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Crusading as a Knightly Deed

Crusading as a Knightly Deed

Crusading as a knightly deed: How far do the works of Jean of Joinville and James I of Aragon depict crusading as an integral part of chivalry in the thirteenth century?

Stephen Bennett

University of Leeds: Paper given at the International Medieval Congress (2012)

Abstract

During the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, noble and lesser European military elites came to identify themselves as a common social “order” with similar rights and functions, and a shared code of chevalerie (knighthood or chivalry) through analysis of two autobiographical texts, this article will argue that by the thirteenth century, participation in a crusade was deeply embedded in the normative behaviour of elite Christian martial groups.

Introduction

Medieval European military elites were generally capable of fighting either mounted or on foot. However, many had adopted the warhorse as a sign of status and drew their name from it, such as chevalier in French, caballero in Spanish and chivaler in Anglo-Norman. During the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, noble and lesser European military elites came to identify themselves as a common social order with similar rights and functions, and a shared code of chevalerie (knighthood or chivalry). What this article will argue is that crusading was represented as laying at the heart of that code.

To consider this question, this article will analyse the representation of crusading and chivalry in two works that are considered ‘eyewitness’ accounts: Jean of Joinville’s Vie de Saint Louis and the Llibre dels Fets of King James I of Aragon. Through intimate narratives, these texts cover the lives of two European monarchs who enjoyed long reigns during the thirteenth century and undertook two or more crusades. Through analysis of these texts, this paper will show that by the thirteenth century, participation in a crusade was portrayed as deeply embedded in the expectations of elite martial groups. Further, that this indicates that it had became part of their normative behaviour as a one of the principal actions or ‘deeds’ a preudomme (good and valiant knight) could perform to conform to the expectations of his peers.


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