Xlibris Publishing returns with the rest of 6 Medieval Misconceptions.
While documentation may exist establishing knightly codes of chivalry (with likely variations), there is little historical evidence to suggest that the majority of knights actually adhered to them. A knight’s best source of income and reputation was combat, whether from war or from tourney competitions. During war, chivalry tended to be overruled by practicality and expediency. The violence and aggression of knights became such an issue that one of the original purposes for the First Crusade was to channel Europe’s knights somewhere out of Europe.
There were knights who rose to prominence and were historically acknowledged for their adherence to the codes of chivalry (William the Marshal being one such example). But they were not the norm.
30 is the Old 60
One of the most enduring misconceptions about the medieval period was that people rarely past the age of 30. If someone survived to adulthood, then it was likely they could reach their 60s or 70s, with 50 being considered as the border into old age. The source of the misconception is that child and infant mortality were much higher in medieval times compared to modern times, due to poorer understandings of health and disease.
Deference to the Church
Our last medieval misconception regards the relationship between secular nobility and the Catholic Church, in particular the perceived absolute deference nobles supposedly held for the Church and its representatives. However, a recurring source of conflict throughout the middle ages would occur between secular leaders and Church leaders. Both secular and Church authorities many times attempted to exert power and political influence over the other. More than one bishop or cardinal has attempted to undermine and subvert a secular ruler’s power, and more than one king or emperor has attempted to openly defy the Church or even subvert its members to their own advantage. Both sides have had varying successes and failures over history.
The best way to avoid such misconceptions, both for the medieval period but also for other places and time periods, is to make sure to do your research. Doing so will help make your story feel more authentic and alive.
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By Ian Smith