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IN ALL AGES OF WESTERN EUROPE.
BY THOMAS WRIGHT, F.8.A.
(With a Coloured Plate.) WOMANKIND IN THE FEUDAL CASTLE (Continued from Vol. II. p. 462.)— THE FEUDAL LADY OUT OF THE CASTLE-WALKING, RIDING,
CHAPTER X. Social life within the feudal castle was, as we have already seen, sufficiently free and easy ; but when dames or damoiselles left the precincts of the castle, they were more studious of personal behaviour, less natural, and more ostentatiously proud. A wide gulf lay between those of gentle blood and the bourgeoisie, and, still more, the peasantry. The lady could only even be personally waited upon by those who were of gentle birth, like herself.
The more formal rules of behaviour among the higher class of the gentility were, of course, taught orally, and we have, therefore, no direct account of them, but the feudal or semi-feudal age has left us some popular written codes of the teaching of good manners, which, though intended for the edification of the bourgeoisie, were, no doubt, imitations of the manners of the castle. These are found in France and in England. The author of the “Menagier de Paris," compiled in 1393, gives his young wife, to whom it is addressed, especial advice as to the manners of a lady in walking in public. “As you go,” he says, “look straight before you, with your eyelids low and fixed, looking forward to the ground at a distance of five toises (thirty feet), and not looking at, or turning your eyes to man or woman who may be to your right or left, nor looking upwards, nor changing your look from one place to another, nor laughing, nor halting to speak to anybody in the street.” Other similar directions breathe the same spirit. An English metrical code of instructions, compiled probably some thirty or forty years later, is printed in Mr. Furnivall's “ Babees Book,” under the title of “How the good Wiif taughte her Doughtir.” Among other things, which show rather a deficiency in refinement, the young maiden is taught to be “ of seemly semblant, wise, and of good manner;" and she is told how she is to walk in public :
And whan thou goist in the way, go thou not to (too) faste ;
In the illuminations of mediæval manuscripts, we now and then see the feudal gentry and ladies in their more ceremonious behaviour, as they exhibited themselves to the outer world. My old friend, M. du Sommerard, of the Hôtel de Cluny, published in his Album, from a manuscript now in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal at Paris, which was written and illuminated in the fifteenth century for a prince of the house of Burgundy, a picture representing the lords and ladies of a noble or princely household walking out from the castle into the town, and it is known that at this period the court
of Burgundy was allowed to be the perfect model of courtly etiquette. This picture is copied in the accompanying cut. There is one part of this illumination especially to be remarked, and to be recommended to the attention of modern artists, who are given to represent our forefathers in these old times as walking arm-in-arm, which is a comparatively modern custom. As here represented, when two persons of different sexes, or even if they were of the
same sex, walked together, they held each other by the hand. To judge from the literature of the time, it was the height of refinement in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, to hold each other by the finger only. Even the sainted ladies in Paradise are described as walking in couples, and holding each other by the finger,
L'une tint l'autre par le dois.
La Court de Paradis, in Barbazan, iii., 139. And so in the Roman de la Violette, at the great festival given by the King, after having taken part in various enjoyments, the guests distribute themselves through the hall in couples (a lady and a gentleman) who take each other by the fingerQuant il orent assés deduit,
When they had enjoyed themselves enough, Par la sale s'acoinsent tuit;
They all went in couples through the hall, Li uns prent l'autre par le doi,
One takes the other by the finger, Si s'arangierent doi et doi.
And so they arranged themselves finger
and singer. Roman de la Violette, p. 10. And in the still earlier period, the hero Ogier le Danois walks with the Princess Gloriande, holding her in the same mannerDonques enmainne le bon Danois Ogier, Then leads away the good Dane Ogier, E Gloriande, qui par le doit le tient. And Gloriande, who holds him by the finger.
Roman d'Ogier, p. 110. At the same time, however, and especially in the later feudal period, the ladies and gentlemen, or two or more ladies together, took each other by the hand, and this is the fashion represented in the picture just described, and in other contemporary illuminations. It is often alluded to in the mediæval writers. The reader of Chaucer will remember the scene in “The Flower and the Leaf,” in which the knights are seen strolling into the beautiful fields, to join the ladies who were there following their recreations ;
And every lady tooke, fulle womanly,
By the hond a knight, and forth they yede (went). And, a few lines further on,
And at the last I cast mine eye aside,
And was ware of a lusty company,
Honde in honde a knight and a lady. In the Romances of the Round Table, at the festival given by King Leodegan, when visited by King Arthur, the latter mounted hand in hand with the fair princess Genievre, afterwards to be his queen, from the gate up into the palace. So with Gauvain and the
maiden in the dit, or lai, of the “ Chevalier à l'Espée,” printed in the first volume of Méon's collections of fabliaux
Encontre lui sailli Gauvain
Et la pucele main à main. It also reminds us in some measure of the picture given above. When ladies walked together, they also usually held hands in this
In the accompanying cut, taken from one of the illuminations of Queen Mary's Psalter, of the beginning of the fourteenth century, a party of damoiselles are seen walking in the fields thus holding each other by the hand. It was less common with the men, and seems always to have been regarded as a mark of more than ordinary friendship. In the romance of "
Ogier le Danois," when the Emperor and Ogier become reconciled, the sincerity of their friendship is shown by their walking together hand in hand. Or they walked thus when employed on some ceremonious occasions, as when, in the Romances of the Round Table, the twelve princes of Rome go on a message to King Arthur from the Emperor Lucius, they approach him drawn up two and two, each couple holding by the hand. Seats were not abundant in the feudal
appear to have been remarkably skilful at sitting down or squatting on the ground. This was the constant practice when the knights and ladies were taking their recreations in the fields, or in their garden. In the Romances of the Round Table, in the scene between Merlin and Viviane, when the knights and ladies, esquires and maidens, have ceased dancing, the ladies and maidens sit down upon the grass to look on at the exploits of their companions of the other sex at the quintain, and at other such games; and in a somewhat
similar scene, which is laid in the Forêt Périlleuse, where King Bohor and his brother, the enchanter Guinebaut, and their companions, find a knight of great distinction, and his lady of no less beauty, seated on thrones, and witnessing likewise a fair party of dancers, the lady rises to salute the king and his friends, and invites them to sit on the grass.
A song by one of the trouvères of the thirteenth century, Guillaume de Vinier, begins by telling us that the songster “found two ladies seated in a verdant meadow."
Dalés un pré verdoiant
Trovai deus dames seant. Just in the same manner, in a poem entitled “De la Fole et de la Sage" of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, the writer pretends to see “ two ladies near him seated on the grass,” and he proceeds to repeat their conversation
Encor m'est-il avis que je doie veoir
Jubinal, Nouveau Recueil, ii., p. 74.
Not only a seat on the grass, but a meal on the grass, was often a necessity in feudal travelling, when places of entertainment were not found everywhere, and the knightly travellers were obliged to