How did Concepts of Knightly Honour Influence Crusading from c.1095 to c.1291?

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


To many nobles, taking the cross was the pinnacle of their career, and in theory it ought to have brought great honour to participants. To some contemporaries, such as the knight-philosopher Ramon Llull, it was the foremost duty of knights to fight the enemies of the Catholic Church. For others like the crusader Tancred (according to Ralph of Caen), crusading was a way to reconcile the sinful violence of knighthood with the teachings of the Church, bringing the knightly and ecclesiastical worlds together for a common goal. In The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the Crusades, Matthew Mesley claims on p.149 that this resulted in “a different flavour of chivalry – one that was more tightly interconnected, if not always expressed as such, with religious ideology.” This thesis aims to assess the extent to which that claim is true by analysing how a selection of chivalric virtues - fidelity, mercy, generosity, courage, hardiness, and piety - were expressed by the nobility in western Europe and comparing that to how they were expressed on crusade and in crusading literature. In practice, this usually took the form of crusaders attempting to apply conventional values in an environment that profoundly challenged them. How was a crusading count supposed to show generosity when the money had run out and the army was starving? How did knights, whose loyalty to their lord was sacred to them, respond when said lord was evidently not up to the task of crusading? The nobility had to find answers these questions, as their honour was at stake when God and all of Christendom was watching, and the wrong answer could lead to disgrace. In other words, that “different flavour” was what happened to chivalry when the challenges of crusading pushed its principles toward their breaking point, and in examining chivalry on crusade this thesis explores how these issues affected the behaviour of crusaders, the approach of the papacy to chivalric ideology, and the place of crusading in aristocratic society.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Phillips, Jonathan, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2024

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