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united with the cold caution of an artful man, always delivered the prizes herself; for she could not endure that one younger and fairer should personate the Queen of Love and Beauty. The gallantry of knighthood still characterized her courtiers. When she dropped her glove at a tournament, the earl of Cum. berland picked it up, and was graciously requested to retain it. With the true spirit of chivalry, he caused it to be set in diamonds, and on festival occasions always wore it in his high-crowned hat, which had at that period superseded the helmet.
One singular custom that prevailed in England in the old time deserves to be recorded for its oddity. Sir Philip Somerville, in the reign of Edward the Third, left the manor of Whichnour to the earl of Lancaster, on condition that he should at all seasons of the year, except during Lent, be ready to deliver a flitch of bacon to any man and woman, who swore they had been married a year and a day without once repenting it; and that if they were again single, they would choose each other again, in preference to all the universe. The oath, taken in presence of witnesses, was as follows: “I A wedded my wife B, and syth I had her in my keepying and at my wylle, by a yeare and a daye after our marriage, I would not have changed for none other, richer ne pourer, ne for none other descended of gretter lynage, sleeping ne waking, at noo tyme. And if the said B were sole and I sole, I would take her to be my wife before all the wymen of the worlde, of what condytions soever they may be, good or evyl, as help me God and his seyntys, and this flesh and all fleshes.”
It is remarkable that during the middle ages, when profound homage was paid to women, as to things divine, a life closely secluded from their society was deemed the surest road to heaven. The eucharist was considered too holy to be touched by female fingers, and they were required to put a white linen glove upon the hand when they received it. The emperor Honorius banished Jovinian because he maintained that a man who lived with a wife might be saved, provided he obeyed the laws of piety and virtue; and Edward the Confessor was sainted for dying unmarried. Celibacy was expressly enjoined upon the clergy, and both priests and deacons were degraded from office for disobedience to this edict. In France it was carried to such an extent, that the barons had power to make slaves of any children of the married clergy. St. Dunstan, so famous for his abhorrence of women, introduced celibacy of clergy into England, and, with the consent of king Edgar, exhorted the married priests to put away their wives, under the penalty of being degraded from office, and deprived of their livings. From the ungallant character of St. Dunstan arose a superstitious custom, of which some traces remain in Great Britain even to the present day. It was deeined that if a bridal couple drank from St. Dunstan's well, on the day of their marriage, the first one who tasted the water would govern the other for life. A bridegroom, who was very desirous to have the authority in his own hands, repaired to the well as soon as his wedding day dawned; and after the marriage ceremony was over, he boasted to his bride that he had drank of the water sooner than she could possibly have done. “Ah, my friend,” replied she, laughing, "you have not circumvented a woman's wit; for I brought some of the water from the well, in a vial, the night before.”
When knights formed themselves into religious orders, to fight in defence of the holy sepulchre, they were required to take a vow of perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience. A Knight Templar was forbidden to kiss maid, wife, or widow, not even excepting his mother and his sisters; and was not permitted to adorn his helmet with tokens either of nobility or love. But the principles of these pious knights yielded to the slightest pressure of circumstances. Men of large fortune paid little attention to their vow of poverty; connubial fidelity was substituted for perpetual celibacy; and even in this improved form, the history of the crusades gives us small reason to suppose that the promise was considered binding.
Such a project as that of the crusades naturally took powerful hold of the imaginations of women educated amid the splendid pageants of war and religion, and accustomed to the continual combination of things in their nature so discordant. Many accompanied their lovers and husbands to the Holy Land, and, after performing the most romantic exploits, died beside them on the field of battle. Whole squadrons of women sometimes took arms in defence of the holy cross. Those that accompanied the em. peror Conrad were remarkable for the splendor of their military dresses. Their leader was called " the golden-footed dame.”
The ardor with which chivalry was embraced by all the principal nations of Europe, and the powerful hold it still retains on the imagination, notwithstanding the detestable pride and tyranny of those gallant nobles, is to be attributed to the sacred principles on which the institution was originally founded ; viz. the chaste union of the sexes, and the forgetfulness of self in the effort to do good to others. But chivalry gradually degenerated from its original purity, and became a ridiculous mania for renown. Knighthood was no longer the reward of high-minded virtue, but was bestowed on any man who had wealth or power to obtain it for his own selfish purposes. The profligacy of the troubadours was open and fagrant; the crusaders, who made a pilgrimage to the holy sepulchre in expiation of their sins, fearfully added to the list on their way ; poor knights, who had no money to pay their retainers, made no scruple of obtaining it by robbery and violence, and wandered about in quest of adventures, letting out their swords to richer brethren ; women departed from the modesty which had procured them homage, and bestowed their smiles so indiscriminately that they lost their value. Yet, as the affectation of any thing is always more excessive than the reality, the exploits of the knights during the rapid decline of chivalry were more outrageously fantastical than they had ever been. It was common for a cavalier to post himself
in some very public place, and fight every gentleman who passed, unless he instantly acknowledged that the lady of his affections was the handsomest and most virtuous lady in the world; and if, as often happened, he was met by one as mad as himself, who insisted upon maintaining the superior charms of his dulcinea, a deadly combat ensued. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, a society of ladies and gentlemen was formed at Poictou, called the Penitents of Love. In order to show that love could effect the strangest metamorphoses, they covered themselves with furred mantles, and sat before large fires, in the heat of summer, while in winter they wore the slightest possible covering. Thus chivalry became an absurd and disgusting mockery, and was finally laughed out of the world by the witty Cervantes. But though the form becaine grotesque, and died in a state of frenzy, the important use performed by the spirit of true chivalry ought not to be forgotten. It stood in the place of laws, when laws could not have been enforced, and it raised woman to a moral rank in society, unknown to the most refined nations of antiquity-a rank she can never entirely lose, and from which her present comparative freedom is derived. It taught Francis the First, that most chivalrous of all monarchs, to lay the foundation of a beautiful social system by introducing the wives and daughters of his nobles at court, where none but bearded men had previously been seen. “A court without ladies," said he, “is a year without a spring, or a spring without roses.”