1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chivalry

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CHIVALRY (O. Fr. chevalerie, from Late Lat. caballerius), the knightly class of feudal times, possessing its own code of rules, moral and social (see Knighthood and Chivalry). The primary sense in the middle ages is “knights” or “fully armed and mounted fighting men.” Thence the term came to mean that gallantry in battle and high sense of honour in general expected of knights. Thus “to do chivalry” was a medieval phrase for “to act the knight.” Lastly, the word came to be used in its present very general sense of “courtesy.” In English law chivalry meant the tenure of land by knights’ service. It was a service due to the crown, usually forty days’ military attendance annually. The Court of Chivalry was a court instituted by Edward III., of which the lord high constable and earl marshal of England were joint judges. When both sat the court had summary criminal jurisdiction as regards all offences committed by knights, and generally as to military matters. When the earl marshal alone presided, it was a court of honour deciding as to precedence, coats of arms, &c. This court sat for the last time in 1737. The heraldic side of its duties are now vested in the earl marshal as head of the Heralds’ College.