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Re: What would bring a knight shame?

Poster: keith.finn@erols.com

I have to disagree with you as to the wrong side of the tracks and
treason, milord.  

As far as birth goes, don't forget that Knighthood was not nobility, nor
was it hereditary.  During the period milady is researching, many
lowborns were knighted for herioism or prowess in the field.  And many
knights had sons who didn't inherit their fathers' warlike traits, and
went happily into the trades.  Not true for a real noble, of course, but
that's a different story.

And as for treason, don't forget that in the Stephen/Matilda chaos,
practically every knight in the realm was committing treason against one
or the other "rightful" monarch, depending on who you asked.  Even
regarding adultery, the romances of the time were probably developing
along the Abelard and Heloise lines they later took on, which made
almost a virtue out of that particular vice, so even such a sinner might
find reason not to feel shame.  

I fully agree with you as regards physical fitness and bastardy.  Also
high up on the list would be cowardice, misconduct towards a lady (which
in those days meant a gentlewoman; lower orders fell into a grey area
and might be fair game), murder, theft, cheating, debt, (and any of the
above on the part of a close family member would rub off on the knight
as well) and probably many other like offences against the code of
chivalry.  Sometimes in this period you could get away with any number
of major offences if you lived by that code of honor (at least as far as
your reputation went - you could still lose your head).

Sorry to contradict.  I'm sure your answers were correct for a later
period of history, by which time the feudal system had drastically
changed as the original reason for it subsided.  In the dark ages,
though, knighthood was not yet a social institution, but still a
military system in most respects.

In service,

Finn MacIain

Craig Levin wrote:
> Poster: clevin@ripco.com (Craig Levin)
> > Poster: Bob & Diana Cosby <cosby@erols.com>
> <snip>
> >      I have another question please.  What would bring a knight great
> > shame, one he'd want to keep hidden?  Thank you very much in advance for
> > your replies.  I sincerely thank you all for your tremendous support in
> > my research.
> The list I'm going to give below ought to be littered with a lot
> of caveats and credits. On this subject, I especially recommend
> Keen's Chivalry and Barber and Barker's Tournaments as secondary
> sources that ought to be on one's bookshelf.
> Physical unfitness-anyone unable to perform on the field would
> naturally have come in for his share of upbraiding and abuse.
> Lull, in his Book of Chivalry and Knighthood, even taught that
> the physically unfit, despite his birth, didn't deserve
> knighthood.
> "Born on the wrong side of the tracks"-any hint of being attached
> to trade or to the manual arts like carpentry or farming normally
> got one bounced from high society. For example, Rodrigo Diaz de
> Bivar, the Cid, was taunted by his enemies because one of his
> fiefs was a grist mill which he had been known to supervise. In
> some places, the "taint" of ignoble parentage was not washed out
> for generations, rendering even one's son ineligible for
> participation in some tournaments and membership in some orders of
> chivalry. Depending upon when and where and from whom, bastardy
> _could_ be a taint, though Froissart and other later medieval
> chroniclers certainly record the lives of gently born bastards
> who lived as naturally in aristocratic circles as a legitimate
> child would.
> High crimes and misdemeanors-Naturally, committing an act of
> treason would have been a deed which anyone would seek to cover
> up. Treason included, fwiw, adultery with one's lord's wife or
> daughter, hence the tragedy of Tristram and Isoud. Also, earning
> one's keep as a bandit might get one flogged out of a tournament.
> Cruelty to _ladies_ (as opposed to any other sort of woman)
> generally was a faux pas, too. Excommunication wasn't as bad as
> one might think-it was often used as a political tool which made
> life burdensome, but not shameful. On the other hand, raiding
> church properties was a problem, since it did lead to
> excommunication, and because it ticked off the powerful patrons
> of wherever one raided, be it the city of the cathedral you
> looted, or the long-established sponsors and protectors of a
> nunnery or monastery in the countryside.
> Pedro
> --
> http://pages.ripco.com:8080/~clevin/index.html
> clevin@ripco.com
> Craig Levin
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