The age of chivalry is gone.—That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded. — Edmund Burke

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The Age of Chivalry

Shortly after the taking of Calais, Edward, who is regarded as one of the most chivalrous of the English kings, founded a new order of knights, which was called the Order of the Garter. It is said that at one of the court balls the Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter. The king saw her confusion, and, wishing to prevent any of his courtiers from being so rude as to laugh at the accident, he picked up the garter, put it on his own leg, and said aloud in French, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," words which mean, "Shamed be he who evil thinks."

He then declared that he was going to choose twenty-five of the most noble knights to belong to the new Order of the Garter, with him and the Black Prince. Each of the knights he chose wore a blue garter on his left leg, a blue sash across his breast, a medal with the effigy of St. George trampling the dragon, and a silver star with eight points.

The twenty-five Knights of the Garter have always been very proud of this honourable decoration, and in knightly days, when it was the custom to take solemn oaths, these men used to take pride in swearing by their "stars and garters." Hence, also, "to receive the blue ribbon" meant to have the greatest honour conferred upon one.

Some people, however, claim that the Order of the Garter was instituted by Richard the Lion-hearted. He, it is said, gave a leather garter to the knights who had distinguished themselves in fighting against the Saracens.

In the feudal ages, knights were men of noble birth, who, after undergoing a certain amount of training, were received into the order of knighthood or chivalry.

Until seven years old, boys staid under their mothers' care; then they were sent to the castle of some great nobleman, where they served as pages till they were fourteen. During pagehood the young noblemen learned to be courteous and gentle, to wait upon ladies, tell stories, sing songs, and play upon the lute, and they were daily trained to be strong, agile, frank, brave, polite, and truthful.

From the age of fourteen till they were about twenty they were called squires; they practised the art of fighting, and attended knights at war, to help them don their heavy armour or to raise them when they were overthrown. This term of apprenticeship ended, the candidate for knighthood spent twenty-four hours in fasting and prayer, and during the night knelt alone in the church, before the altar, upon which his armour was laid to be consecrated.

This time of meditation and prayer was followed on the next day by a solemn religious ceremony, in which the young knight vowed to protect the weak, the fatherless, and the oppressed, to honour all women, and to right the wrong wherever it was possible. Then a knight drew his sword and struck the kneeling candidate with the flat blade (this was called bestowing the accolade), calling him by name, and bidding him rise and receive his kiss of welcome into the order of chivalry.

Other knights, or fair maidens of high degree, then helped him don the different parts of a knight's armour. The fact that a knight had to undergo such a preparation, and take such solemn vows, tended to make him braver and better than he would otherwise have been; and a true gentleman nowadays is one who, like the knights of old, is strictly honourable in all things and gentle towards every one.

During the chivalric ages, the knights were in the habit of making strange vows, such as not to rest until they had fought a number of battles or won a certain prize in a tournament. When Edward started to make war in France, some of the nobles declared they would wear a patch over one eye until they had beaten the French!

Ladies also made queer vows, and we are told that when good Queen Philippa heard that Edward had begun the siege of Calais, she swore she would not change a certain linen kerchief she wore until he had taken the city. As the siege lasted ten months, the queen's kerchief had time to grow very yellow. Her ladies, to look as much like her as possible, wore unbleached linen, and thus ecru became the fashionable colour.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee