The Knights of Valor are a prominent part of my fantasy romance novels. Why? Because I like the good boy, the knight in shining armor, so to speak. While I don’t feel the need to be rescued, thank you very much, I’ve always been drawn to the white knight.
While the Knights in my stories live by a moral code directly tied to the god they serve, that code wasn’t created in a vacuum. I’ve never detailed all of the vows the Knights of Valor follow because that would bog down the story, but their code is very much based on historical precedent.
Real knights in the days of yore had a code of chivalry that they were supposed to follow. How many did, well, that’s another post. The punishments for not following it, again, another post. For the purposes on my novels, this does differ from historical precedent.
While many parts of our past are lost to us, The Song of Rolland documented the code of chivalry during the time of William the Conqueror, around 1066 AD. This was a large influence on the code I crafted.
1066 AD Code of Chivalry
- Fear God and maintain His Church
- Serve the liege lord in valor and faith
- Protect the weak and defenseless
- Give succor to widows and orphans
- Refrain from the wanton giving of offence
- Live by honor and for glory
- Despise pecuniary reward
- Fight for the welfare of all
- Obey those placed in authority
- Guard the honor of fellow knights
- Eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
- Keep faith
- At all times to speak the truth
- Persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- Respect the honor of women
- Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
- Never to turn the back upon a foe
Yes, some seem contradictory to me, too. A few of these seem redundant to me, and a few seem too bravado for my Knights of Valor, but I did think through all of them as I was creating my own code.
The “at all times speak the truth” gives my Knights of Valor a great deal of trouble, and from time to time, they may have even had to interpret that vow a little creatively.
In my fantasy world, being chosen by Dracor, God of Justice, to be one of his Knights and following the code of chivalry imbues certain holy powers, including the ability to channel the god’s power to smite evil. But that’s fantasy. I could see how some of this code could really hamper a medieval knight.
There are other codes of chivalry, including the one espoused by the Duke of Burgundy in the 14th century, but it’s not really all that different from the list above. The code from King Arthur’s court is perhaps the most famous, though much of this is shrouded in legend. The lack of solid facts makes it fun to write about, but more subject to interpretation.
More interesting to my mind is that such a code had to be written. That many things which seem like basic values had to be spelled out. But then, Dracor, God of Justice, has not always reigned supreme even in our history.
How about you? What do you think of knights and codes of chivalry? Ever see any in a book you especially liked? Or maybe you think the whole thing was bunk and prefer the knight that follows no code?