Saturday, 5 September 2015

chivalrous or back in the saddle again

The Norman Invasion of England in the year 1066 utilised the same technological advance in order to prosecute the same sort of vast capturing of land as Mongol Horde had used to gain territory on the liminal edge of the known world almost eight hundred years prior (and with latter day iterations as well). Though somewhat taken for granted due to its patent simplicity—particularly among the horsey-set, the stirrup proved probably as significant force in shaping civilisation as the introduction of printed word in the West, enabling mounted warriors to manoeuvre the battle-field with much greater speed and stability than had visited the defeated beforehand.
The stirrup is just a loop of leather that hangs to the side of a saddle, enabling riders to mount their steeds quickly and keep their balance. As just a small detail, it took some people quite a long time to notice and appreciate this modification that imparted significant advantage to the cavalry of the foot-solders. These more agile mercenaries that took up specialised arms and steeds became the professional landed knights under the feudalist system of the Norman conquestors and their Frankish overlords and sought to broaden the pyramid-scheme wherein defenders pledged oaths of fealty to a certain tract of property and to a certain lord. In order to maintain this allegiance, the knights—which were called then chevaliers (from the French term for horse), lived by a certain, defined code of conduct, which was called chivalry. This transformation makes me think of the way one’s portion of meat was translated from the field (grimy old English barnyard words for swine in the sty) to the dinner plate (expressed in refined French words for haute-cuisine, like pork).