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Colegiul National I.C.

Bratianu Hateg

Medieval England
The Age of Chivalry

Teacher Student
Iozefina Sandor Anda Todoran
Grade: 10th A

Table of Content

Argument... 2
Prcis.. 3

Chapters Page

Introduction in Middle Ages .... 4

1. Medieval England. Where the fairytale ends

1.1 Feudalism... 5
1.2 Kings and nobles.... 7
1.3 Ordinary life in Middle ages...... 8

2. Knights and chivalry

2.1 Literature. The Arthurian Legend. Merlin.. 9
2.2Knights Code and Chivalry 12

An overlook of Medieval England 14

Bibliography ... 15

Medieval England and the Age of Chivalry


Any time gone by was better.

Jorge Manrique

Whether one likes it or not, history plays a very important role in our lives.
However, as Ibn Khaldun of Tunis said, it should be known that history is a
discipline that has a great number of approaches. Therefore, not only is it important
to know facts but also to know the perspective of the historian or you to be unbiased
and to see facts in different perspectives.
Medieval England has been presented in so many ways, from so many points
of view, that now almost everybody has its own opinion about it. Some see it as a
beautiful time, others as a bloody one.
This subject is a wide one, its a subject that offers the possibility of
interpretation and that gives one the chance to release its imagination without
deviating from the subject or transforming facts into a story. Because of the great
amount of events and because it occurred in the whole Europe, it provides valuable
information and it makes itself appreciated and recognized as one of the most not only
easy to remember but also one of the most influent times ever.
The literature gave the world big and valorous writers and books, enriching
the culture level in Europe and it was an important source of inspiration to the
following artists. It was a turning point in literature, especially in England. Just like
Letopisetul Moldovei by Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin and Ion Neculce is one of
the most important writings in Romanian and Moldavian culture, The Canterbury
Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a jewel in English literature.
Be that as it may, I chose to present the medieval England because it is of a
great value to me and to the whole wide world and also for the reason that my soul
feels attached to this period of time.
It was a charming time and I do believe that its source of magic lays in the
way all the murders and crimes were covered by the peacefully looking colours on
their clothing and the amazing hierarchy that was in that period of time.
Ergo, since any time gone by was better, I think it deserves to be talked about
it and bared in mind forever.


This presentation consists in an introduction in medieval England, two

chapters, each one having three and two headings. In each, I write about England in
the middle ages, about the nobility and ordinary people too.
In the introduction, I presented the beginning of medieval time in England,
which is marked by year 1066.
The first chapter, called Medieval England. Where the fairytale ends, shows in
its first two headings the dark side of this time. It is about feudalism, the kings that
came on Englands throne, their relationships and the Magna Carta. The third heading
shows the life of commoners, fragments of the life lived by the poor and their clothes.
The second chapter, Knights and Chivalry, consisting in two headings,
Literature. The Arthurian Legend. Merlin and Knights Code and Chivalry opens the
world of medieval literature and treats the organization and the rules a knight had to
follow. Not only does it say about knights but also it talks about Merlin and Arthur,
some of the most controversial and mystic characters in history.
The paper ends with a conclusion over the Middle Ages, called An overlook of
Medieval England in which I wrote my attitude towards this time.
At the beginning of every heading I included a quote.

Introduction in Middle Ages

1066 is considered one of those dates in Medieval England which is difficult

to forget. At the start of 1066, England was ruled by Edward the Confessor. He was
called the Confessor due to the fact that he had been more interested in the Church
than in kingship. Because he spent almost all his life in Normandy, the Westminster
Abbey is a Norman building.
Harold Godwinson, from the most powerful family in England, claimed the
throne shortly after Edward the Confessor died in January 1066. He secured the
support of the Witenagemot, the Anglo-Saxon assembly of nobles, for his accession.
Some sources say that Edward had verbally promised the throne to his cousin,
William, the Duke of Normandy, but decided on his deathbed to give it to Harold.
While Edward the Confessor had an English great-nephew who might have qualified
as his successor, he was deemed too young.
William had two claims to the English throne. The first one was that King
Edward had promised him the throne before he died. Since there was no proof that
this was true, he exposed his second claim. It said that King Harold promised him not
to try to take the throne for himself. The promise was not denied by Harold. However,
he said that because the promise was made unwillingly, he was not tied by it.
By the end of the year William the Conqueror was king after defeating Harold
at the Battle of Hastings.
The Battle of Hastings took place on 14 October 1066. It was the decisive
Norman victory in the Norman Conquest of England, fought between the Norman
army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army of King Harold II. The
battle took place at Senlac Hill, approximately 6 miles northwest of Hastings, close to
the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex.
Harold II was killed in the battlelegend has it that he was shot through the
eye with an arrow. Although there was further English resistance, this battle is seen as
the point at which William gained control of England, becoming its first Norman ruler
as King William I.
With three kings in one year, a legendary battle in October and a Norman in
charge of England, it is little wonder that people rarely forget the year 1066. Many
historians view 1066 as the start of Medieval England.

Chapter 1

Medieval England
Where the fairytale ends

1.1 Feudalism
It is an enormous leap - a bigger leap than we had wanted. The island was
hoping to reform through evolution, not revolution. Feudalism is a great
system and has worked very well.
Jennifer Cochrane

You have to look at the history of the Middle East in particular. It has been
one of failure and frustration, of feudalism and tribalism.
Alexander Haig

The quotes above belong to two different persons and as it can be seen, they are
different. In the first one, feudalism is said to have been good, to have worked very
well, while in the second one, the same subject is put between failure and
frustration and tribalism.

Year 1066, as we concluded, was the beginning of the medieval England. The
years prior to 1066 are called the Early Middle Ages and years after 1066 are called
the High Middle Ages.

King William I( William the

After being crowned king, William started his conquest and the fighting lasted for five
years. The great men who followed their duke to England and helped him to win the
kingdom expected land as their reward; enough land to enable them in turn to satisfy
the expectations of their own men who had accompanied them on the adventure. The
process of rewarding these services began at once and proceeded through the early
months and years of William's reign while Englishmen were becoming painfully
convinced of the finality of their defeat. William had visited England only once before
1066, and he cannot have known in any detail how its lands lay, how the estates of
individual Englishmen were distributed, or of what extent they were. The obvious
way of rewarding his expectant followers was to give them the lands of one or more
of the Englishmen whose resistance to the invasion had ended in death or flight, so
that their lands were at the disposition of the new king. In this way, he could at once
begin to satisfy his land-hungry followers. Such an opportunity as that enjoyed by
William I has come to few kings. He had conquered a kingdom and could make
something approaching a new start. Unlike other rulers of the day, William had no
immediate need for anxiety about the loyalty of his chief men. Their future depended
on his continued tenure of the English kingdom. William was therefore able to impose
such conditions on them and to demand such services as were necessary for the
security of his rule.
William helped the development of the feudal system that had begun before
his arrival. The two principles of this system were: every man had a lord and every
lord had land. These being the golden words in that time, the king had the land
worked by nobles who at their turns had serfs to work for them. These were not free
to leave the estate and were often little better than slaves. We can see here a very clear
hierarchy in a chain shape. Of course that the land was not given freely. There were
demands from the king or from the owner of land: the receiver had to either pay a rent
or to do military services. The nobles, for example, had to promise that they will serve
the king in war for up to forty days. This exchange of work looks like the old barter.

1.2 Kings and nobles

As great as kings may be, they are what we are: they can err like other
Pierre Corneille

When we think about the middle ages, we think about thrones, kings, dark
blue and dark red gowns, about castle parties, parties, very impeccable manners,
lovely poor families that were given the secret of being happy in spite of their lack of
money, pigs running down the streets, women selling flowers downtown, houses with
improvised roofs and many other things. It is all just like a fairytale and it is not an
error or a false image created by Hollywood of middle ages. However, not everything
was going smoothly then. We have never put the problem of how were those kings
changing, why those pleasant families were poor or what was happening during castle
parties in the towns. At this point, the fairytale ends and we are put face to face with
the reality: murders, crimes, complots, killers, betrayal and war.
The kingship of England became a family business inasmuch as William had
left Normandy to his elder son, Robert and England to William II also known as
Rufus and then, when Robert left to battle against Muslims, he had left William II to
take care of Normandy. When William died, in 1100, Henry - William died in a
hunting accident and Henry was accompanying him -, the youngest brother, was
crowned as king. Robert prepared to invade but he took a year to form the army.
Normandy and England were reunited in 1106 under one ruler, Henry. After a
civil war between Matilda and Stephen, Henrys children, everything was brought to
the initial form by Henry II. Anyway, the civil war has been a great shock for the
civil people since they were used to the rule of law and order.
Henry IIs sons, Richard Lion heart and John were very different as rulers.
Richard was the image of a perfect feudal ruler while John was greedy and not so
loved by the people or Church - Church played an essential role in the society.
The end of feudalism was the signing of Magna Carta, a new agreement that
was supposed to give freedom but the only thing it did was to be an assurance for the
nobles that the king will never take more than he was supposed to. In other words, the
nobles created this agreement to control the power of their lord. Although it was the
first step to combating the feudalism, it took three hundred years before it completely
The parliament took life during Henry IIIs rule. The nobles were upset by
their kings foreign advisors and huge spending. Because of that, they elected a
council of nobles which took control of the treasury. Like this, Henry was forced to
separate from his foreign friends. The parliament, however, was not standing by itself
but it was also supported by the towns, citizens wanting to escape the heavy taxes.
When Henry III died, Edward I took his place and he brought together the first
real parliament. He also created the House of Commons, house that had
representatives from every category of people. He united Wales with England and
next, his efforts were directed towards Scotland. Initially invited to arbitrate a
succession dispute, Edward claimed feudal suzerainty over the kingdom. In the war

that followed, the Scots persevered, even though the English seemed victorious at
several points.
Up until now, there was no happy ending, no peace, only competition, egoism,
war. However, we did not talk about the literature and the life of commoners and since
our hero, Merlin, and his friend, Arthur are fictional characters, we shall learn
something about those who were not implied in wars. We shall learn about ordinary
life in middle ages.

1.3 Ordinary life in Middle Ages

I'd like to do a story about the medieval ages where in every scene you'd
sort of feel that you were in the 12th century. That would be great to get that
Oliver Stone

Life in middle ages was a very active and good one for kings. However, as we
learnt, during the feudal time, the owners of land had people to work for them. The
taxes, also, were not applied to the king but to the nobles and the lower classes of
society. Since nobles only wanted fortune aka land, - remember why they created
Magna Carta- it is clear that the money to pay the taxes were not from their pockets
but from the workers, from those who had no power to express themselves.
The workers had to provide money and also power so they could work the
land. They were almost slaves. Despite this, it looks like they succeeded in making the
life they had one to be forever remembered. As I said in my argument, they way they
lived their life brings magic in England. Having so many kings in such a short time,
battles and wars, changes and conflicts was not easy to take, of course. Amazing is the
way they got through all these with elegance, fun and love.
Daily life during the Middle Ages is sometimes hard to fathom. Pop culture
loves to focus on exciting medieval moments-heroic knights charging into battle;
romantic liaisons between royalty and commoner; breakthroughs and discoveries
made. But life for your average person during the Dark Ages was very routine, and
activities revolved around an agrarian calendar. Most of the time was spent working
the land, and trying to grow enough food to survive another year. Church feasts
marked sowing and reaping days, and occasions when
peasant and lord could rest from their labor.
Social activities were important, and every
citizen in a medieval town was expected to attend. Fairs
with troubadours and acrobats performing in the streets
merchants selling goods in the town square games of
chance held at the local tavern tournaments featuring
knights from near and abroad these were just some of
the ways medieval peasants spent their leisure time.
Medieval weddings were cause for the entire town to
One other thing that everybody knows about
Medieval England is the clothing style.

Peasants would wear
layers of thick and woollen
clothes which would keep you
warm. Men wore tunics,
breaches a hood and a cloak
while women would wear a
long kirtle, apron, kerchief and
a cloak. Both genders wore
stockings and their underwear
would simply be a baggy linen
Nobles and rich people would
wear clothes made of silk and velvet. Later on, nobles
wore tight clothes, pointy shoes and tall hats. Change
in fashion occurred very quickly just like they do
today. The hats that women wore were usually in a horn shape or steeple.
Just like today, the Church did not always agree with fashion. However, girls and
woman did not respect the rules. They wore low cut dresses which Church completely
And now, here it comes: the most important thing, literature.

Chapter 2
Knights and chivalry
2.1 Literature. The Arthurian Legend.
The Renaissance invented the Middle Ages in order to define itself; the Enlightenment
perpetuated them in order to admire itself; and the Romantics revived them in order
to escape from themselves. In their widest ramifications 'the Middle Ages' thus
constitute one of the most prevalent cultural myths of the modern world.

-- Brian Stock, Listening for the Text

The literature back then disposed of a great variety: from religious writings to
secular ones and in-between writings, you could find them all. It was normal to not
know who wrote the book or poem because many authors and writers used to leave
their names unwritten.
In the 12th century, a new form of English now known as Middle
English evolved. This is the earliest form of English literature which is
comprehensible to modern readers and listeners, albeit not easily. Middle English lasts

up until the 1470s, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English,
became widespread and the printing press regularized the language. Middle English
Bible translations, notably Wycliffes Bible, helped to establish English as a literary
The most significant Middle English author was Geoffrey Chaucer who was
active in the late 14th century. Often regarded as the father of English literature,
Chaucer is widely credited as the first author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of
the vernacular English language. The Canterbury Tales was Chaucer's magnum opus
and a towering achievement of Western culture.

Here are some verses from Geoffreys The Canterbury Tales

Whan that the Knight had thus his tale y-told,

In all the route nas there yong ne old
That he ne said it was a noble storye
And worthy for to drawen to memorye-
And namely the gentils everichoon.
-The Millers Prologue-
Whan that April with his showres soote
The drought of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every vein in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flowr
-The General Prologue-

The Arthurian Legend. Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther Pendragon,

was a figment of Geoffreys imagination that took life in the pseudo-historical
Historia Regum Britanniae. He and Merlin were good friends and they appear always
as a couple. Even in present time, every little child and every senior knows about
Arthur and Merlin. He incorporates Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, his magician
advisor Merlin, and the story of Arthur's conception, in which Uther, disguised as his
enemy.Gorlois by Merlin's magic, sleeps with Gorlois's wife Igerna at Tintagel, and
she conceives Arthur. On Uther's death, the fifteen-year-old Arthur succeeds him as
King of Britain and fights a series of battles, similar to those in the Historia
Brittonum, culminating in the Battle of Bath. He then defeats the Picts and Scots
before creating an Arthurian empire through his conquests of Ireland, Iceland and the
Orkney. After twelve years of peace, Arthur sets out to expand his empire once more,
taking control of Norway, Denmark and Gaul. Gaul is still held by the Roman Empire
when it is conquered, and Arthur's victory naturally leads to a further confrontation
between his empire and Rome's. Arthur and his warriors, including Kaius, Bedivere
and Gawain, defeat the Roman emperor Lucius Tiberius in Gaul but, as he prepares
to march on Rome, Arthur hears that his nephew Mordred whom he had left in
charge of Britain has married his wife Guinevere and seized the throne. Arthur
returns to Britain, defeats and kills Mordred on the river Camblam in Cornwall, but he
is mortally wounded. He hands the crown to his kinsman Constantine and is taken to
the isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds, never to be seen again.
The nomenclature of Arthurian fable has a voluminous critical literature of its
own.Arthurs knights quite overshadow him in the later romances; but they, in their
turn, undergo the same process of denationalisation, and appear as natives of no
known clime or country, moving about in an atmosphere of fantasy and illusion. The

Arthurian fairy-land thus became a neutral territoryan enchanted land where the
seemingly incompatible ideals of knight-errantry and the church were reconciled, and
where even east and west brought their spoils together as to some common sanctuary.
Pilgrimage and the holy wars, writes Gibbon, introduced into Europe the specious
miracles of Arabian magic. Fairies and giants, flying dragons and enchanted palaces,
were blended with the more simple fictions of the west; and the fate of Britain
depended on the art, or the predictions, of Merlin. Every nation embraced and
adorned the popular romance of Arthur and the knights of the Round Table; their
names were celebrated in Greece and Italy; and the voluminous tales of Sir Lancelot
and Sir Tristram were devoutly studied by the princes and nobles, who disregarded
the genuine heroes and heroines of antiquity.
Geoffrey de Monmouth wrote about this legendary king, Arthur. Old English
literature, even the Chronicle, knows absolutely nothing of Arthur. Wales, alone, has
preserved any record of his name and fame from a date earlier than the twelfth
century. But even Welsh writers of an indisputably early date tell us very little about
him, and tell that little in a tantalisingly casual and perfunctory way. Yet it is in a few
obscure Welsh poems, in one very remarkable but difficult Welsh prose tale and in
two meagre Latin chronicles compiled in Wales, that we discover the oldest literary
records of both the historical and the legendary Arthur. A few stubborn critics still
maintain, against the opinion of the best Welsh scholars that the Welsh works in
question are not, in substance, earlier than the twelfth century.
In the full-orbed Arthurian cycle the most dramatic feature of the story which
centres on the fortunes of Arthur himself is the love of Lancelot for Guinevere. The
story of Lancelot is a comparatively late, and, to all appearance, a non-Celtic, graft
upon the original Arthurian stock. Whether, as some surmise, its motive was
originally suggested by the Tristram legend or not, it remains as an obvious
embodiment of the French ideal of amour courtois, and is thus the most significant
example of the direct influence of the conceptions of chivalry upon the development
of Arthurian story. Lancelot first appears as the lover of Guinevere in
Chrtiens Chevalier de la Charrette, a poem written at the instance of Marie of
Champagne, who took a lively interest in the elaboration of the theory and practice
ofcourtly love.
Of all such legends, the most intimately connected with Arthur himself is the
story of Merlin. In Welsh tradition, Merlin, or Myrdin, is a figure very similar to
Taliesina wizard bard of the sixth century, to whom a number of spurious poetical
compositions came, in course of time, to be ascribed. His first association with Arthur
is due to Geoffrey of Monmouth, who identifies him with the Ambrosius of Nennius
and makes of him both a magician and a prophet; to his magic arts, as we have seen,
the birth of Arthur was largely due. His character is further developed in a Latin
hexameter poem, Vita Merlini, composed, probably, about the year 1148 and
attributed by several competent authorities to Geoffrey. This poem, however, presents
us with a conception of the mage which is not easy to reconcile with the account
given of him in Geoffreys History, and suggests many points of analogy with certain
early Welsh poems in which Merlin figures, and with which Geoffrey could hardly
have been acquainted.
Growing up, we learnt that life is hard and complicated, that building those
sand castles takes forever and that persuading the stork to bring your mother another
baby because the last one must have been broken since it kept crying and whining was
just the same with convincing your father that five years old was a good enough age
to drive that car in your backyard! However, we also learnt that there were some

special guys that could do everything!! They could turn their little brothers into frogs
if they wanted to, they had magic beans so they got every single toy in the world with
the money they got from it five years old might not be enough to drive but its
enough to understand that mama wont buy you the fifth truck until there is money in
the pinkie bank. They had super powers to fight the bad guys and they could even fly!
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, they were all amazing and they
still are. Well, the Merlin we talked about was not only more powerful than every
single one above but he also lived in the Middle Ages, thing that makes him even
more important, interesting and mysterious.

2.2 Knights Orders and Chivalry

A true knight is fuller of bravery in the midst, than in the beginning of
Sir Philip Sidney

We all know that together with these two characters there is one word that never
misses: knight. What is a knight? Knights belonged to the noble class and were part of
a military order, but not all soldiers could become knights. Those lacking the
equipment, status or wealth to join an order were usually denied. However, some from
the poorer class could elevate their status and be accepted into knighthood through
valor on the battlefield. While Orders of female knights were rare, they did exist. At 7,
the son of a medieval nobleman or knight would be sent off to serve as a page in a
lord's castle. There, he would learn horsemanship, archery and swordsmanship, and
perform various other duties around the castle. We, Romanians, also have this first
step presented in Nicolae Filions Ciocoii vechi si noi where, in the first chapter, we
are told that Pturic was at first a page.
Here is what Chaucer writes about knights in The general prologue:
A knight there was and that a worthy man
That fro the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalrye,
Trouth and honour, freedom and courteisye.
Full worthy was he in his lords were

Chaucer is portraying the four most important traits of a knight: honesty,

honour, freedom and courteisye which refers to the courtly love.
What is courtly love? This term refers to a phenomenon of the late middle
ages when women were accorded an almost religious status, and the act of seeking a
womans favour took on the flavour of a religious quest. Ironically, however, while
women seem to be central to the story, in fact they do absolutely nothing. The point of
these stories was to show how women for men represented a metaphor for the mans
relationship with the divine, and consequently in these works women function as
completely static works of art.
Knights belonged to a multitude of specific Orders, each established for one purpose
or another. Most orders emphasized components of piety, faith, humility, chastity or
some other worthy ideals. Colourful names for these orders emerged. The Angelic
Knights, the Golden Shield, the Palatine Lion, the Thistle of Bourbon, the White
Falcon and the Wing of St. Michael are but a few of the knightly orders that existed

during the Middle Ages. Three of the most well-known, were the Hospitallers,
Templars, and Teutonic knights.
However, no matter what Order they came from, all knight had a Code to
respect and this code consisted of a list of virtues and beliefs. They had to fear God
and maintain His Church, serve the liege lord in valour and faith, protect the weak and
defenceless, obey those placed in authority, eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit,
keep faith, persevere to the end in any enterprise begun, never refuse a challenge from
an equal and many other things.

An overlook of Medieval England

Because of the wars and the battles some call it the Dark Age. Despite many
things, we have to take care from what ideas we start from when we analyse this age.
We can start, as I did, from wars, a lot of changes and kings and battles, betrayals and
go to the colourful villages and people and to the amazing literature, like Chaucers
and Monmouths writings and to the Code of Chivalry and knights. Like this, we look
at the middle ages from a positive point of view; we end everything good and realize
that no matter how hard it was, those people lived their lives with honour and
happiness. We can also start with the good and end with wars. No longer necessary to
explain what we understand if we see things like that.
Just like I stated in the argument, it is important to be aware of the angle
things are seen from. History is not mathematics so you cannot write something and
expect it to be accepted by everybody. I have presented you the Medieval England
and The Age of Chivalry through the eyes of a person who wants to hope for the
better, not the best and who believes that the better she hopes for is not a must to
come in the instant she hopes for it. This is what happened in the middle ages: there
was war. We all agree this and I do repeat the word war so we can all understand that
war does not mean a small fight but lots of lost lives and blood and pain and chaos.
There was a hard time: the taxes the kings imposed people were not just like the
income tax we pay today. It was a must and it was so big that few could handle it;
most died from hunger and hard work, families were living in poor conditions and
fathers and husbands left their wives and children to work in other places. What we
call all these is hard life. A life when the day of tomorrow is unsure, a life when all
you could do was hope for better, not best.
Proof that Someone loved them and took care of them is seen in the way they
treasured their little spare time and how important love and courtesy was. The
Knights Orders, Code, the festivals, the respect there was, that joy only poor people
knew, these cover up all that was lost and destroyed by those who had everything and
wanted more.
The Middle Ages was called the Dark Age for a reason. Nevertheless, there is
also a reason for which many historians do not really agree with this name. I dont
think that there is any shade of wondering left about their disagreement but for the
readers sake Ill speak my mind about this: I believe that not only me but many
others before, now and in the future will realize that in all that truly dark time, a light
lightened the world and painted the history in golden, amaranth and wine red colours.
This makes everything dark no more. This makes hope. This makes history.

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Stenton, Doris Mary, English Society in the Early Middle Ages 1066-1307, 1952,
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Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales - A Selection, 1996, Penguin Popular


McDowall, Martin, An illustrated history of Britain, 2006, Longman

Online resources