Monday, December 2, 2013

The Father of Courtesy and the Son of Chivalry

Richard de Beauchamp, the Father of Courtesy and the Son of Chivalry
Richard de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick was dubbed both "The Father of Courtesy" and "The Son of Chivalry." Born in 1382, the English nobleman was knighted at the coronation of King Henry IV and succeeded to the Earldom of Warwick.  In 1401 fought for Henry IV against Owen Glendower and the Percys. In 1408 he set out for the Holy Land, visiting monarchs and fighting in a tournament en route; he made a similarly active return trip through various other parts of Europe. Upon his return to England in 1410, Beauchamp performed several royal missions. During the reign of Henry V, his chief employment was as a trusted counsellor and diplomatist. 
Arms of Sir Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, KG, as depicted on his stall plate at St. George's Chapel
Richard de Beauchamp was an ambassador to France in September 1413, and the chief English envoy to the coronation of Sigismund at Aix-la-Chapelle, and to the council of Constance in the autumn of 1414. During the campaign of Agincourt he was captain of Calais, where in April 1416 he received Sigismund with such courtly magnificence as to earn from him the title of the "Father of Courtesy."

It is said that the French were expected to besiege the place; but that when de Beauchamp found their forces were bent in a different direction, he caused some new feats of chivalry to be instituted.  The next year he was appointed to receive the surrender of Caen Castle. So great was Henry's confidence in his military skill that he divided the chief commands in Normandy between himself, his brother Clarence, and the Earl of Warwick.
Effigy of Richard de Beauchamp in the Beauchamp Chapel of St Mary's Church, Warwick
Upon Henry's death in 1422, de Beauchamp became a member of the council for the infant Henry VI. He then served as tutor to the young king from 1428 to 1437, when he was appointed the lieutenant of Normandy & France. Richard de Beauchamp was a man of piety and courtesy and was famed in Europe as a chivalrous knight. His daughter Anne married and brought the earldom to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. He died in 1439.

On Chivalry 

Chivalry was originally the gallantry and honor expected of medieval knights, though today it refers to behaving in an honorable or polite way, and showing respect toward women. The ideal of courteous knightly conduct developed in the 12th to 13th century. Arising out of feudal obligation, it stressed loyalty and obeisance by knights to their God, their lords and their ladies. This was a melding of both Christian and military virtues.
In the 14th to 15th century, chivalry came to be associated increasingly with aristocratic display and public ceremony, particularly in jousting tournaments, rather than with service in the field.

Chivalry was greatly strengthened by the Crusades, a military endeavor on behalf of Christianity, which led to the founding of the earliest orders of chivalry, the Knights of Malta and the Templars. In addition to loyalty and honor, the chivalric virtues included courtesy, chastity, valor and piety.  Questions of love and honor were combined in the ethos of courtly love. The knight's lady was meant to be unobtainable, ensuring chastity; the feminine ideal thus became melded with the Virgin Mary. 


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