Chivalry is a medieval system of principles and customs of knighthood. The term is used today to represent the qualities idealised by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honour, and gallantry toward women.
Since at least the 9th century (and probably much earlier) it was considered that society was divided into three parts: the religious who cared for society's spiritual needs; the warriors who protected society; and the labourers who provided basics such as food for everyone. The knights or chevaliers constituted the warrior class and though the concept of chivalry seems to have developed after the notional partition of society, the two were closely linked. Chivalry developed in the second half of the 11th century in northern France. The early influence of the French in shaping chivalry is demonstrated by the fact that when Italian authors wrote on the subject they used French terms.
The concept of chivalry has been highly influential in European culture, and was a key feature of many romances. By the late 18th century the romanticised ideals of chivalry were contrasted by Edmund Blake with "sophisters, economists and calculators" of the early modern period. It alluded to a golden age that had passed.
- Keen, Maurice (1984). Chivalry. Yale University Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0-300-10767-6.
- Scaglione, Aldo D. (1991). Knights at Court: Courtliness, Chivalry, & Courtesy from Ottonian Germany to the Italian Renaissance. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-520-07270-7.
- Keen, Chivalry, p. 41.
- Keen, Chivalry, pp. 1–2.