The Code of Chivalry and The Cult of Courtly Love

Admittedly, the following "rules" are a composite ideal that never existed in actual historical practice, nor can one find an exact list like this one. What one can find are examples like the one by Capellanus below. Nonetheless, this basic model can give one of sense of the kind of things that chivalric writers prized.

Basic Rules of the Cult of Love

  • The lover looks on the beloved as one who is higher and can be approached only with a suppressed awe and wonder.
  • The lover's body is deeply disturbed with a malady like sickness.
  • The lover becomes his beloved's servant. He proves his loyalty and patience by seeking to obtain her nearly unobtainable affections.
  • The lover always dwells inwardly on the beloved.
  • Jealousy disturbs love, for a true lover is always loyal.
  • Such a pursuit empowers the lover’s prowess, courage, and obedience.  He may even be moved to greater piety and loyalty to his kingdom

Andreas Capellanus: The Art of Courtly Love, On the Rules of Love (btw. 1174-1186) [not testable]

  1. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.
  2. He who is not jealous cannot love.
  3. No one can be bound by a double love.
  4. It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing.
  5. That which a lover takes against his will of his beloved has no relish.
  6. Boys do not love until they arrive at the age of maturity.
  7. When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor.
  8. No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.
  9. No one can love unless he is impelled by the persuasion of love.
  10. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.
  11. It is not proper to love any woman whom one should be ashamed to seek to marry.
  12. A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.
  13. When made public love rarely endures.
  14. The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized.
  15. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
  16. When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved his heart palpitates.
  17. A new love puts to flight an old one.
  18. Good character alone makes any man worthy of love.
  19. If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.
  20. A man in love is always apprehensive.
  21. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.
  22. Jealousy, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved.
  23. He whom the thought of love vexes, eats and sleeps very little.
  24. Every act of a lover ends with in the thought of his beloved.
  25. A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved.
  26. Love can deny nothing to love.
  27. A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved.
  28. A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved.
  29. A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love.
  30. A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.
  31. Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.

Characteristics of the Code of Chivalry

The same is true for the code of chivalry. My composite list is just an attemp to sketch the kinds of values that became important to High and Late Medieval period writers and cultures. Lull's text below is one example.

Fair Play

Never attack an unarmed foe
Exhibit self discipline
Administer justice and mercy


Exhibit courage in word and deed
Avenge the wronged and defend the weak and innocent
Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause


Always keep one's word
Always maintain one's principles
Never betray a confidence or comrade


Exhibit manners
Practice the rules of decorum
Be respectful of host, authority, and women


Be faithful to God, sovereign, kingdom, and the code
Show respect for authority and the law
Be true to one's beloved


Be generous as one is able
Show hospitality to strangers
Be able to support your rank


Be well grounded in one's faith
Depend upon God, the saints, and Mary
Oppose the Infidel

Raymond Lull (1235-1315), Book on the Order of Chivalry (ca. 1270). [not testable]

A proper chivalric knight must be:

  1. able-bodied;
  2. of good lineage;
  3. have sufficient wealth to support his rank;
  4. wise (to judge his inferiors and supervise their labors; to advise his lord);
  5. generous within the limits of his means;
  6. loyal;
  7. courageous;
  8. honorable.

His ethical duties are

  1. to defend the Christian faith,
  2. to defend his lord,
  3. to protect the weak (women, children);
  4. to exercise constantly by hunting and jousting in tournaments;
  5. to judge the people and supervise their work;
  6. to pursue robbers and evil-doers.;
  7. to avoid pride, lechery, false oaths, and treachery.