Edward III and his eldest son, the Black Prince, were greatly admired in England for their courage on the battlefield and for their courtly manners. They became symbols of the’’code of chivalry’’; the way in a perfect knight should behave. During the reign of Edward interest grew in the legendary King Arthur, if he ever existed, was probably a Celtic ruler who fought the   Anglo-Saxons, but we know nothing more about him. The fourteenth-century legend created around Arthur included both the imagined magic and mystery of the Celts, and also the knightly values of the court of Edward III.

According to the code of chivalry, the perfect knight fought for his good name if insulted, served God and the king, and defended any lady in need. These ideas were expressed in the legend of the Round Table, around which King Arthur and his knights sat as equals in holy brotherhood.

Edward introduced the idea of chivalry into his court. Once, a lady at court accidentally dropped her garter and Edward III noticed some of his courtiers laughing at her. He picked up the garter and tied it to his own leg, saying in French, ‘’Honi soit qui mal y pense’’, which meant ‘’ Let him be ashamed who sees wrong in it’’. From this strange yet probably true story, the Order of the Garter was founded in 1348. Edward chose as members of the order twenty-four knights, the same number the legendary Arthur had chosen. They met once a year on St George’s Day Windsor Castle, whereKing Arthur’s Round Table was supposed to have been. The custom is still foollowed, and Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense is still the motto of the royal family.

Chivalry was a useful way of persuading men to fight by creating the idea that war was a noble and glorious thing. War could also, of course, be profitable. But in the fact cruelty, death, destruction, and theft were the reality of war, as they are today. The Black Prince, who was the living example of chivalry in England, was feared in France for his cruelty.

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