Chivalry is a tenure of land by knight's service: for the better understanding whereof it is to be known, that there is no land but is held mediately or immediately of the crown by some service or others; and therefore all our free-holds that are to us and our heir are called fees, as proceeding from the bounty of the king for some small yearly rent, and the performance of such services as originally were imposed upon the land at the giving thereof....And these services are all by Littleton divided into two sorts, chivalry and soccage: the one martial and military; the other clownish and rustical." Terms de la Ley 83-84 (1st Am. ed. 1812).

Chivalry, the code of behaviour practised in the Middle Ages, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries, by the mounted soldier or knight. The chivalric ethic represented the fusion of Christian and military concepts of conduct. A knight was to be brave, loyal to his lord, and the protector of women (See A Knight's Code). The songs of the troubadours celebrated these virtues.

It was a system of apprenticeship: as boys, knights' sons became pages in the castles of other knights; from the age of 14 they learnt horsemanship and military skills, and were themselves knighted at the age of 21. The Crusades saw the apogee of the chivalric ideal, as new Christian orders of knights (Knights Templars, Knights Hospitallers), waged war in Palestine against the Muslims. During times of peace, the tournament was the setting for displays of military and equestrian skill. The 15th century saw a decline in the real value of chivalry, and though new orders, such as the Order of the Golden Fleece(Burgundy) were created, tournaments survived merely as ritualized ceremonies.

Chiv"al*ry (?), n. [F. chevalerie, fr. chevalier knight, OF., horseman. See Chevalier, and cf. Cavalry.]


A body or order of cavaliers or knights serving on horseback; illustrious warriors, collectively; cavalry.

"His Memphian chivalry."


By his light Did all the chivalry of England move, To do brave acts. Shak.


The dignity or system of knighthood; the spirit, usages, or manners of knighthood; the practice of knight-errantry.



The qualifications or character of knights, as valor, dexterity in arms, courtesy, etc.

The glory of our Troy this day doth lie On his fair worth and single chivalry. Shak.

4. Eng.Law

A tenure of lands by knight's service; that is, by the condition of a knight's performing service on horseback, or of performing some noble or military service to his lord.




Sir P. Sidney.

Court of chivalry, a court formerly held before the lord high constable and earl marshal of England as judges, having cognizance of contracts and other matters relating to deeds of arms and war.



© Webster 1913.

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