Wednesday, May 07, 2008 5/7/08-Knights, Chivalry, and War

In today's excerpt--in the golden age of knights in Europe, the words and deeds of Jean le Maingre, Sire de Boucicaut, and Jean de Beuil epitomize the romantic ideals of this knighthood along with a troubling love of war:

"Knighthood's zealot, Boucicaut at age twelve had served as the Duc de Bourbon's page in the Normandy campaign, at sixteen was knighted at Roosebeke, at 24 held the lists at St. Ingelbert for thirty days, the most admired exploit of his generation. Two years later, in 1391, he was created Marshal. Unable to endure repose, he had gone twice to fight with the teutonic knights in Prussia and, afterward, to the East to ransom D'Eu in Cairo and visit Jerusalem. In honor of an episode in Tunisia when the Saracens supposedly were stopped from attack by the descent from Heaven of two beauteous women in white bearing a banner with a scarlet cross, he created the Order of the White Lady with the stated purpose of providing defenders of the gentle sex whenever needed. He was the epitome, not the norm, of chivalry, and could well have expressed (although the words are those of Jean de Beuil, a knight of the next century) what it was that inspired his kind in an age of personal combat:

" 'How seductive is war! When you know your quarrel to be just and your blood ready for combat, tears come to your eyes. The heart feels a sweet loyalty and pity to see one's friend expose his body in order to do and accomplish the command of his Creator. Alongside him, one prepares to live or die. From that comes a delectable sense which no one who has not experienced it will ever know how to explain. Do you think that a man who has experienced that can fear death? Never, for he is so comforted, so enraptured that he knows not where he is and truly fears
nothing.' "

Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, Ballantine, Copyright 1978 by Barbara W. Tuchman, pp. 556.


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