Misinterpreted Perception: Defining the True Nature of Chivalry During the First Crusade
Over the turn of the centuries, chivalry has evolved and acquired numerous definitions. Currently the characteristics of a chivalric knight are skewed by the gentlemanly mannerisms and jousting tournaments seen in films. However in the First Crusade, a knight’s actions were determined by his prowess in battle and devotion to his earthly and heavenly lord. There is plenty of evidence that refutes crusaders’ chivalric nature and argues that they were nothing more than greedy warmongers. Nevertheless, the chivalric nature of the crusaders cannot be analyzed from a modern point of view. If the texts are viewed through the eyes of their authors, then it is clear that based on the evidence presented the knights are shown to be following the ideals of chivalry at that time. The historical and literary texts analyzed in this thesis provide first hand knowledge of the events pertaining to the First Crusade. Although there is always biases that surface, for the most part many of the works provide an accurate representation of the crusaders. The evidence provided shows that any knight wishing to create a reputation for himself would set out for Jerusalem, fight valiantly in battle, and take home the spoils of war with a reputation for chivalry. The study of several literary and historical sources as well as the contextual meaning of chivalry and crusading reveals that while many believed chivalry was a force for good, there are those who believe chivalric knights used the crusades as an excuse gain wealth and power. Regardless of how the evidence is interpreted by modern standards, the authors of the primary texts depict the crusading knights possessing the characteristics of chivalry as defined by that time period.