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The Western Knights of the Century – From Severe Misogyny to Actively Appealing to Noble Women

The writer Hagenau’s “Rema” is a typical representative of German knight love poetry. He has a poem describing the medieval western knight’s pursuit of women: “The most noble thing I seek is what a man can do in this world. The most delightful thing to have. That is a woman, and I swear it: she is the supreme place, and no woman’s best place can shake her.”

From the poet’s description, we can see the knight’s fiery love for his lover, and we can also see that women are respected in front of knights. Both knights and women are the most mysterious groups in the Western Middle Ages. The “crusades” brought the knights a military reputation, and the “witch trials” brought unprecedented brutal persecution to Western women in the Middle Ages. What is the opportunity for these two groups, which have been controversial in Western history, to come together, achieve mutual success, and promote the promotion of Western women’s status?

1. Women and Knights in Medieval Europe

1. Misogyny of the Middle Ages in Europe

Misogyny was a common sentiment towards women in the Middle Ages in Europe, mainly referring to people’s hatred and fear of women. From the second to the fourth century, the Roman Fathers distorted the Bible and, according to the story of Adam and Eve, declared that the source of human misfortune came from women. Using religion as an excuse, began a period of male superiority and female inferiority, forming a very unhealthy social atmosphere.

In fact, various civilizations have despised women for a long time. China began to wear the hat of “female virtue” for women from the Han Dynasty, and India began to degrade women religiously from Brahman. Slavery and feudal societies in all civilizations around the world choose to oppress women, which is an inevitable result of the ruling class in order to consolidate its rule. It is ethically determined that “religion is greater than political power”, “the nobles are greater than the poor”, and “men are greater than women” are all means of ideologically controlling people to ensure the interests of the ruling class.

In the Middle Ages, discrimination against women was particularly severe in the West, and even in the 11th to 13th centuries, women were severely demonized. Women have become synonymous with evil, hostile and slanderous remarks abound, and every woman may be labelled a “witch”. The church considered women unclean, and the monks saw women as the biggest obstacle in the process of monasticism.

They believe that the existence of women is to lure men into making mistakes physically and psychologically, and it is the root cause of men’s dishonesty and corruption. In order to solve the seduction of women to men, the religious leaders and rulers of the medieval West stipulated the absolute power of husbands over wives in the form of decrees. For example, the Gratian Decree states: “All husbands have supreme power over their wives: to judge their wives, to correct their wives, and to use beatings and starvation as long as they do not cause death.”
The use of fists by a husband against his wife in domestic life, or more excessive violence, is permitted by religion and the government. Women are extremely humble in such a social context. It is considered to be inherent evil and the root of human corruption. The union of husband and wife often has no love at all, the status of women is low, and the whole people ignore women, which is the most typical attitude towards women in the medieval West.

2. Medieval knights fighting for justice

The knight was originally a medieval arm of Europe, a cavalry with formal military training. They wear shiny iron armor, hold sturdy lances, and straddle mighty war horses. The knights have a clear knightly creed, and they have lofty spiritual regulations, such as: “protect the old and the weak”, “fight for justice”, “fight against evil” and “love the country”.

Knights have always been synonymous with humility, honor, sacrifice and heroism in Europe. They enjoyed a high social popularity and were simply the superstars that everyone envied and sought after in that era. To become a qualified knight requires extraordinary efforts.

Children who aspired to be knights were sent to a real knight’s home as a valet at the age of seven, learning all kinds of knight etiquette, that is, a domestic apprentice. When these children are fourteen years old, they become servants, and they officially begin to learn knighthood skills and chivalry. When they are twenty-one years old, they can be canonized as real knights and start a glorious life.

Knights are highly respected by the world, regarded by the people as the elites of society, and are also the way for commoners to ascend. The noble spirit of knights and outstanding military exploits slowly transformed knights from occupation to social class. The commoners all hope that they or their children can become a knight, so as to gain the respect and status of the society.

Knights can not only give commoners a chance to rise, but also make them make friends with nobles that are beyond their reach. Nobles also hope to make knights, because they are powerful, have their own star aura, and have a wide range of knowledge. Not only that, nobles who enjoy class privileges also hope to associate, form alliances and intermarry with knights with military power to achieve the purpose of consolidating their positions and expanding their power.

In the medieval European context, women and knights seem to have nowhere to live in harmony except for human instinct. Women are the representatives of evil, and knights are the embodiment of justice. Women are the lowly class, and knights are the rising stars. It is such two very mysterious and dramatic groups that have come together in the long river of history and opened a new chapter in the history of European women. The two sides achieved each other and created a new female situation in the medieval West.

2. Mutual Benefit of Medieval Western Knights and Aristocratic Women

1. Knight Love

A look at knightly love from a female perspective. The love of medieval western knights is still talked about by the world. First of all, the love of knights is too hot and beautiful, and free love started from this, which was the theme of many romantic poets at that time. The poet depicts scenes of love in idol dramas in his poems. Which woman doesn’t want to have a captivating love?

The knights used their fiery love to capture the favor of noble women, they provided idealized love process for noble women, and transformed the rigid relationship between men and women. The knight transforms the union of man and woman from a mechanical procreation to a joyful experience. Women enjoy the pursuit of love in the process of falling in love with knights, and get rid of the role of slavery, and women’s happiness is greatly satisfied. Who doesn’t like sweet talk and friendly respect? Knights can meet the psychological needs of noble women.

From the knight’s point of view, this love is not so pure. At first, knighthood was just a military position, and although it was respected, it did not really change the social status. A knight must master and be proficient in noble etiquette if he wants to mingle in the upper class.

Aristocratic etiquette in Europe is very complicated, and a glance and a turn have different meanings. The western pursuit of etiquette is extremely extreme, and the king is no exception. When the king gets married, he and the queen are not allowed to bridal chambers by themselves. They need to complete a series of operations under the watchful eyes of many nobles. This is the red tape of dogma among Western nobles. Knights want to learn this skill, and noble women are their best candidates.

2. Aristocratic women are a necessary choice for knights

Aristocratic women are quite different from the commoner women that knights usually come into contact with. They are knowledgeable and sensible and have learned the rules of the church since childhood. It broke the knight’s inherent impression of women’s “evil” and reduced the knight’s resistance to women. Aristocratic men are basically handsome and well-educated, which has become a new goal for knights to grow up.

The knight began to dislike his rudeness and savagery, and wanted to be a refined gentleman. If they want to change, they must learn, and noble women have become a shortcut to their progress. In the Middle Ages, court noblewomen had distinguished status and a prominent family background. They have studied upper-level education since childhood, and they are proficient in all of them, whether it is cultural knowledge or various talents.

In addition, they must also learn the ethics and morals of the nobles and court etiquette. All this is necessary for the ambitious knight. Aristocratic women are also the most beautiful people in Europe. They wear fancy clothes and have their hair in a bun. They are elegant and dignified, combining wisdom and beauty. They are charming, but they are not valued because of society’s prejudice against women. The appearance of knights has earned them heartfelt praise.

In the end, the noble women and the knights came together for mutual benefit. The noble women got the love and respect they dreamed of, and the knights got the opportunity to become nobles, which truly achieved a win-win situation.

3. The social environment prompts knights to change their attitudes towards women

Medieval Europe has always been in a state of war, and knights have become the backbone of Europe’s escape from war. At the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century, wars in Europe ceased and there was a brief period of peace. The knights were basically unemployed. They were kept by the nobles because of their merits and abilities, and they became the new “staff members” of the major nobles.

The knight’s staff was an intuitive manifestation of the military power among the nobles at that time. The great knights were sought after by the nobles. In order to keep them, the nobles kept giving away property and land, and even kept them at home. In the process of the nobles vying for the knights, the knights got a lot of property and land. Get rid of the identity of the commoner, turned into a landlord with land and financial resources.

With the development of society and economy, the knights are getting richer and richer, and the status of staff can no longer satisfy them. Knights long for higher social status and more legitimate social resources. Knights who have lived in noble families for a long time no longer practice martial arts and fight, and spend their time socializing with nobles.
Good social interaction can help knights to be respected by nobles. European nobles are very particular about court etiquette. In this process, knights have come into contact with a large number of noble women and feel the friendliness of women. At the same time, it is found that interacting with noble women will help them integrate into the high-level faster. So, there is also a social element to the shift in knights’ attitudes toward women.

3. Summary

The shift in the attitude of Western knights towards women is an act of self-interest disguised as a delicate love. The aristocratic women in the West are very good. They are beautiful, generous, and virtuous, which the knights have never met in the successive battles. Knights, as the military force of the Holy See, oppose all people who have different beliefs from them, including hatred of “evil” women.

The emergence of aristocratic women made the knights have a better view of the female group. However, the huge change in the attitude of the knights towards women is due to the individual’s need to improve their social status. It is undeniable that the influence of the knights on the transformation of women’s attitudes is far-reaching. It created a climate of free love between men and women and promoted the idea that women should be respected. In a historical sense, this beautiful love has positive social significance in helping Europeans re-examine the value of women. It is also necessary to praise the knights as civilians for their hard work from a military career to the struggle of the noble class.

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