Monday, November 17, 2014

Chivalry and Medieval Romance - Regan Walker

Medieval romance has been around for centuries. The love story of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, as memorialized in Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette, an Old French poem, written in the 12th century, and Wagner's composition of Tristan und Isolde are classics we never tire of. And, many of us read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, set in 12th century England, when we were in school. It might surprise you to know that romance writing developed in Britain after the Norman Conquest and flourished right through the Middle Ages.

Why do we love to read about that time when knights battled for their king and ladies swooned at their victories? Perhaps it is the notion of chivalry, a valuing of womanhood and virtues such as truth, honor and valor. A knight who rises to duty, and the maiden who would take her place at his side. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, he describes a knight as being distinguished in truth, honor, generosity and courtesy, who is both wise and modest. A nobility of spirit, not just a nobility of title and lands.

In the eleventh century, knights were the social elite. They were the sons of wealthy landowning families, and they ruled the countryside by force. The knights who followed William to England were often younger sons, hoping to gain lands by their sword.

Knowing of the raping and pillaging that occurred in England after the Conquest, I wondered, what happened to notions of chivalry? So in doing my research for my new medieval romance, The Red Wolf’s Prize, one of the things that I wanted to look at was this question.

Since clergy played a part in knighting a man, by blessing his sword, chivalry definitely had religious aspects. However, the clergy required knights to vow to only protect the weak, such as widows, orphans, children, and of course, the church. The hundreds of knights who left Normandy with William in October of 1066 stopped at the church at Dives-sur-Mer, Normandy where they said mass before setting sail to invade England. You can see the list of knights here: If you’ve read The Red Wolf’s Prize, you will recognize some of the names, as they are characters in my story.
Pope Alexander III

Though the Church opposed war in general, it was forced to deal with it, in the end tolerating it, even sanctioning “righteous” wars. Hence, Pope Alexander II gave his blessing and his sanction to William’s invasion of England. But the faith of the knights whose swords the Church blessed did not, in all cases, behave as they should.

 The Code of Chivalry spoke of living one’s life not only to defend Crown and Country but to live in a manner worthy of respect and honor, to protect the innocent and to respect women. However, knights rose in the eyes of their sovereign based on how ruthless and successful they were in battle. Hence, the Red Wolf, the hero in my story, gains a reputation for being invincible while fighting at William’s side. It is not hard to see how such men might be tempted to step over the line and take advantage of the conquered. Many did. Thus, while the knights might pay respect to highborn ladies, not all of them afforded the same respect to servants, peasant women and other men’s wives, especially in the midst of war. A maiden of low birth might fear an armed knight as much or more than another man.

Beginning in the 11th Century, love became an essential part of the Code of Chivalry, expressed in social life, and literature. Knighthood became more than a matter of war and feudal dependence; it became romantic. The tournament was a main part of the lives of knights, and the laws and customs of the tournament were inseparable from the love of ladies. Much of the knight’s leisure time was spent in hunting, and the practice field, but also in music, and exercising gallantry and poetry. The chivalric literature, whether its note was that of love or of deeds of arms, shows that the laws of gallantry were as important as those of military honor.

One can hope that chivalry ultimately encouraged a nobility of spirit. In The Red Wolf’s Prize, for perhaps a different reason, the Red Wolf tolerated no acts of rape among his men, though not all of William the Conqueror’s knights behaved so nobly.



Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them. 


Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord. 

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.
As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart? 

About Regan Walker

As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. You can find out more about Regan on her website:

With The Red Wolf's Prize (Medieval Warriors Book 1) , which is set in England a few years before the Conquest. she has moved from her beloved nineteenth century to the pre Medieval period


Regan Walker said...

Hi, Alison! Thanks for having me and the Red Wolf on Historical Hearts! I love talking about chivalry. 'Tis an ancient topic~!

Cassandra Samuels said...

Great post Regan. It's nice to know that romantic stories were still popular in the Middle Ages. As for those Knights I suppose there are always the few that tarnish (pun intended) the reputation of the rest of them.

Nicole Hurley-Moore said...

Thanks ladies for such a lovely post. I love all things medieval and I think Chaucer said it best when he encapsulated the ideal of the perfect knight - 'He was a verray parfit gentil knight.'

Alison Stuart said...

I am afraid I tended to think of knights in less romantic terms, more as "big thugs" and the whole chivalry thing a beat up so it is refreshing to know that there was a genuine code of chivalry.

Regan Walker said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cassandra and Nicole. I'm sure knights came in all types, but for many of them, Alison is right. They were frightening warriors.

Unknown said...

Hi ladies,
This was an interesting post. I am glad to see that there was really such a thing as a Code of Chivalry. Unfortunately, some knights were far from being chivalrous. I've always loved the medieval era and I'm truly having a blast getting to know so many authors who write about that period.

Enisa said...

I've been intrigued by the Medieval period. Always thought of it as brutal and controling with many hard luck tales. Pleased to learn about the Code of Chivalry. Thanks for a great post.

Unknown said...

An enjoyable post, Regan. Thanks! Whenever I encounter medieval courtly romances I am reminded how much they influence the modern genre of fantasy. Fantastical adventures in wild and enchanted forests, shapeshifters, magic, knights of superlative prowess. Surely modern fantasy is just a continuation of medieval courtly lore?

Regan Walker said...

Thanks so much Liette and Enisa for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed learning about the Code of Chivalry. There were different forms of it but most lists shared common elements. But you are correct that not all adhered to the code.

Regan Walker said...

So glad you enjoyed the post! I think fantasy and fairy tales were always there, likely even children in the medieval period were told such stories. Whether they influence the modern paranormal and fantasy tales, I couldn't say though I have read some that would make me think so. An interesting point to be sure.

Unknown said...

Regan, I am enjoying your A-S/Norman posts! I'm currently reading The Red Wolf's Prize and it's sooo good! Congrats on your new release.

Unknown said...

Hello Regan.
Thanks for posting this. I guess being a knight did not make a man good... or bad. The ideal behind the concept is what keeps us reading (and/ or writing!) those chivalry stories.
Annie (aka Kelly Ann Scott)

Collette Cameron said...

What a wonderful post, Regan!

Regan Walker said...

Wow, thanks, Mairi! You made my day!

Regan Walker said...

Thanks, Annie and Collett! So glad you liked the post.