Sunday, 1 December 2013

Did Feudalism and Chivalry Actually Exist?

When we see images of angry, missile throwing rioters, and the masses out of control or groups of people shouting abuse at one another we use the terms 'positively medieval' or 'how feudal'. When someone, usually a male, performs a kind deed we remark 'how chivalrous.'  

We know these terms come from our own history but were the ideals they are based on real?

Not too long ago I sat down to watch The Lion in Winter, one of my all time favourite films. I have two reasons for seeing it as  a good film, firstly, because it depicts the medieval period, in this case the court of Henry II, as I believe it was, cold, cruel and barbaric and secondly, the characters portray none of the chivalric behaviour that people of these times thought so very highly of. What we see is an unstable King Henry II, who bellows and strong arms his way through the film, whilst his sons are petulant and violent, this is representative of the medieval era and the medieval ruling classes, and how, on the whole, we should see them. There were no glamorous, young and impulsive warriors adorned in shining armour, seeing off fire breathing dragons or saving beautiful damsels, there were only experienced, battle hardened men living in a world of politics, who controlled the country through what has come to be known as feudalism.


  1. Some interesting issues here. It's so difficult to truly get into the heads of people in past times. I fear that TV films and docudramas do more to deceive than inform. Remember when we were outraged by the TV showing the battle of Bosworth on a wintery day in a forest? The only way to try and get at the truth is to look at original sources and there are no original pieces of evidence for any of the 'ordinary' people so we'll never truly know such things as how feudalism really did work for the people. Frustrating isn't it.

    1. Indeed it is. I can remember being particularly irritated my most of the White Queen, although I did enjoy it. The story of the Scottish hero William Wallace is a good example of 'wrong' story telling and that started as early as 1470 with one Blind Harry making Wallace out to be the leader of the Scottish resistance earlier than he actually was. If it wasn't for the death of Andrew Moray at the Battle of Stirling Bridge we would never had heard of Wallace. No misleading inaccuracies as seen in Braveheart! Saying that, though I do like a good historical film, should we watch for enjoyments sake and take it all with a pinch of salt? I don't know?