to society. Chivalry grew during the time of the Crusades. The Crusades were holy expeditions by Christian Knights to regain ownership of holy places under Muslim control. Most knights genuinely believed in the religious aspect of these Crusades while some viewed them merely as a means of financial gain and power. During this time Courtly Love was also established, setting standards for courtship. A knight was to be devoted to a lady, usually married or betrothed, and did everything in his power to gain her favor.
One of the most influential women of medieval times was Eleanor of Aquitane. She greatly contributed to the growth of Chivalry and Courtly Love. She was married several times, first to King Louis VII of France and then to King Henry II of England. Her travels allowed her to be influential to both countries. Even before her marriages she owned great amounts of land, making her very powerful. This was a rarity for a woman in her time and she was not afraid to use her power to gain advantage. She at one time accompanied her first husband, Louis VII, on his second Crusade contrary to what the church (ruling government at the time) said. Poets received encouragement from Eleanor to write poems and sonnets from a womans point of view, this was also unheard of before the late Middle Ages. During her marriages, there were rumors of affairs had by the “Great Queen”. Along with her plans to lead her sons in a rebellion against their father, these rumors were enough to cause Henry II to lock Eleanor away...