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success the state was achieving in the separation of prowess and honour.
Duelling, from this point of view, represents a reaction to growing royal con-
trol over violence on a grander scale. Such a view is ¬nely illustrated in the
statement of a sixteenth-century French nobleman, appropriately named
Guillaume de Chevalier, that duelling had increased among his contempo-
raries because nobles were doing less ¬ghting on the battle¬elds as a result of
stronger monarchy.29

See in general Billacois, Le Duel; Kiernan, The Duel; Schalk, From Valor to Pedigree, 162“74.
27

Billacois, Le Duel, 391.
28

Quoted in Schalk, From Valor to Pedigree, 169“70. Cf. Vale, War and Chivalry, 165“7.
29
Epilogue 307

Prowess and Piety
Another limitation on duelling brings us to analyse a second fusion of
basic chivalric elements. The Church and religion, no less than the State,
opposed duelling. Although some friends of the duel might claim religious
justi¬cations (interpreting the ¬ght of David and Goliath as a duel being one
of the more imaginative arguments), attempts to win religious backing in fact
won few successes. Billacois™s comment is once again pithy: duelling ˜is not a
counter-religion; it is another religion™.30 Evidently most duellists confronted
with religious criticism simply shrugged their shoulders and went on, show-
ing the most sturdy sense of the lay autonomy and independence which by
now was centuries old.
Yet we should take special note. This independence is not simply a contin-
uance of a chivalric trait. In fact, a change of the greatest signi¬cance has taken
place: the link between piety and prowess, always present if always under ten-
sion in the Middle Ages, has stretched to breaking point. The medieval
Church had blessed knightly personal prowess, though at times with hands
clasped in hope, arguing only that the violence must be directed towards
proper ends. No one by the post-medieval period really thought duelling was
one of those proper ends. Duelling, in other words, represents the totally sec-
ular end point of a long and tension-laden interplay between personal piety
and personal violence. Since this connection of personal prowess with honour
and with piety had formed one of the truly signi¬cant strengths of chivalry, the
breaking of this bond represents one of the clearest causes for the general
transformation of chivalry. If an old bond is snapped, a new one is created; a
signi¬cant shift in the bene¬ciary of the religious valorization of violence has
taken place. We have seen that clerics long suffered doubts about the blessing
of God claimed for the violence inherent in chivalry. Over time their doubts
all but disappeared, however, as the claim to licit violence came from the State.
In one part of Europe after another, royal administrations more effectively and
more globally asserted their supervision over licit violence; by the seventeenth
century the process represented half a millennium of gradual pressure and a
signi¬cant degree of success.
Constant clerical insistence on reform and restraint where chivalric violence
was concerned contrasts signi¬cantly with the clerical willingness to sanctify
one royal campaign after another through the later Middle Ages and early
modern era.


Billacois, Le Duel, 391, 350.
30
Epilogue
308
Of course the king™s wars, no less than any knight™s warlike violence, had to
be just. Yet it was even harder, more futile, more clearly at odds with the divine
plan to doubt the royal justi¬cations than to debate those of the knights. Thus
the Church, which had once in the distant past relied on pious rulers
(Christian Roman emperors, Carolingian kings), could return”after the
¬reworks of the Gregorian Reform and the struggle over investiture”to an
easy reliance on royal power. Were kings not God™s anointed rulers for all the
business involving bloodshed and violence, sadly necessary in an imperfect
world? Were robbers not to be apprehended and hanged? Were the robbers
who happened to wear crowns in neighbouring kingdoms not similarly to be
stopped from evil?
Noble descendants of the medieval chivalrous might still play key roles in
the military, but the change of religious valorization is signi¬cant. Religious
justi¬cation for violence now descended not on the blessed ranks of the
chivalry, but on agents of the State and, in theory and over time, of the nation.


Prowess and Status
In one ¬nal way we can see the breakdown of the durable fusions that had
formed medieval chivalry. Chivalry ceased to function as the undoubted indi-
cator of nobility.
The trappings of chivalry were at least in part appropriated by increasing
numbers of people from non-noble social levels. The process was old and had
already made considerable strides”and created signi¬cant tensions”within
medieval centuries. Each effort to use chivalric culture as a barrier against lesser
beings naturally generated even more interest on the part of the sub-chivalric to
scale or breach that wall. Borrowed chivalric forms unmistakably reappeared
beyond the inner circle of those who could proudly claim to be knightly or
noble; aspirants in surrounding social circles eagerly brought these forms into
their lives. Bourgeois interest in reading romance, in jousting, and in heraldry
is well known. In the mid-fourteenth-century crisis of French chivalry, brought
about most directly by repeated battle¬eld defeat, Geoffroi de Charny heaped
praise”and urged greater valour”upon all those who lived by the profession
of arms, not on the nobles alone. In England the ¬fteenth-century readers of
Sir Thomas Malory™s great work, though far from simply the bourgeois body
once claimed, seem to have covered a wide social range. By the seventeenth cen-
tury even London apprentices described themselves in chivalric language and
participated in what William Hunt has termed civic chivalry.31

Hunt, ˜Civic Chivalry™.
31
Epilogue 309
As the social pyramid broadened, increasing numbers of the elite originated
in legal and administrative families ˜of the robe™ rather than the older military
families ˜of the sword™ (to use language from France).32 Service to the State
(even in the humdrum matters of diplomacy and administration, as well as in
the rigours of war) proved to be an acceptable means of continuing in¬‚uence.
Living well, in comfortable and costly, if unforti¬ed, country houses, or at
court, even proved to be a seductive substitute for the very rigours of cam-
paign and combat that Charny extolled in the mid-fourteenth century as the
key to true superiority. Even education might be desirable; and if medieval
aristocrats would have laughed at the idea that they were not educated, know-
ing that they had carefully learned what they needed to know, their late
sixteenth- or seventeenth-century successors would have meant something dif-
ferent by the term.33
Thus chevalerie and its complex relationships with clergie and royaut©, which
have formed the core of this study, were transformed. The autonomy of
chivalry and its private violence gradually disappeared, swallowed up by the
growth of state power and public violence, blessed by the Church.34 These
processes were not, let it be said again, sudden and post-medieval, but, rather,
the outcome of trends at work for half a millennium of European history. In
one dimension the process left a stubbornly resistant residue of autonomous
violence in the devotion to the duel. But the State had progressed towards sov-
ereign control of warlike violence within the realm and the Church had made
its peace with the sort of war that the State continued to lead with enthusiasm
beyond its borders. After the break-up of the medieval Church, any lingering
impulse for crusade could well be absorbed in the holy war against Christians
with incorrect theological views.
Like a massive steel cable gradually coming unwound, the strands of
chivalry, twisted tightly into place from the twelfth century, were pulled apart
by the host of cumulative changes so actively at work. Change was evident in
such diverse agencies as royal courts and armies, political and religious
thought, mercantile companies, battle¬eld techniques, the classroom, the
myriad of forms marking the social hierarchy. Over several centuries the

See the similar language of Sir Robert Naunton at Elizabeth I™s court in England: he claims
32

her nobles were divided into militi and togati: see McCoy, Rites of Knighthood, 10.
Schalk argues, for example, that the mid-sixteenth-century French nobility was not educated
33

(in a bookish sense) and that only gradually did education become a marque de noblesse; by the
mid-seventeenth century the nobles were associated with the culture that comes with education:
From Valor to Pedigree, 174“5. Hale notes the endless popularity of Castiglione™s The Courtier and
the founding of military academies from the 1560™s: War and Society, 97“8. Cf. Motley, Becoming
a French Aristocrat: the education of court nobility, 1580“1715 (Princeton, 1990).
The independent piety of knights obviously intersects with Reformation themes. I am work-
34

ing on a general study of the religion of knights.
Epilogue
310
cumulative effects of these forces altered the self-conception of the lay, male,
elite. If the nobility had several centuries of active life ahead of it as this cable
unwound in the early modern period, it would not be as an elite that was
chivalric in any way that could have been fully recognized or approved by
William Marshal, Geoffroi de Charny, or Sir Thomas Malory.
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