1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cavalier

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For works with similar titles, see Cavalier.

CAVALIER, a horseman, particularly a horse-soldier or one of gentle birth trained in knightly exercises. The word is taken from one of the French words which derived ultimately from the Late Lat. caballarius, a horseman, from Lat. caballus, properly a pack-horse, which gave the Fr. cheval. a chevalier. This last word is the regular French for “knight,” and is chiefly used in English for a member of certain foreign military or other orders, particularly of the Legion of Honour. Cavalier in English was early applied in a contemptuous sense to an overbearing swashbuckler—a roisterer or swaggering gallant. In Shakespeare (2 Henry IV. v. iii. 62) Shallow calls Bardolph’s companions “cavaleros.” “Cavalier” is chiefly associated with the Royalists, the supporters of Charles I. in the struggle with the Parliament in the Great Rebellion. Here again it first appears as a term of reproach and contempt, applied by the opponents of the king. Charles in the Answer to the Petition (June 13, 1642) speaks of cavaliers as a “word by what mistake soever it seemes much in disfavour.” Further quotations of the use of the word by the Parliamentary party are given in the New English Dictionary. It was soon adopted (as a title of honour) by the king’s party, who in return applied Roundhead to their opponents, and at the Restoration the court party preserved the name, which survived till the rise of the term Tory (see Whig and Tory). The term “cavalier” has been adopted from the French as a term in fortification for a work of great command constructed in the interior of a fort, bastion or other defence, so as to fire over the main parapet without interfering with the fire of the latter. A greater volume of fire can thus be obtained, but the great height of the cavalier makes it an easy target for a besieger’s guns.