Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Age of Chivalry

Shortly after the taking of Calais, Edward, who is regarded as one of the most chivalrous of the English kings, founded a new order of knights, which was called the Order of the Garter. It is said that at one of the court balls the Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter. The king saw her confusion, and, wishing to prevent any of his courtiers from being so rude as to laugh at the accident, he picked up the garter, put it on his own leg, and said aloud in French, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," words which mean, "Shamed be he who evil thinks."

He then declared that he was going to choose twenty-five of the most noble knights to belong to the new Order of the Garter, with him and the Black Prince. Each of the knights he chose wore a blue garter on his left leg, a blue sash across his breast, a medal with the effigy of St. George trampling the dragon, and a silver star with eight points.

The twenty-five Knights of the Garter have always been very proud of this honourable decoration, and in knightly days, when it was the custom to take solemn oaths, these men used to take pride in swearing by their "stars and garters." Hence, also, "to receive the blue ribbon" meant to have the greatest honour conferred upon one.

Some people, however, claim that the Order of the Garter was instituted by Richard the Lion-hearted. He, it is said, gave a leather garter to the knights who had distinguished themselves in fighting against the Saracens.

In the feudal ages, knights were men of noble birth, who, after undergoing a certain amount of training, were received into the order of knighthood or chivalry.

Until seven years old, boys staid under their mothers' care; then they were sent to the castle of some great nobleman, where they served as pages till they were fourteen. During pagehood the young noblemen learned to be courteous and gentle, to wait upon ladies, tell stories, sing songs, and play upon the lute, and they were daily trained to be strong, agile, frank, brave, polite, and truthful.

From the age of fourteen till they were about twenty they were called squires; they practised the art of fighting, and attended knights at war, to help them don their heavy armour or to raise them when they were overthrown. This term of apprenticeship ended, the candidate for knighthood spent twenty-four hours in fasting and prayer, and during the night knelt alone in the church, before the altar, upon which his armour was laid to be consecrated.

This time of meditation and prayer was followed on the next day by a solemn religious ceremony, in which the young knight vowed to protect the weak, the fatherless, and the oppressed, to honour all women, and to right the wrong wherever it was possible. Then a knight drew his sword and struck the kneeling candidate with the flat blade (this was called bestowing the accolade), calling him by name, and bidding him rise and receive his kiss of welcome into the order of chivalry.

Other knights, or fair maidens of high degree, then helped him don the different parts of a knight's armour. The fact that a knight had to undergo such a preparation, and take such solemn vows, tended to make him braver and better than he would otherwise have been; and a true gentleman nowadays is one who, like the knights of old, is strictly honourable in all things and gentle towards every one.

During the chivalric ages, the knights were in the habit of making strange vows, such as not to rest until they had fought a number of battles or won a certain prize in a tournament. When Edward started to make war in France, some of the nobles declared they would wear a patch over one eye until they had beaten the French!

Ladies also made queer vows, and we are told that when good Queen Philippa heard that Edward had begun the siege of Calais, she swore she would not change a certain linen kerchief she wore until he had taken the city. As the siege lasted ten months, the queen's kerchief had time to grow very yellow. Her ladies, to look as much like her as possible, wore unbleached linen, and thus ecru became the fashionable colour.