“The system of customs and conventions connected with knighthood in the Middle Ages. Derived from the French word chevalier, meaning ‘horseman’ or ‘knight,’ chivalry was originally associated with the business of recruiting knights for the purposes of making war. It came to include the curriculum of training the young knight to fight, to hunt, to serve his lord, to govern his own vassals, and ultimately it evolved into that courtly ideal in which the true knight was not only courageous and skillful in war but also generous, pious, and courteous. When the championing of the weak began to be emphasized as part of the ideal, chivalry became as important in peace as in war, and among other things, the tournament flourished. Another component of the chivalric code was courtly love, an element that further refined the knight by requiring that he be a poet and a musician and that he be dedicated to some lady of his choice.”
Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.