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The Shaping of English Poetry – Volume IV

Essays on 'The Battle of Maldon', Chrétien de Troyes, Dante, 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' and Chaucer

Gerald Morgan

This fourth volume of essays under the title The Shaping of English Poetry consolidates the work of the previous three volumes on the great subjects of English literature in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. The Norman Conquest of England built upon the rich foundation of Anglo-Saxon England but did not destroy it; thus the present volume begins with the commemoration of English heroism in The Battle of Maldon. In the late twelfth century we encounter in Chrétien de Troyes's seminal romance Le Chevalier de la Charrete a new kind of hero in Lancelot, abject and obedient before his mistress, although Chrétien himself is not an uncritical admirer of the sanctity of adulterous love. Hence the importance of Dante's exposition of love in Purgatorio, XVIII, which forms a background to the essays here on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Parliament of Fowls. The volume concludes with essays on Chaucer's Knight's, Monk's and Nun's Priest's Tales, which form part of a long-term project to interpret the Canterbury Tales as a unified whole and not merely a series of fragments awaiting revision on Chaucer's death.

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7 The Campaigns of Chaucer’s Knight

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7 The Campaigns of Chaucer’s Knight

Encores qui fait guerre contre les ennemis de la foy et pour la crestienté soustenir et maintenir et la foy de Nostre Seigneur, ycelle guerre est droite, sainte, seure et ferme, que les corps en sont sainctement honorez et les ames en sont briefment et sainctement et senz paine portees en paradis.

GEOFFROI DE CHARNY, Le Livre de chevalerie, 35/206–10

A Crusading Knight

I. Chaucer has not only set his portrait of the Knight in the context of a pilgrimage to Canterbury (a penitential act at the end of a long life) but has set the virtue of piety at the heart of the Knight’s experience of life as a warrior. Thus the selection of the battles listed in the portrait is exclusively a list of crusades. Such an emphasis is evident at once to the reader entirely ignorant of the historical details of the campaigns in which the Knight has been continuously engaged, for the antinomy between Christian and heathen runs throughout the portrait. The point is made by Chaucer by the rhetorical figure of traductio and by repeated emphasis. The Knight had campaigned ‘[a]s wel in cristendom as in hethenesse’ (GP, I.49) and ‘[n]o Cristen man … of his degree’ (I.55) had been so often on expedition in Lithuania and Russia. He had ‘foughten for oure feith’ (I.62) at Tlemcen in Algeria (or perhaps at Termessos near Antalya)1 and on one occasion ‘[a]gayn another hethen in Turkye’ (I.66). We ought not, with Terry Jones,2 to make too much of the fact that Chaucer’s Knight fights alongside the heathen Emir of Balat (Palatye, the ancient Miletus) in Turkey. This is not strange when we recall that Peter of Cyprus had negotiated treaties with ← 161 | 162 → the Emirs of Ephesus and Miletus in 1365 in the course of making preparations for the attack on Alexandria.3 Perhaps we are to understand that the Knight, although a devout Christian, is not a religious zealot or bigot. The world of battles is a complicated place, and many unexpected and curious alliances occur. At Merton in 786 (recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 755) a British hostage is grievously wounded fighting for Cynewulf, King of the West Saxons.4 The defenders of Rorke’s Drift under Lieutenants John Chard and Gonville Bromhead of B Company of 2/24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot on 22 January 1879 included a twenty-three year-old Swiss, Cpl Friedrich Carl (aka Frederick) Schiess, serving in the 2/3rd Natal Native Contingent. He also won a Victoria Cross on that famous day.5 Courage in battle, wherever it is found, cannot fail to be admired.

During the period of the crusades friendships as well as enmities must have been formed between individual Christian and Moslem or heathen knights, and such relationships are found in medieval romances. Thus in the alliterative Morte Arthure (c.1365–1400) Sir Gawain on a foraging expedition during the siege of Metz meets and fights the Saracen knight Sir Priamus (MA, 2513–2715). The central interest of this episode appears to be the sudden desire of Priamus in mid-fight to convert to Christianity (MA, 2587–88).6 Sir Priamus subsequently supports Gawain in the fight against the Duke of Lorraine (MA, 2811–18) and brings his retinue with him (MA, 2916–39). This matter is duly recorded by Malory in his ‘Tale of Arthur and Lucius’ (MD, 228/4–239/11). But Malory goes further in adding the episode of the christening of Sir Priamus by Arthur (MD, 241/8–11):

Than the kynge in haste crystynde hym fayre and lette conferme hym Priamus, as he was afore, and lyghtly lete dubbe hym a deuke with his hondys, and made hym knyght of the Table Rounde.7

Malory accords an even more significant role to the Saracen knight, Sir Palomides, son of Asclabor and brother of Sir Safere and Sir Segwarides. Sir Palomides is a great knight, ranked fourth in the list of Round Table knights after Sir Launcelot, Sir Tristram and Sir Lamorak (MD, 529/5–11 and 715/26–30),8 and no one doubts his ‘noble prouesse’ (MD, 716/24). Malory focuses on his unrequited love for Isode and consequent rivalry ← 162 | 163 → with Sir Tristram and also on the fact that, unlike his two brothers, he is unbaptised (MD, 343/24–26). Malory’s ‘Book of Sir Tristram’ ends with a final combat between Sir Palomides and Sir Tristram by means of which Sir Palomides fulfils the vow that enables him to receive baptism. He makes his full confession and is duly baptised by the suffragan Bishop of Carlisle with Sir Tristram and Sir Galleron as his two godfathers (MD, 841/34–845/20).

The Christian orientation of the chivalry of Chaucer’s Knight becomes even more evident if we take the reference to ‘his lordes were’ (I.47) as a reference to God’s war rather than the wars of his feudal overlord or king (although, properly speaking, a king like Edward III exercises his due function as king through the will of God).9 The crusade was holy and not merely justifiable, and thus in participating in a crusade the Knight was fulfilling his duty to Christ, the ruler of the universal Christian state.10 We are to understand that had he been inspired primarily by the love of England he would have been a lesser man. We need share none of the misgivings in respect of the Knight that Jane Austen expresses in respect of the heroic death of Sir John Moore at Corunna in 1809: ‘I wish Sir John had united something of the Christian with the Hero in his death’.11 What is clear is that there is no place in the Knight’s career for the kind of mercenary activity associated with a Hawkwood in Italy (there is indeed no reference to Italy of any kind in the midst of so many references to conflict in ‘the Grete See’, I.59). Moreover, there is no reference even to the great events of English history taking place on the fields of Crécy (26 August 1346) and Poitiers (19 September 1356) in France and Nájera in Castile (3 April 1367) or to the continuing wars against the Scots issuing in such battles as Neville’s Cross (17 October 1346). This is not to say that the Knight was not present on any of these fields of conflict, merely to say that Chaucer chooses not to mention his presence on them.12

The list of the Knight’s campaigns occupies sixteen lines of the text of the portrait (GP, I.51–66) and this fact alone indicates the importance of the campaigns for Chaucer and contemporary readers. These are the Knight’s battle honours of the kind still prized by famous regiments in the British Army, as, for example, the Gloucestershire Regiment with its references to Ramillies, Louisburg, Guadaloupe, Quebec, Martinique, Bussaco (28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot), Egypt, Maida, ← 163 | 164 → Talavera, Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, Toulouse (61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot), and (after amalgamation on 1 July 1881) Mons, Sari Bair, Cassel, Imjin River (inter alia). Alexandria has the pride of place in the regimental history of the Glosters as it has in the career of Chaucer’s Knight (GP, I.51), for it was by fighting back to back under General Sir Ralph Abercromby against the French at Alexandria in 1801 that the Glosters earned the right to wear the famous Back Badge with the battle honour ‘Egypt’ beneath the Sphinx within the laurel leaves of victory.

Chaucer’s list follows no chronological order, but covers a lifetime of fighting of some forty or more years from the siege of Algeçiras to service with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia, Lithuania, and Russia, let us say, from 1343 or so (close to the time of Chaucer’s birth) to 1385 or so (close to the time of the composition of the General Prologue). If we assume, as was the common case, that the Knight first experienced battle in person at the age of sixteen, we shall take it that he was born in or around 1327 (like Sir Richard Scrope or Sir Richard Stury) and that he is sixty at the time of the pilgrimage to Canterbury. He has now reached the age at which to take stock of his life and to prepare his soul for a higher judgment than that of his fellow pilgrims. While Chaucer’s Knight has been defending the Christian faith by force of arms, Langland’s Piers Plowman (with no less moral nobility) has been following the ways of Truth at the plough for forty years (PPl, B V.542–45):

I haue ben his folwere al þis fourty wynter –

Boþe ysowen his seed and suwed hise beestes,

Wiþinne and wiþouten waited his profit.

I dyke and I delue, I do þat he hoteþ.

It is time for him also to answer to God for what he has done with his life (PPl, B VI.83–84):

‘For now I am old and hoor and haue of myn owene,

To penaunce and to pilgrimage I wol passe wiþ þise oþere.’

The span of forty years is the fullness of a life’s work in the world. Chaucer is less specific here than Langland and as he himself chooses to ← 164 | 165 → be in respect of January in the Merchant’s Tale who is ‘sixty yeer’ (IV.1248 and 1252). Perhaps Chaucer is concerned lest the Knight of the General Prologue be identified with one of the famous knights of his own personal acquaintance. But though the precise number of the Knight’s years is not specified (we might suppose him, let us say, to be fifty-eight, or sixty-two or sixty-four) the period of his life is identified by Chaucer with sufficient exactness. On any calculation the Knight belongs to the period of old age as Dante defines it.13 This is the age in which we expect to find, as Dante also notes, the qualities of prudence, justice, generosity and affability (conspicuous qualities of the Knight).14

The Knight’s Campaigns

II. The Knight’s campaigns fall into three well-defined groups, and he is to be found in different places at different times as the centre of crusading conflict shifts from the western to the eastern Mediterranean and far to the north in the Baltic. These are the geographical extremities of Christendom as they would have been perceived in the middle of the fourteenth century. Even a modern tourist travelling by air and ocean liner, or by train and by coach, would struggle to match the Knight’s daunting itinerary.

Spain and the Western Mediterranean

Thus the Knight campaigns in Spain against the Moors. He was at Algeçiras which was besieged for nearly two years (1342–1344) by Alfonso XI of Castile. The surrender of Algeçiras in 1344 was a momentous event, for it secured the Straits of Gibraltar against further Moorish invasion from North Africa. Perhaps the Knight was in the party of the famous Henry of Grosmont, Earl of Derby (the king’s lieutenant in Aquitaine from 1345 to ← 165 | 166 → 1347 and from 1349 to 1350, and in 1351 Duke of Lancaster) and William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury,15 who were on embassy to Castile in 1343 and present at the siege of Algeçiras in that year. Chaucer’s Knight has also ‘riden in Belmarye’ (GP, I.57). This is usually interpreted as a reference to the kingdom of Ben(a)marin in Morocco, but such a proposed identification gives rise only to historical difficulties of interpretation.16 There is much to be said for identifying Chaucer’s Belmarye with Almeria. This possibility is suggested in the note to Robinson’s second edition of 1957,17 and the case has recently been strengthened in an interesting article by Jeanne Krochalis.18 Thus we have a coherent series of geographical references to Gernade, Algezir and Belmarye (GP, I.56–57).19 In the fourteenth century Granada is a Moorish kingdom (and remains so until its conquest in 1492). Algeçiras is at its extreme western boundary and Almeria at its eastern extremity.20 If we take Almeria rather than Morocco as one of the theatres of the Knight’s crusading activity we shall have no difficulty in placing an English knight there and accordingly no difficulty in accounting for the resonance of the name for a contemporary English audience.

The campaign of Bertrand du Guesclin and Sir Hugh Calveley21 in support of Henry of Trastámara in Castile in 1366 was no doubt designed in large measure to remove the Free Companies from Normandy, Brittany, Chartrain and the Loire provinces.22 It was supported for that reason by Pope Urban V (1362–1370) in the course of negotiations with Charles V of France (1364–1380) on the one hand and the Black Prince, Sir John Chandos and Jean de Grailly, captal de Buch on the other in the spring of 1365.23 It was given the colour of a crusade insofar as it was officially directed against the Moorish kingdom of Granada, for Pedro I of Castile was supported by the King of Granada, Mohammed V (whom he had helped to restore as king in 1362) and also by the Kings of Benmarin and Tlemcen.24 Indeed, du Guesclin was crowned King of Granada at Burgos on Palm Sunday, 29 March 1366, and Calveley was assigned the fortified places of the King of Benmarin to the north of the Straits of Gibraltar.25 Hence these two mercenaries, Breton and English, and in all probability brothers-in-arms, were to be seen as fighting together against ‘the enemies of the Christian faith’.26 The names of Benmarin and Tlemcen must have been familiar to Chaucer from his own experience at this period, for he was ← 166 | 167 → in Navarre at the beginning of 1366, possibly in the company of Eustache d’Aubrécicourt, who had been recruited by Charles of Navarre in January 1366, and was present in the Navarrese court from 3 February to 19 March 1366.27 With the shifting of political allegiances (and the honouring by English mercenaries of their primary allegiance to the King of England) Sir Hugh Calveley is to be found at Nájera on 3 April 1367 in the rearguard under the Mallorcan Pretender, Jaime ‘IV’, facing the army of Henry of Trastámara and Bertrand du Guesclin. Sir Eustache d’Aubrécicourt is in the Battle of the Black Prince himself. It is in shifting political circumstances such as these (and as Chaucer knew them) that we must find a place for the worthy Knight. The field of battle is not as a rule a place for those with delicate moral scruples. The Knight of the General Prologue is all the more admirable on that account.

Egypt, Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean

The key to Chaucer’s list of campaigns is no doubt the name of Alexandria which stands at its head. Behind the name of Alexandria is the celebrated figure of Peter I (Pierre de Lusignan), King of Cyprus (1359–1369), whose career is identified with the idea of a Christian crusade in the 1360s. This is indeed a period when English knights were free to express their crusading idealism after the treaty of Brétigny brought a temporary closure to the war with France just as other English knights (Calveley, Hawkwood, Knolles) embarked on careers as mercenaries with the Free Companies. Even such mercenaries were not immune to the attractions of the crusade, as for example Calveley alongside du Guesclin in Granada, especially when the profits of war could be added to the sense of religious propriety.28 Hawkwood himself seems in this respect a notable exception (though not in other respects failing to demonstrate the conventional outward signs of piety).29 Knolles on the other hand went further in his desire for absolution from Urban V in 1366 by making restitution to the citizens of Auxerre for the exactions he imposed on them in 1359.30← 167 | 168 →

The reign of Peter I is the great period of the power and reputation of Cyprus, and one look at the map of the eastern Mediterranean will make clear the significance of his crusading activity at Antalya, that is, Attaleia/Adalia, Chaucer’s Satalye, in southern Anatolia (1361),31 Alexandria in Egypt (1365) and Ayas, that is, Lajazzo, Chaucer’s Lyeys (1367), in the medieval kingdom of Cilicia or Lesser Armenia.32 Aided by the Hospitallers Peter surprised and captured Antalya in 1361. Present on this occasion were the English knights Sir Humphrey de Bohun (1342–1373), Earl of Hereford, perhaps anxious to justify his noble lineage,33 and Sir William Scrope, second son of Sir Henry Scrope, who died in the East.34 Between October 1362 and June 1365 Peter of Cyprus embarked from Venice on a tour of the European courts, including those in London and Bordeaux, accompanied by the papal legate, Peter Thomas, and his chancellor, Philippe de Mézières, to gather support for a crusade. By the summer of 1365 165 vessels had been assembled at Rhodes for the attack on Alexandria. In reality this was little more than a plundering raid (and in this repect we may have some sympathy with the criticisms of Terry Jones).35 The crusaders arrived at Alexandria on 9 October 1365 (Peter of Cyprus’s birthday). Here the Earl of Hereford was again present, on this occasion in the company of Sir Stephen Scrope, third son of Sir Henry Scrope and later 2nd Lord Scrope of Masham (1392–1406), who was knighted by Peter of Cyprus before Alexandria. The crusaders made their assault on 10 October and departed less than a week later on 16 October having put the city to the sword and looted it. Nevertheless at the time it was hailed, above all by Machaut, as an outstanding vindication of Christian chivalry. The attack on Ayas in 1367, lasting no longer than a week or so and leaving the town burning but the citadel unconquered, is in essence another plundering raid answering the dynastic ambitions of the King of Cyprus.36

But the medieval verdict on these events is not our verdict, and for the portrait of the Knight it is the medieval verdict that counts. Thus for Machaut Antalya is a city ‘grande et puissant et ferme et forte’ and yet helpless before the irresistible force of ‘li bons rois’ (PA, 647 and 650), the sacking of Alexandria is ‘ceste tres noble victoire’ (PA, 2970) and at Ayas God grants ‘[l]i nobles roys frans et gentis/the noble king, generous and worthy … grace, pris, honneur et victoire,/ favor, praise, honor, and victory’ ← 168 | 169 → (PA, 7007 and 7086). Petrarch no less describes the fall of Alexandria as ‘a great and memorable event’ and as ‘this outstanding operation’ in a letter to Boccaccio on 20 July 1367 (his sixty-fourth birthday).37 We can hardly expect Chaucer to have disagreed with Machaut and Petrarch on the significance of these defining events for the world in which he lived. And if he had done so we need compelling evidence to believe it.

Peter of Cyprus did not long survive these grand occasions of crusading victories and on 16/17 January 1369 he is murdered by his nobles, with his two brothers, John, Prince of Antioch (regent 1369–1371) and James, Constable of Jerusalem (later James I of Cyprus, 1382–1398), privy to the conspiracy. The fall of the ‘worthy Petro, kyng of Cipre, …/ That Alisandre wan by heigh maistrie’ (MkT, VII.2391–92) is recorded by Chaucer after that of Pedro I of Spain in the catalogue of illustrious men brought low by fortune. No mention is made of the waywardness and petty oppressions of Peter of Cyprus’s final days (and it is perhaps unlikely that Chaucer had any knowledge of them).38 They are not in any event appropriate in this poetic register. By 1373 Antalya had been surrendered to the Turks in order to meet the Genoese threat to Famagusta and by October 1373 the Genoese invasion fleet had arrived off Famagusta.39 It is surely not by coincidence that Chaucer was in Genoa in 1373 any more than that he was in Navarre in 1366.

Prussia, Lithuania and the Eastern Baltic

The third great theatre of crusading activity in the fourteenth century was in Prussia, Lithuania and Russia in the colder and even remoter climes of the Baltic Sea. This was in a way the crusade par excellence in its purest form. Who would want to journey to these desolate and inhospitable regions unless spurred on by the deepest instincts of religious enthusiasm (or perhaps by the despair of an unrequited love)? Here the English crusader could prove himself in the company of the Teutonic knights in their white surcoats with the black cross. ← 169 | 170 →

The Teutonic Knights (or Order of St Mary of the Germans) were a crusading military order formed in Acre in Palestine on 5 March 1198 on the model of the Knights Templar and approved in 1199 by Pope Innocent III. The Teutonic Knights were invited by Andrew II to Hungary in 1211 and thence to Prussia in 1226 to undertake the conversion of the Baltic Old Prussians. In 1237 the Order of the Knights of the Sword, founded in 1202 in Livonia, was incorporated into the Teutonic Knights.40 In 1245 Pope Innocent IV (1243–1254) granted plenary indulgences to all who went to fight with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia, whether in response to a specific appeal or not, thus inaugurating the so-called ‘perpetual crusade’.41 The monastic state of the Teutonic Order in 1300 stretched along the eastern Baltic from the boundary of Pomerania and the Vistula to the boundary of Estonia and by 1390 was even more extensive (Estonia having been acquired from Denmark in 1346).42 It included Königsberg (originally the capital of the Prussian diocese of Samland, now Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave on the Baltic between Poland and Lithuania) and Livonia/Latvia. After the fall of Acre in 1291 the seat of the Grand Master was located in Venice and from 1309 in Marienburg (named after the patron saint of the order, the Virgin Mary, now Malbork in northern Poland). Latvia had been converted to Christianity in the crusade of 1193–1230, whereas Lithuania remained predominantly pagan until its permanent conversion to Christianity in 1385 through its union with Poland by the marriage of Grand Duke Jagiello to Jadwiga, heiress to the Polish throne.43 Hence the Teutonic Knights were engaged in a struggle (ultimately vain) lasting for almost two centuries for the acquisition of Lithuanian Samogitia as a land bridge between Prussia and Livonia. Chaucer’s reference to Ruce (GP, I.54), that is, Russia (usually understood to be the area around Novgorod further to the east of Livonia) has been interestingly interpreted as a reference to Rossenia, a province in Samogitia. This makes a good deal more sense than Russia itself in terms of the strategic interests of the Teutonic Knights and is indeed at the heart of the reise of 1390 undertaken by Henry of Bolingbroke.44

Thus the twenty-second Grand Master of the Order (1351–1382), Winrich von Kniprode (b.1310), was constantly at war with the Duchy of Lithuania. Von Kniprode was succeeded as Grand Master by Konrad III Zöllner von Rotenstein (1382–1390) and he in turn (eventually) by ← 170 | 171 → Konrad von Wallenrode (1391–1393). Von Wallenrode was chiefly responsible for organising the crusades against the Duchy of Lithuania under von Rotenstein and his name must have been one familiar to Chaucer’s Knight. The Knight may have been in Prussia as early as 1348 and between 1357 and 1358.45 But he must certainly have been in Prussia on several occasions at a later date, for we are told authoritatively that ‘[f]ul ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne/ Aboven alle nacions in Pruce’ (GP, I.52–53).46 This is a conspicuous honour bestowed more than once and fully justifies the subsequent assertion of his outstanding worth as one who ‘everemoore … hadde a sovereyn prys’ (GP, I.67).47 We know of five occasions in the fourteenth century on which the Ehrentisch or Table of Honour was held in the hall at Königsberg, namely, 1375, 1377, 1385, 1391 and 1392, but doubtless there were more. Sir Geoffrey Scrope, eldest son of Sir Henry Scrope, died on a reise at the siege of Piskre in Lithuania in 1362.48 Sir Richard Scrope’s eldest son, William (c.1351–1399), later Earl of Wiltshire, went on a reise to Lithuania with the Teutonic knights (but surely not in 1362)49 and perhaps also his third son, Stephen, did as well. Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur) was on crusade in Prussia in 1383, Sir William Martel present at the Table of Honour in 1385, and Henry of Bolingbroke was in Königsberg in 1391 and 1392.50

It is possible (unless we prefer to date the portrait of the Knight after 1391) that Bolingbroke was inspired by Chaucer’s account of the Knight when he went on crusade to Prussia in 1390–1391 at the age of twenty-four. He left Boston in Lincolnshire on or around 20 July 1390, landing at Rixhöft on the Pomeranian coast on 8 August, thence to Danzig on 9 August. He proceeded by way of Brandenburg to Insterburg (21 August) and to a junction with the Teutonic Knights under Marshal Engelhardt Rabe on the 22 August for the reise into the Wilderness of Lithuania. On 28 August an engagement was fought in crossing the River Wilia and the crusaders proceeded to the siege of Vilnius (4 September–7 October). On his return to England Bolingbroke stayed at Könisberg throughout the winter (20 October 1390–9 February 1391), thence to Danzig (15 February) and, setting sail for England on 31 March, back to Hull which was reached on 30 April 1391. Henry had the physical capacity for such an arduous adventure. There was no doubt as to his personal bravery and he arrived home, according to the Monk of Westminster, ‘sanus et hilaris/healthy ← 171 | 172 → and jovial’.51 So much so indeed that he embarked on a second crusade to Prussia in 1392, albeit abandoning it for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land after reaching Königsberg on 2 September 1392.

These are indeed far-flung campaigns and as such they add greatly to our sense of the Knight’s illustriousness. Charny speaks with feeling of the perilous adventures encountered by knights ‘es chemins et voiages d’aler querir tel fait d’armes, comme en peril de mer, de rivieres, et passer de mauvais paz et pons, de rimours, de robeurs/ on their journeys in search of deeds of arms, such as the danger of crossing sea or river, of passing over treacherous places or bridges, of encountering riots or robbers’ and of the honour that is due to those who ‘a grant mise et a grant travail et en grant peril se mettent en aler et en veoir les lointains païs et estranges choses/ at great expense, hardship, and grave peril undertake to travel to and see distant countries and strange things’.52

The crusades to Prussia and Lithuania or to Turkey were to places impossibly remote and desolate and with no prospect of a safe return. The memorials of these adventurous knights are to be found in such places where they fell, as of Sir Geoffrey Scrope at Königsberg and of another Sir Henry Scrope at Messembra.53 The lady wearied of the attentions of an importunate lover could rest content if her love inspired an unwanted lover to set out on crusade to such distant and inhospitable parts. Happily, Blanche the Duchess (Bolingbroke’s mother) is not such a lady. She does not ‘sende men into Walakye,/ To Pruyse, and into Tartarye,/ To Alysaundre, ne into Turkye’ (BD, 1024–26).54

We expect order and coherence in medieval portaits, but the range of Chaucer’s geographical references (a reflection no doubt of his own career and experience as a young man) has hitherto baffled us. The poet of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight begins with a series of orderly geographical references to the founding of the medieval kingdoms, moving as he does from Rome to Tuscany to Lombardy and to Britain (SGGK, 8–19). We expect to find the same principle of order in Chaucer’s geographical references. The identification of Belmarye as Almeria in particular now enables us to do so. Standing at the head (let us say, as a Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt, Trafalgar or Waterloo, but not, pace Krochalis, Dunkirk) is Alexandria, the great crusading event of Chaucer’s age. That is followed by references to the ← 172 | 173 → crusade in Prussia. This is a contemporary phenomenon, that is, of the 1380s and 1390s, and it is directed against the heathen, not Moslems. Then there are the references to Spain in the western Mediterranean and to Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. The logic of this sequence is that Tramyssene (GP, I.62), usually taken to be Tlemcen in North West Algeria, close to the Moroccan border, is in fact also a reference to Turkey, especially as it is followed by the concluding reference to Turkey (GP, I.64–66). Hence Pratt’s suggestion that Tramyssene is a reference to Termessos near Antalya and to the Knight’s continuation in the service of Peter of Cyprus in the period 1361–1364 has its attractions.55 Even if there is no certainty in this matter, Chaucer’s text leaves us in no doubt that wherever he is fighting the Knight was fighting still ‘for oure feith’ (GP, I.62). As so often with Chaucer, we ‘hoppe alwey byhynde’ (TC, II.1107).

The Crusade in the Fourteenth Century

III. The facts of the Knight’s life as a crusader (facts that are beyond dispute) compel us to confront the nature of the crusade and attitudes to the crusade in England in the late fourteenth century. We may begin by recognising (as Keen has taught us) that English knights in the late fourteenth century did not shrink from the idea of a crusade but (if political considerations were otherwise amenable) were inspired by the prospect of the crusade.56 At the same time this is a matter of individual piety rather than political policy. Edward III, albeit attracted to the notion of a crusade in the company of his earthly enemy, Jean II, the King of France (who took the crusader’s vow to free the Holy Land along with Peter of Cyprus on Good Friday, 31 March 1363, but died on 8 April 1364) is cautious in committing national resources to a crusade of which the outcome is far from certain. Thus the King of Cyprus is royally entertained by the king and by John of Gaunt at the Savoy in November 1363 and a tournament is held in his honour at Smithfield,57 but he is not supported by the commitment of great resources of arms and men. The Knight can be applauded in his ← 173 | 174 → personal commitment to the crusade in Cyprus, but his devotion does not threaten concerns of the English state. Nevertheless, as Chaucer’s portrait itself indicates, the crusade remains a reference point for European civilisation in the later Middle Ages.

Clearly we can no longer think of the religious crusade at this time in the narrow sense of the recovery of Jerusalem or of the defence of the Holy Land or of a simple clash between Christian and Moslem civilisations. There are crusades in many theatres of war. There were crusades in Spain against the Moors and in the Baltic among the Slavs beyond the Elbe in Lithuania and Latvia. There were crusades against heretics and schismatics (the Albigensian crusade launched by Innocent III (1198–1216) in 1208) and against secular powers in the West, not least in Italy itself.58 The papal practice in the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries of granting indulgences for participation in crusades makes clear the essential equivalence of crusades in Spain, Germany or the Baltic, as also crusades against pagans, heretics and schismatics and even secular powers in Western Europe to those against Moslems in the Holy Land.59 A crusade is variously termed. It is not only a croiserie, but also a pilgrimage (iter or peregrinatio, of which Chaucer’s viage is possibly a synonym)60 or a holy war (bellum sacrum). Crusaders are crucesignati, ‘signed with the Cross’, or simply pilgrims.61 Such a crusader was Edmund Plantagenet (1245–1296), brother of Edward I and first Earl of Lancaster, the grandfather of Henry of Grosmont. His expedition to the Holy Land in 1271–1272 earned him the nickname ‘Crouchback’, that is, crossed back.62 Hence Chaucer’s Knight is a pilgrim knight in every sense, summing up in his life and purpose the deepest religious values of the pilgrimage to Canterbury. The penitential element is indeed central to the definition of a crusade. Participation in a crusade implies the taking of a vow and the wearing of the Cross as an emblem until the fulfilment of the vow.63 Perhaps we are to suppose (and perhaps Chaucer takes it for granted) that the stained surcoat of the Knight is marked by the red cross on a (once) white field. Chaucer’s Knight is at one with Spenser’s Red Cross Knight in his religious convictions and hence no doubt also in his dress. Chaucer must have seen often enough on his many travels the reality of war. The ‘bloodie Crosse’, worn in ‘deare remembrance of [the] dying Lord’, exists side by side with ‘[t]he cruell markes of many’ a bloody fielde’ (FQ, I.1.1–2). ← 174 | 175 →

The crusader is not or need not be a religious fanatic, but answers the call of the Pope, the only legitimate authority for a crusade. If we wish to find fault with the very idea of a crusade the blame must be laid at the feet of the papacy rather than at the feet of individual knights. The proper motive for an individual in undertaking a crusade is as an act of penitence for sin and such a penitential act is rewarded by a papal indulgence.64 Such an ideal is marked by temperance in the daily conduct of life and hence has no room for ostentation and excess by way of dress, and in that respect the simplicity of the Knight’s dress marks him out as a true pilgrim.65 Presence on a crusade is indeed a mark of holiness of life.66

By definition, therefore, a crusading knight is a volunteer and we may confidently say of the Knight, as Chaucer says of the Parson, that he is ‘noght a mercenarie’ (GP, I.514).67 Indeed, the undertaking of a crusade was liable to be financially punitive rather than rewarding, and it was necessary to make arrangements to safeguard a crusader’s financial assets during his absence. Consequently, although crusading is popular in England in the fourteenth century it remains the preserve of the very rich, of men such as Henry of Grosmont and Henry of Bolingbroke.68

The Knight’s status as the highest ranking of the pilgrims is beyond dispute and crusades of the kind he has undertaken required a great deal of inherited wealth. It is likely that he was a knight banneret, as were Thomas Percy, Thomas Felton and Richard Burley on their election as Knights of the Garter in 1376, 1381 and 1382 respectively,69 or as Sir John Chandos, receiving his banner from the hands of the Black Prince and Pedro of Castile on the field at Nájera in 1367.70 Chandos was already by then, and had been for many years, a knight of the greatest distinction as a founder-knight of the Order of the Garter. The difference in Chandos’s condition in 1367 must have been one of sufficient wealth to support the estate of banneret. The terms squier and bacheler (GP, I.79–80), used of the Knight’s son, reinforce the link with the established landed aristocracy.71

Crusades are at one and the same time wars and pilgrimages. Hence they must answer to the principles of a just war. They cannot be wars of aggrandisement or conversion, but rather defensive wars in which the use of violence is the lesser of two evils.72 The First Crusade to the Holy Land (1096–1102) was in this sense deemed just, for its object as proposed by ← 175 | 176 → Urban II (1088–1089), a Cluniac monk, was not the conquest but the reconquest or recovery of Jerusalem. Hence Edward Fairfax’s translation of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata which was published in 1600 is entitled Godfrey of Bulloigne or The Recoverie of Ierusalem.73 It was a defensive and hence a just war.74 As we have seen, successive popes soon extended the notion of a crusade beyond the limited aim of the recovery of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, those who took part in crusades must have continued to believe that their cause was just. And Chaucer’s Knight (and Chaucer himself) must be included in their number.

The High Order of Knighthood

IV. Chaucer spent his whole life in the company of knights and on occasion fought in the midst of knights. His portrait of the Knight reflects this knowledge of the conduct of knights in the exercise of their profession by the use of a distinctive and rare technical vocabulary. Thus the very word for a military expedition with the Teutonic knights is reise, and Chaucer adverts to it in saying of the Knight that ‘[i]n Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce’ (GP, I.54).75 The equivalent word for a military raid in Northern France, of which there were many in Chaucer’s own lifetime, including that of 1359–1360 in which he himself participated, is the chevauchée, and Chaucer uses it with an equal precision in referring to the Squire’s presence ‘in chyvachie/ In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie’ (GP, I.85–86).76 The word armee has reference to a land or sea expedition,77 and ‘in the Grete See/ At many a noble armee’ (GP, I.59–60) is an excellent description of the fleets or armadas of 126 ships for the assault on Antalya in 1361, of 165 ships assembled at Rhodes in 1365 for the assault on Alexandria and of 140 or more ships for an attack on Tripoli in 1367.78 The Knight has been present at no fewer than fifteen ‘mortal batailles’ (GP, I.61) and this is the defining vindication of his very function as a knight, for he is thus marked out by his prowess and good fortune alike. He has been in the thick of the action, whether in vanguard, main army or rearguard, on great occasions ← 176 | 177 → such as Crécy as well as in countless skirmishes and sieges of the kind that punctuate a chevauchée.79

The Knight’s prowess as an individual knight has been tested à l’outrance ‘[i]n lystes thries’ (GP, I.63)80 against a picked opponent designed to test his chivalry to the uttermost. This is as near a level playing-field as one can get in respect of deeds of arms, as distinct from the confusion of the mêlée and of battle itself. Here we see the willingness of trusty knights ‘in jopardé to lay/ … lif for lyf, leue vchon oþer,/ As fortune wolde fulsun hom, þe fayrer to haue’ (SGGK, 97–99). The Knight has not been found wanting on any one of these three occasions. Chaucer uses the verb slen to define his honourable conduct: he has ‘ay slayn his foo’ (GP, I.63). Thus Chaucer distinguishes a worthy knight from a mere killer, such as a murderer, a rioter or a looter. The verb killen (much less common than slen in Middle English, while the noun killer is exceedingly rare) is reserved by Chaucer for the violent action of the mob: ‘Certes, he Jakke Straw and his meynee/ Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille/ Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille’ (NPT, VII.3394–96). There is a clear distinction between honourable conduct in battle (where the possibility of death is an ever-present reality) and the cowardly brutality of a mob on the rampage.

Here we need finally to put to rest the claim that the Knight is no more than ‘an effective killer’.81 The use of such language obscures the vital distinction between a soldier and a murderer. In the light of the objections of Terry Jones we must observe also in respect of the Knight the following important facts that define his conduct as a knight. He does not engage with lesser knights in a conspiracy to overthrow a knight he is unable to match on the field of battle or in the lists, as do the supporters of Aggravain against Launcelot. Malory goes to the trouble of identifying the names of the twelve conspirators whom the authors of the French Mort Artu and the English stanzaic Le Morte Arthur judge unworthy of mention by name (MD, 1164/10–17).82 But Malory’s names signify at once the unworthiness of the men who bear them, for they are both vain and pusillanimous. Here we have such men as ‘sir Petipace of Wynchylsé, … sir Melyon de la Mountayne, … sir Gromoresom Erioure, sir Cursesalyne’ (MD, 1164/12–14).83 Only by acting together can they appear ← 177 | 178 → on the great stage of events and hope to bring about the downfall of a Launcelot.

Chaucer’s Knight is not ‘a smylere with the knyf under the cloke’ (KnT, I.1999), that is, killing by an act of treachery and deceit. He is thus to be distinguished from Bertrand du Guesclin and Olivier de Mauny, the Breton mercenaries who aided Henry of Trastámara in his victory over Pedro of Castile at Montiel on 14 March 1369. Pedro took refuge in the castle of Montiel to which Henry at once laid siege, but was delivered up, not fully armed, to his half-brother when he emerged from the castle on 23 March 1369 under a guarantee of safe-conduct by du Guesclin. He was indeed murdered in the lodgings of du Guesclin himself. The salient events have been recorded by Chaucer in The Monk’s Tale (VII.2378–82):

Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee,

And after, at a seege, by subtiltee,

Thou were bitraysed and lad unto his tente,

Where as he with his owene hand slow thee,

Succedynge in thy regne and in thy rente.84

Du Guesclin is identified by his coat of arms, ‘[t]he feeld of snow, with th’egle of blak therinne,/ Caught with the lymrod coloured as the gleede’, that is, argent, an eagle double-tête displayed sable on a baton gules, and Mauny by the play on his name, ‘wikked nest’, that is, mal nid, not a ‘Charles Olyver, …/ Of trouthe and honour’, but ‘of Armorike/ Genylon-Olyver, corrupt for meede’ (MkT, VII.2383–89).85

The Knight is not a pillager who after the outcome of battle takes advantage of the heaps of wounded and dying men to cut their throats and rob them. Froissart identifies the Welsh and Cornish at Crécy as particularly adept at this art: ‘Et là entre ces Englès avoit pillars et ribaus, Gallois et Cornillois, qui poursievoient gens d’armes et arciers, qui portoient grandes coutilles, et venoient entre leurs gens d’armes et leurs arciers qui leur faisoient voie, et trouvoient ces gens d’armes en ce dangier, contes, barons, chevaliers et escuiers; si les occioient sans merci, com grans sires qu’il fust. Par cel estat en y eut ce soir pluiseurs perdus et murdris, don’t ce fu pités et damages, …/ However, among the English there were pillagers and irregulars, Welsh and Cornishmen armed with long knives, who went ← 178 | 179 → out after the French (their own men-at-arms and archers making way for them) and, when they found any in difficulty, whether they were counts, barons, knights or squires, they killed them without mercy. Because of this, many were slaughtered that evening, regardless of their rank. It was a great misfortune …’ (Chroniques, III.187/9–17; Brereton, p. 93). Chaucer himself supplies a brief description of the activity of pillagers at the beginning of the Knight’s Tale when Palamon and Arcite are found among the heaps of the Theban dead (I.1005–8):

To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,

Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,

The pilours diden bisynesse and cure

After the bataille and disconfiture.86

More tragic from an English point of view is the work of the pillagers on Salisbury Plain after the death of Mordred and the destruction of the fellowship of the Round Table (MD, 1237/29–1238/4).87 In ‘The Tale of Arthur and Lucius’ the Saracen knight, Sir Priamus, addresses Sir Gawain contemptuously ‘in his langage of Tuskayne’ as ‘pylloure’ before the fierce combat between them (MD, 229/9 and 11). The language is that of the English alliterative Morte Arthure: ‘ “Whedyr prykkes thow, pilouur, þat profers so large?” ’ (2533).

Indeed, the knight or chevalier is, properly speaking, not to be found on foot at all. This is clearly the view of Sir Lamorak (third in the ranks of Malory’s knights after Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram) and it is expressed in his rebuke of his brothers Agglovale and Darnarde after they have been unhorsed on the sixth day of the tournament at Surluse in ‘The Book of Sir Tristram’ (MD, 667/11–13, and 19–28):

‘Bretherne, ye ought to be ashamed to falle so of your horsis! What is a knyght but whan he is on horsebacke? For I sette nat by a knyght whan he is on foote, for all batayles on foote ar but pyllours in batayles,88 for there sholde no knyght fyghte on foote but yf hit were for treson or ellys he were dryvyn by forse to fyght on foote. Therefore, bretherne, sytte faste in your sadyls, or ellys fyght never more afore me!’

The exercise of arms on horseback is a difficult skill and the training of a knight correspondingly arduous. Hence there is a special distinction in the ← 179 | 180 → fight on horseback. The admiration of Chrétien de Troyes for such skill in knightly combat is explicit in his description of the combat between Yvain, son of Urien, and Esclados the Red at the perilous fountain in the forest of Broceliande in Le Chevalier au Lion (855–61; Staines, p. 267):

Et de ce firent mout que preu,

Qu’onques lor chevaus an nul leu

Ne navrerent ne anpirierent;

Qu’il ne vostrent ne ne deignierent;

Mes toz jorz a cheval se tindrent,

Que nule foiz a pié ne vindrent;

S’an fu la bataille plus bele.

Yet they were men of honour: they did not wish to hit or harm their horses; they would not stoop to such an act. All day they sat astride their horses without setting foot on the ground. And so the combat was the more honourable.

These lines must have been written by Chrétien at the same time as or shortly after he had abandoned the Chevalier de la Charrete (c.1177) and they reassert chivalric values with special feeling.

Malory reconstructs the story of the Knight of the Cart so as to remove any possible criticism of Sir Launcelot for negligence in respect of his care for his horses. Malory’s Sir Launcelot is on foot not because of any impetuosity on his part but because of Sir Mellyagaunce’s cowardice (a motive unknown to Chrétien) in fleeing with the queen and leaving behind thirty of his best archers (surely a sufficient number) to lie in ambush for Sir Launcelot with instructions to slay his horse (MD, 1124/13–19). It is an ungallant and unchivalrous manner of fighting, both in the reliance on superiority of numbers and in being directed against a defenceless horse. The account of the slaying of the horse thus serves to reinforce by contrast our sense of the chivalrousness of Sir Launcelot himself (MD, 1125/29–33). Sir Launcelot is not guilty of unchivalrous or unknightly conduct, but is the victim of it, and the point is underlined by Malory by repeated emphasis. Thus Sir Launcelot’s horse follows the cart after Sir Launcelot has got into it ‘with mo than fourty arowys in hym’ (MD, 1126/34). The queen sees the horse following the cart with ‘hys guttis and hys paunche undir hys feete’ (MD, 1127/10–11). Sir Launcelot is undoubtedly at a disadvantage on foot, ← 180 | 181 → but it is a misfortune not of his own devising and he is angry as any noble knight mindful of his honour and dignity would be (MD, 1126/3–9). Like Spenser’s Sir Guyon he has to learn how to compose these feelings in himself (FQ, II.2.12):

Which when sir Guyon saw, all were he wroth,

 Yet algates mote he soft himselfe appease,

 And fairely fare on foot, how euer loth.

Thus when Sir Lavayne (the brother of Elayne, the fair maid of Astolat, who is assigned by Malory a role corresponding in part to that of Gauvain in the Charrete) meets up with Sir Launcelot at Mellyagaunce’s castle and mentions the incident of the slain horse, Sir Launcelot passes swiftly over the matter (MD, 1130/13–18). Sir Launcelot is an experienced knight and has by now mastered his earlier and justifiable anger at the loss of his horse in such circumstances. But there are more pressing matters to attend to and he has no time for personal vindictiveness.

Nor does Malory overlook the question of Sir Launcelot’s judgment in the choice of horses (far too important a matter for a knight to let go without comment). Thus he contrives that the lady who releases Sir Launcelot from prison for the final combat against Mellyagaunce offers him a choice from among no fewer than twelve horses (MD, 1136/27–33):

And anone she gate hym up untyll hys armour, and whan he was armed she brought hym tylle a stable where stoode twelve good coursers, and bade hym to chose of the beste. Than sir Launcelot loked uppon a whyght courser and that lyked hym beste, and anone he commaunded hym to be sadeled with the beste sadyll of warre, and so hit was done.89

In his choice of a stalwart (or, perhaps, white) horse in Malory’s episode,90 Sir Launcelot shows (like Chaucer’s Knight) the good judgment of an experienced and proven warrior. The last trace of imprudence in the original Knight of the Cart has been erased.

The distaste for fighting on foot is not confined to the books of romance, but reflects the values of an aristocratic and chivalric age. The French at Crécy prefer to die than dismount, as their chivalric predecessors had died when faced with longbowmen and pikemen at Courtrai ← 181 | 182 → (1302), Bannockburn (1314), Morgarten (1315) and Laupen (1339). We must admire their proud warrior-ethos and sense of honour if not their practical wisdom. We can surely applaud with Froissart the chivalry of the blind Jean de Luxembourg, ‘[l]i vaillans et gentilz rois de Behagne’ (Chroniques, III.177.24), dead on the field of battle with his faithful retainers dead around him, and their horses too, tethered together. He had commanded his knights to escort him into the heart of the battle and out of love for his sense of honour and their own they had consented to do so (Chroniques, III.178.17–19; Brereton, p. 89). He is finally recovered from the heaps of the slain by the pillagers, readily identified, like Arcite and Palamon, by his ‘cote-armure’ and his ‘gere’ (KnT, I.1016) (the famous ostrich feathers subsequently adopted by the Black Prince as his shield for peace),91 and on the second day after the battle honourably buried by his English foes.92 Even into the fifteenth century the prestige of the heavy cavalry remains undiminished as the core of every major fifteenth-century army.93

Above all, we cannot doubt that the Knight, humble in bearing and gentle in speech (GP, I.69–71) does not kill the innocent women and children inevitably caught up in the miseries of war, but offers them his protection. In so doing he follows the great example of the humility of Trajan, moved by the supplications of a widow on behalf of her son to attend to the needs of justice in small instances as well as in great. His words to the widow are such as we can imagine on the lips of Chaucer’s Knight himself (Purg., X.91–93; Sinclair, II.135):

 ond’ elli: ‘Or ti conforta; ch’ei convene

ch’i’ solva il mio dovere anzi ch’i’ mova:

giustizia vuole e pietà mi ritene’.

He therefore: ‘Now take comfort, for I must fulfil my duty before I go; justice requires it and compassion bids me stay’.

Indeed, Sir Geoffroi de Charny assures us that for a knight to fight in such a cause is sufficient to save his soul (Livre de chevalerie, 35/195–99 and 203–7):

Encores, se aucun vouloient oster l’onnour ne l’eritage de povres pucelles ne de povres femmes vesves, et autrement ne les peust l’en destourner de ce sanz guerre ou bataille, l’en y doit entrer seurement et pour les corps et pour les ames sauver, et tout en autele maniere pour povres orphelins et orphelines. ← 182 | 183 →

And again, if some people wanted to seize the land and inheritance of defenseless maidens or widows and could not be dissuaded from this except by war or combat, one ought to embark on this confidently in regard to one’s personal reputation and the saving of one’s soul, and the same is true in relation to the defense of orphans.

The language and chivalric idealism is that of Ramon Llull that had so profound an influence in the later Middle Ages, not only on the theory of knighthood but also on the conduct of knights. It is embodied by Malory in the High Order of Knighthood (an order no doubt much like that of the Garter itself). Malory associates the phrase of the High Order of Knighthood with the heroic kingship of Arthur in ‘The Tale of King Arthur’, modelled no doubt on such heroic acts as those of Edward III at the time of Crécy (1346) and Henry V at the time of Agincourt (1415). Thus King Pellinor (as it later appears) urges Arthur to joust with him for a third time ‘for the hyghe Order of Knyghthode’ (MD, 50/5–6).94 In ‘The Tale of Sir Launcelot’ Sir Launcelot is indignant that any knight could contemplate or do harm to a lady (MD, 269/22–25):

‘What?’ seyde sir Launcelot, ‘is he a theff and a knyght? And a ravyssher of women? He doth shame unto the Order of Knyghthode, and contrary unto his oth. Hit is pyté that he lyvyth!’

Malory himself gives this knight (unnamed in the French source) a sufficiently churlish name, Sir Perys de Foreste Savage (MD, 270/12), and Sir Launcelot deals him summarily his death-blow (more summarily than in the French source). All the key details of this brief episode have been supplied by Malory and they focus unerringly on Malory’s understanding of the chivalric ideal.95 We may be confident that Chaucer’s Knight will have endorsed sentiments such as these and vindicated them in his own conduct. In other words Chaucer’s Knight takes his place at the centre of a tradition of heroic knighthood and chivalric idealism.

The final lines of the portrait of the Knight in the General Prologue and the rhyme on viage/pilgrymage (I.77–78) returns us to the sense of the Knight as a pilgrim (and not merely on one occasion on the road to Canterbury). The Knight’s whole way of life is an expression of devotion to these ideals. His eager presence on the pilgrimage to Canterbury is but one more confirmation of that devotion, for it is a devotion (we must hope) that will last to the end of his days. ← 183 | 184 →


1See p. 24 and n. 56 below.

2Terry Jones, Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980), pp. 58, 86–88 and 260.

3See John H. Pratt, Chaucer and War (Lanham, MD, New York, and Oxford: University Press of America, Inc., 2000), pp. 116, 124–25 and 146.

4‘[A]c hie simle feohtende wæran oþ hie alle lægon butan anum Bryttiscum gisle, ond se swiþe gewundad wæs,/ but they were fighting continuously until they all lay [dead] except for one British hostage, and he was very wounded’ (Mitchell and Robinson, p. 210; Swanton, p. 48).

5See Adrian Greaves, Rorke’s Drift (London: Cassell, 2002), pp. 99, 118, 187, 209–10 and 319–20. His name is given as Friedrich Carl Schiess in Michael Glover, Rorke’s Drift (Ware: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1997), p. 135.

6A motif apparently based on the French romance Fierabras or its English version, Sir Ferumbras; see Valerie Krishna, The Alliterative Morte Arthure: A Critical Edition (New York: Burt Franklin & Co., Inc., 1976), pp. 18 and 190–91.

7Malory remembers Sir Priamus sufficiently well to include him later in the episode of the healing of Sir Urry, albeit confusing him with Sir Palomides in the process (‘sir Pryamus whych was crystynde by the meanys of sir Trystram, the noble knyght’, MD, 1149/18–19) and in the list of noble knights slain during the rescue of the queen from the flames (MD, 1177/24–30). Reference is to The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, edited by Eugène Vinaver, third edition, revised by P. J. C. Field, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).

8Palomides is unhorsed by Launcelot on three occasions (MD, 517/32–518/4, 744/14–18 and 1110/15–16); Tristram repeatedly demonstrates his superiority (MD, 401/7–9, 408/19, 425/4–5, 442/20–21, etc.); and Lamorak is also clearly the superior knight (MD, 599/28–32, 605/26–35, 660/22–27, etc.). Nevertheless, Palomides gets the better of Gawain, Gaheris, Aggravain and six other knights at the tournament of King Anguysh in Ireland (MD, 386/15–24) and then of Gawain and his three brothers, Mordred, Gaheris and Aggravain in the tournament at Surluse (MD, 662/33–663/8).

9See Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 147–49 and 224, n. 32; Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation (London: Jonathan Cape, 2006), pp. 109 and 113; and Jonathan Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, third edition (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), p. 81.

10See Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 24–25.← 184 | 185 →

11Letter to Cassandra Austen, Monday, 30 January 1809, in Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, third edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), No. 67, p. 173. The sentiment is presumably the same as that of Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, Number 44 (Saturday, 18 August 1750), edited by W. J. Bate and Albrecht B. Strauss, The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, Volumes III-V (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1969), III.241: ‘The christian and the heroe are inseparable; and to the aspirings of unassuming trust, and filial confidence, are set no bounds. To him who is animated with a view of obtaining approbation from the sovereign of the universe, no difficulty is insurmountable’.

12Pratt points out that the Knight could have been in the field at Poitiers, although his presence at Crécy and Nájera would be more difficult to account for (Chaucer and War, pp. 146–47). We might perhaps imagine him returning from Algeçiras with Henry of Grosmont, Earl of Derby, and William Montagu, 1st Earl of Salisbury, in the autumn of 1343.

13According to the scheme adopted by Dante in the Convivio the four ages of life are adolescence (adolescenzia), the period of life up to twenty-five, youth (gioventute), the period from twenty-five to forty-five, old age (senettute), the period from forty-five to seventy, and senility (senio), the remaining years of life, most fittingly from seventy to eighty (Convivio, IV.xxiv.1–7). Thus Beatrice dies as she is on the threshold of youth at the age of twenty-four ((Purg., XXX.124–25). And the narrative of the Commedia begins at the precise mid-point of the dreamer’s active life in the world (Inf., I.1, and Purg., XXXII.1–2; see Psalm, 89/90.10).

14Convivio, IV.xxvii.2; Ryan, p. 192: ‘E dice che l’anima nobile ne la senetta sì è prudente, sì è giusta, sì è larga, e allegra di dir bene in prode d’altrui e d’udire quello, cioè che è affabile. E veramente queste quattro vertudi a questa etade sono convenientissime,/ It declares that in old age the noble soul is prudent and just and generous, and it takes pleasure in praising excellence to the benefit of others and in hearing this done – it is, in short, affable. These four virtues are indeed most fitting in this stage’.

15Sir William Montagu (1301–1344), 1st Earl of Salisbury, was a close friend of the young Edward III and took a leading part in the coup of 19 October 1330 at Nottingham Castle when Roger Mortimer (1287–1330), the Earl of March, was seized. He served regularly in the Scottish wars in 1333–1338, distinguishing himself at the siege of Berwick in 1333. He became Earl of Salisbury as one of six new comital creations in preparation for the war against France in parliament on 16 March 1337 and in 1338 succeeded the king’s uncle, Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, as Marshal of England. He died on 30 January 1344 of wounds received in Edward III’s tournament at Windsor shortly after his return from Castile. Hence he is not to be confused, as by Hugh E. L. Collins, The Order of ← 185 | 186 → the Garter 1348–1461: Chivalry and Politics in Late Medieval England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), pp. 8 and 325, with his son, also William Montagu (1328–1397), 2nd Earl of Salisbury, who was at Crécy and was one of the founder-knights of the Order of the Garter and married (a.10 February 1341) as his first wife Joan of Kent (c.1328–1385), a marriage that was annulled on 17 November 1349 in the light of the claim by Thomas Holland, Montagu’s steward, of a prior clandestine marriage between Joan and himself c.1339. See ODNB, 38.773–75 and 38.775–77.

16See Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 103–5.

17Robinson, p. 652.

18Jeanne Krochalis, ‘ “And riden in Belmarye”: Chaucer’s General Prologue, Line 57’, ANQ, 18 (2005), 3–8.

19On Belmarye as a possible name for Almeria, see Krochalis, pp. 4–7.

20See Atlas of Medieval Europe, edited by Angus Mackay with David Ditchburn (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 183, and also Kenneth Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, Volume I (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2001), Map 6, ‘The Iberian kingdoms in the fourteenth century’, p. 156.

21Sir Hugh Calveley (d.1394) was the son of David Calveley and his first wife, Joan. He served in the wars of succession in Brittany (1341–1364) on the side of Jean de Montfort (d.1345) against the French claimant, Charles de Blois. He was twice taken prisoner, in 1351 and 1354. He was at Poitiers in 1356, and with the Navarrese forces in Normandy from 1358 to 1359 and in the Auvergne in 1359. At the end of 1360 or early in 1361 he took du Guesclin prisoner in a combat on the bridge of Juigné-sur-Sarthe. In 1362 he commanded a contingent of men-at-arms in the army of Pedro I of Castile in support of Mohammed V, the deposed King of Granada, in his war against Abu Saïd. He was present at the Battle of Auray on 29 September 1364 on the side of Jean IV de Montfort (1339–1399) which brought an end to the succession dispute in Brittany. He was recalled by the Black Prince to Aquitaine on the renewal of hostilities against France in 1369. He entered the service of John of Gaunt in 1371 and was present on Gaunt’s chevauchée of 1373. He was appointed Captain of Calais (1375–1378), admiral of the fleet in the west (1379–1380) and Captain of Brest (1379–1381) along with Sir Thomas Percy. In 1380 he commanded a contingent of 200 men-at-arms and 200 archers in the vanguard of the Earl of Buckingham’s expedition from Calais to the outskirts of Rheims and in 1383 was on another ill-fated expedition in the Bishop of Norwich’s crusade to Flanders (his last campaign). He was knight of the shire twice for Rutland in 1385 and 1390. He had inherited his father’s estate of Lea on the death of David’s second wife, Mabel, in 1361. He died on 23 April 1394, possibly in Guernsey. See ODNB, 9.565–68.← 186 | 187 →

22On the composition of the army raised by du Guesclin, Calveley, Eustache d’Aubrécicourt and Gourderon de Raymont (Lord of Aubeterre in Saintonge) in 1365, see Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.149–50. Present in Calveley’s contingent was Sir Stephen de Cossington, one of the two marshals (the other was Guichard d’Angle) in the vanguard with John of Gaunt and Sir John Chandos at Nájera.

23Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.125–26.

24Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.147–48 and n. 106, and 182.

25Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.148, 170 and 180. In the event, when Henry of Trastámara reached Seville at the end of May 1366 (where he remained until September) he made a truce with the King of Granada (Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.185).

26Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.10–11 and n. 38, 147 and 170.

27Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.173, and n. 56. Although the precise origins and identity of Eustace d’Aubrécicourt remain somewhat obscure he was clearly well known to Chaucer. He was a Hainaulter descended from Nicholas, sire d’Aubrécicourt, who had come with John of Hainault to England in support of the coup of Mortimer and Isabella that resulted in the marriage of Philippa, daughter of William of Hainault, to Edward III in 1328. His son, Sanchet (? died 1349, but identified by some with Eustache himself) is a founder-knight of the Order of the Garter and a life-retainer of Edward III (Collins, The Order of the Garter, pp. 14 n. 33, 54, 121 and 289). Eustache d’Aubrécicourt is at Poitiers in 1356 and in the immediately following years the leader of a company in Champagne and Brie. He is present on the Rheims campaign of 1359–1360 and at the signing of the convention of Calais in 1360 confirming the treaty of Brétigny. On 29 September 1360 he married Isabelle (? Elizabeth) of Juliers, a niece of Queen Philippa, as her second husband. He was retained by Charles of Navarre in 1364, but enrolled by du Guesclin for the campaign to Castile and Granada in 1365 before reverting to his former allegiance. He was present at Auray in 1364 with Chandos, in the main Battle of the Black Prince at Nájera in 1367, and at the siege of Limoges in 1370. He died at Carentan in December 1372 (? 1373). See Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.4, 22, 104–5, 175–76 and 199, and David Green, The Battle of Poitiers 1356 (Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2002), pp. 98–99. He was the uncle of Sir John Dabridgecourt, a life-retainer of John of Gaunt and Henry IV, who was elected KG under Henry V in 1413 (Collins, The Order of the Garter, pp. 49, 54, 122–23 and 293; Anthony Goodman, John of Gaunt: The Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth-Century Europe (New York: 1992), pp. 179 and 236 n. 27). A Nicholas (Collardus) Daubrichecourt was Chaucer’s fellow esquire in the household of Edward III at Christmas 1368, at the time of ← 187 | 188 → the death of Queen Philippa in 1369 and also in the period up to 1377 (Crow and Olson, pp. 43 n. 5, 95 and 98–102).

28Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.146–48.

29See William Caferro, John Hawkwood: An English Mercenary in Fourteenth-Century Italy (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), p. 333.

30Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.145–46. Sir Robert Knolles (d.1407), probably son of Richard, of yeoman stock from Tushingham in the parish of Malpas, Cheshire, was the long-time brother-in-arms of Sir Hugh Calveley. He was in Brittany with Calveley at the siege of La Roche-Derrien in 1346 and in the Battle of the Thirty on 26 March 1351 (between two teams à l’outrance) after which both were taken prisoner. He made his fortune in Brittany in the early 1350s under the allegiance of Edward III and his ward, John de Montfort. He made raiding expeditions in Orléannais and Auvergne in 1358–1359 and captured Auxerre on 10 March 1359. He was in Savoy and Italy with Hawkwood in 1361 and at Auray in 1364. He fought on the left wing at Nájera in 1367 before returning to Brittany. By this time he had acquired manors in Norfolk to which he eventually retired. He was on a series of unsuccessful chevauchées to Northern France, in 1370 (when he held command), under Buckingham in 1380 and under the Bishop of Norwich in 1383. He was with the king, Richard II, at Mile End on 14 June 1381. He died at Sculthorpe, his chief Norfolk manor, on 15 August 1407. He was the most famous English professional soldier of The Hundred Years War, described by Walsingham as ‘a most invincible knight’ (St Albans Chronicle, 22). See ODNB, 31.952–57.

31Antalya was founded by and named after Attalus II of Pergamon, c.158 B.C. and was in Byzantine hands until the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204); see The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia, edited by T. S. R. Boase (Edinburgh and London: Scottish Academic Press, 1978), p. 153. The form Satalye (Satalia) with initial ‘s’ for Attal(e)ia/Adalia is to be explained as the result of the survival of the Greek preposition. See W. B. Sedgwick, ‘Satalye (Chaucer, C. T. Prol. 58)’, RES, 2 (1926), 346.

32Ayas/Lajazzo in Cilician Armenia was a seaport on the western side of the Gulf of Alexandretta (not in fact close to Antioch/Antakya, on the eastern side of the gulf, inland and further south), fortified with a land and sea (island) castle, although after 1337 all the fortifications were destroyed. The form Lyeys with initial ‘l’ for Ayas(h/i) results from the presence of the French definite article. See Palmer, PA, p. 446.

33Son and heir of William de Bohun, 1st Earl of Northampton, succeeding him as 2nd Earl of Northampton on 16 September 1360 and succeeding his uncle as Earl of Hereford and Essex and Constable of England on 15 October 1361. He ← 188 | 189 → was a friend of John of Gaunt and elected Knight of the Garter in December 1364 at the young age of twenty-two (see Collins, The Order of the Garter, pp. 72, 73 n. 162 and 290). He died without a male heir on 16 January 1373, leaving his two daughters as co-heirs; the elder, Eleanor de Bohun, who married Thomas of Woodstock (youngest son of Edward III) and the younger, Mary de Bohun (d. 1394), who married Henry of Bolingbroke (later Henry IV). See The Complete Peerage, edited by Vicary Gibbs and others, second edition, 13 vols in 14 parts (London: The St Catherine Press, 1910–1959; reprinted in 6 vols, Stroud: Sutton Publishing Limited, 2000), VI.473–77, and Goodman, John of Gaunt, p. 277.

34See John Matthews Manly, ‘A Knight Ther Was’, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 38 (1907), 89–107, reprinted in Chaucer: Modern Essays in Criticism, edited by Edward Wagenknecht, pp. 46–59 (p. 58), and Maurice Keen, ‘Chaucer’s Knight’, pp. 108–10.

35See Jones, Chaucer’s Knight, pp. 42–49.

36See Peter W. Edbury, The Kingdom of Cyprus and the Crusades, 1191–1374 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 161–71 and Boase, The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia, p. 155.

37See Francis Petrarch, Letters of Old Age: Rerum senilium libri, I-XVIII, translated by Aldo S. Bernardo, Saul Levin and Reta A. Bernardo, 2 vols (Baltimore, MD and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), I.302–3 and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 118–19.

38See Edbury, The Kingdom of Cyprus, pp. 171–75.

39Peter’s wife, Eleanor of Aragon, took the opportunity of the war with Genoa to pursue her vendetta against John, Prince of Antioch, and, in 1375, inviting him to a feast, had him assassinated on the presentation of Peter I’s bloodstained shirt in the best approved manner of a Ptolemy, thus making finally secure the inheritance of her son, who ruled Cyprus as Peter II (1369–1382). See Norman Housley, The Later Crusades, 1274–1580: From Lyons to Alcazar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 194–95 and Edbury, The Kingdom of Cyprus, pp. 174, 198–99, 201–4 and 206.

40See New Catholic Encyclopedia, second edition (2003), 13.840–44.

41See Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 30 and 94.

42See Atlas of Medieval Europe, pp. 98 and 100. The power of the Teutonic Order was eventually broken on 15 July 1410 at the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunwald) by a Polish-Lithuanian army under Jagiello and Vytautas.

43See NCE, second edition (2003), 8.603–5 and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 142–44.

44See William Urban, ‘When was Chaucer’s Knight in “Ruce” ’, ChR, 18 (1984), 347–53 and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 111–12.← 189 | 190 →

45See Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 105–7 and 111.

46See MED, s.v. bord n. 4b. (d) biginnen the ~, ‘to sit at the head of the table’.

47See MED, s.v. ever-mo(r adv. 1a. ‘At all times, on all occasions, under all circumstances; every or each time, on every or each occasion’; soverain adj. 1. (b) ‘of something, a quality, virtue, an act, office, etc.: principal, paramount, supreme, chief; highest; greatest, most notable, foremost of its kind; excellent’, and pris n. (1) 9. (a) ‘Fame, renown; good reputation; … soverain ~, sterling reputation’.

48See ODNB, 49.555, Keen, ‘Chaucer’s Knight’, pp. 108, 109, 110 and 177, Manly, ‘A Knight Ther Was’, p. 58 and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 14, 84 and 129.

49So Collins, The Order of the Garter, pp. 67 and 105.

50See Muriel Bowden, A Commentary on the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, second edition (New York and London: Macmillan, 1967), pp. 63–66 and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 125–26.

51See F. R. H Du Boulay, ‘Henry of Derby’s Expeditions to Prussia 1390–1 and 1392’, in The Reign of Richard II: Essays in Honour of May McKisack, edited by F. R. H. Du Boulay and Caroline M. Barron (London: The Athlone Press, 1971), pp. 153–72.

52Le Livre de chevalerie, 40/28–30 and 40/29–31, pp. 176–77, and 9/13–15 and 9/14–16, pp. 90–91.

53Keen, ‘Chaucer’s Knight’, p. 110.

54Walakye is Wallachia in Romania and Tartarye is perhaps Outer Mongolia; see the note in The Riverside Chaucer, p. 974. There is a suggestion of the exotic here which is not to be found in the portrait of the Knight.

55Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 114–15. The suggestion makes us aware (yet again) of the difficulty involved in the identification of persons and places (sometimes identical names of persons and places).

56Keen, ‘Chaucer’s Knight’, pp. 114–19.

57Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 113–14.

58Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. xi–xii and 16–22.

59Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 4–5.

60See MED, s.v. viage n. (a) ‘A journey by land or sea; a pilgrimage; a journey of adventure; the journey and sojourn of an ambassador’ and (b) ‘a military expedition; a martial undertaking’.

61Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, p. 2.

62See ODNB, 17.755–60.

63See Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 53–55.

64Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 2–4.

65Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 7–8 and 58.

66Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 9 and 55–56.← 190 | 191 →

67See MED, s.v. mercenari(e n. ‘A hireling, one who has no interest in anything except his pay’. This is the first recorded use of the word in English by many years.

68See Du Boulay, ‘Henry of Derby’s Expeditions’, pp. 168–69, Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 110–11 and Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 72–73.

69See Collins, The Order of the Garter, p. 297.

70‘Adonc prisent li princes et li rois dans Piètres qui là estoit, la banière entre leurs mains, et le desvolepèrent, qui estoit d’argent à un peu aguisiet de geules, et li rendirent par le hanste, en disant ensi: “Tenés, messire Jehan, veci vostre baniere …” ’ (Chroniques, VII.34.27–31). See Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 157–58.

71See MED, s.v. squier n. 1. (a) ‘An aspirant to knighthood in the feudal military system; an esquire or a personal servant attendant upon a knight; a soldier below the rank of a knight’ and 2.(a) ‘A member of the landowning class next below the rank of a knight; the son of a knight’ and bacheler n. 1. (a) ‘A young man, a youth’, 2. ‘An aspirant to knighthood; a novice in arms, a squire’ and 4. (a) ‘A knight in the social scale, ranking just below the hereditary nobleman’ and (b) ‘a knight belonging to the lower of the two ranks of knights; a knight bachelor (as distinguished from a knight banneret)’ and Pratt, Chaucer and War, p. 158.

72See Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 5–6 and 9.

73See Torquato Tasso: Jerusalem Delivered, introduced by Roberto Weiss (London: Centaur Press Ltd, 1962), p. xvii.

74See Riley-Smith, What Were the Crusades?, pp. 11–14.

75MED, s.v. reisen v. (2) ‘To make a military expedition; also, journey, travel’. Only two examples of this verb are supplied. See also MED, s.v. reis n. ‘A journey; also, a military expedition’ (rare), and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 83–84.

76MED, s.v. chevauche n. (b) ‘a cavalry expedition or raid’. This is a word that first appears in the late fourteenth century. It is used ironically by Chaucer in reference to the Cook’s horsemanship: ‘a fair chyvachee of a cook’ (MancProl, IX.50).

77See MED, s.v. arme(e n. (b) ‘a military expedition (by land or sea)’ and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 84–85.

78See Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 114, 116 and 123.

79See MED, s.v. batail(le) n. 2a. (a) ‘A hostile encounter between two armies, a battle’ and 3. ‘A body of warriors, esp. as ready for battle; an army or a division of it; troop, company, battalion’ and mortal adj. 2a. (b) ‘of armed conflict, weapons: mortal, deadly’ and Pratt, Chaucer and War, pp. 85–95.

80See MED, s.v. list(e n. (2) 5. (c) ‘usually pl.: an enclosed area used for military exercises, jousting, etc.; lists, arena; area of combat, battlefield; … in listes, in the lists, in combat, in battle’.← 191 | 192 →

81Jones, Chaucer’s Knight, pp. 76–77 and 81–86.

82The Mort Artu refers simply to a ‘grant compaignie … de chevaliers’ (p. 91) and Le Morte Arthur to ‘I and other xii knyghtes kene/ Full preuely we shall vs dyght’ (1756–57). See MD, III.1630 and J. D. Bruce, Le Morte Arthur, EETS (ES) 88 (London: Oxford University Press, 1903).

83Sir Petypace is one of two knights (anonymous in the French source) defeated in quick succession by Sir Torre (MD, 109/14–110/11), is on Arthur’s side in the tournament at Castle Perilous (MD, 344/26), overthrowing Sir Sadok (MD, 347/8–9) and is listed among the knights in the healing of Sir Urry (MD, 1148/15–16). Sir Melyon is also to be found in the healing of Sir Urry (MD, 1148/16–17) and is probably to be identified with the Sir Melyon de Tartare who acts as a messenger for Sir Bors to Arthur and Guinevere (MD, 808/33–809/14). Sir Grummor and Sir Grummorson are ‘two noble knyghtes of Scotlond’ (MD, 343/27–28) among the knights of the castle in the tournament at Castle Perilous. They are both struck down by Sir Torre (MD, 346/22–24). They appear together in the healing of Sir Urry (MD, 1148/18–19). Sir Cursesalyne makes his appearance only here, but is probably identical with the ‘sir Crosseleme’ (MD, 1148/19) of the healing of Sir Urry.

84See MED, s.v. sotilte n. 4.(a) ‘Trickery, guile, craftiness; dissembling, deceit’.

85See Fowler, Medieval Mercenaries, I.268–76.

86See MED, s.v. ransaken v. (c) ‘to plunder; plunder (sb. or sth.), ransack; rob (sb.), steal (sth.)’; tas(se n. (2) (a) ‘A heap, pile, stack; also, a heap of slain bodies, a stack of hay, a pile of money’; harneis n. sg. & pl. 1. (a) ‘Personal fighting equipment, body armor; also, armor and weapons’; wede n. (2) (c) ‘an article of protective clothing or battle apparel; a coat of mail; a piece of armor’; pilour n. (1) 1. (a) ‘A plunderer, pillager, despoiler; … one who strips the slain in battle; a robber, thief’ and discomfiture n. 1. (a) ‘The fact of being defeated, defeat’.

87This episode is not to be found in the French Mort Artu, but is derived from the stanzaic Le Morte Arthur, 3416–29. See MD, III.1651.

88The reference to ‘pyllours in batayles’ (MD, 667/24) is not in the French source; see MD, III.1507. Caxton reads: ‘for all battles on foot are but pillers’ battles’ (MD, X.48, II.93). Reference to Caxton’s text (1485) is to the edition of Janet Cowen, Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte D’Arthur, Penguin Classics, 2 vols (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969).

89The Lancelot of Le Chevalier de la Charrete is not offered such a choice on the two separate occasions when he is released from imprisonment, first by the seneschal’s wife for the tournament at Noauz (Charrete, 5498–501) and second by Bademagu’s daughter, the sister of Meleagant, in Godefroi de Leigni’s conclusion to the romance (Charrete, 6700–704).← 192 | 193 →

90See MED, s.v. wight adj. 1. (c) ‘physically powerful; stout, stalwart’ and 2. (a) ‘Swift, fast; also, nimble, agile’.

91Boutell’s Heraldry, pp. 77 and 165.

92See Froissart, Chroniques, III.190.31–191.9; Brereton, p. 95 and Mortimer, The Perfect King, pp. 241, 243 and 245.

93See Malcolm Vale, War and Chivalry: Warfare and Aristocratic Culture in England, France and Burgundy at the End of the Middle Ages (London: Duckworth, 1981), pp. 100–101.

94The phrase is not in the French source; see MD, III.1301. See also MD, 46/24–47/6 (Sir Gryfflet) and III.1299–1300.

95See MD, III.1420.