In the Middle Ages, the most popular stories amongst the nobility were the romances of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. The idea of a brotherhood in arms founded on loyalty, sacrifice and devotion to God was encouraged by sovereigns who wanted to create a cohesive military class to achieve their territorial ambitions.

From the eleventh century the Church tried to protect some of the weaker in society from constant war by setting rules about days when it was permissible to fight and how women and non-combatants should be treated. Of course, the reality of war was very different from the chivalric ideal but nevertheless, the fantasy of Camelot was lived out in the jousts and tournaments, the investitures and the pageants of court life.

In the late fifteenth century, the printing of the Le Morte d'Arthur, one of the first books produced by Caxton on his new press, followed by many other tales of knights and ladies, gave the whole idea of chivalry a new lease of life.

Articles in this section