The Troubadour’s Guide to Modern Courtly Love

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Photo by Roman Kraft @ Unsplash

Article from the Medieval Issue #41
Print // Digital

Ah, young courtly love, the all-consuming, not-quite platonic, and entirely effusive adoration of a medieval knight for his liege’s wife. The troubadours, poets, and storytellers of the era invented the idea of an honorable knight’s almost worshipful and passionate love for a woman entirely out of his reach. The relationship was meant to stay unconsummated and consist of longing glances, shared gifts, obsessive pining, and poetry. As we all know from the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, the urge to give  in to temptation was sometimes too great to bear.

Although we at Faerie Magazine do not encourage extramarital affairs, either of the heart or of the body, it is true that to many of us in modern life, we can become married to our jobs, to distractions, to daily habits, and forget about the passionate side of love with our significant others. To the end of rekindling the sort of passionate love exemplified by the troubadours, here is a list of ways to rekindle the spark. Since love comes in all sorts of forms, we will use varying genders for our tips.

Write him poetry. The art of the poem was the primary means of expressing courtly love. And indeed, the whole concept of courtly love was invented by poets. When you write a poem, or paint a picture, of a subject, you cannot help but have to look very closely at every detail. Remember all the things that made you fall in love with him to begin with. Study the pulse beneath his wrists, the way the sunlight plays on his hair.

Give her glittering gifts of beauty. Andreas Capellanus, 12th century author of De Amore (About Love), described the process of seeing one’s beloved for the first time as a vision of her, made of light, entering the eye and going down through the body to the heart, piercing it until one is “love-struck.” Show her you remain just as pierced with love’s sharp arrows as ever by giving her shimmering gifts: Fairy wings, glittering dresses, or iridescent journals work just as fine as diamonds or jewels, depending on your lady’s tastes and preferences.

Strive to be a person who is worthy to be loved. The code of conduct befitting a knight who yearns to be loved by his lady is precise and strict. And it’s true: A healthy loving relationship includes not only a passion and love for the other person but also working hard to be a better person for each other as well. Notice when he is exhausted from work and needs you to help with fixing supper. Catch yourself before you snip at her with anger when really you’re upset about something a co-worker said earlier in the day.

Keep each other’s secrets, and have secrets. A knight’s love for his unattainable lady was a secret only they shared. Respect your partner, and keep their secrets. That much should be obvious. But also, why not share secrets with each other throughout daily life as well? Put a note in his pocket that asks him to solve a riddle, the answer of which is a hint about a surprise awaiting him that night after work. Have a secret code word when you’re out with friends that means it’s time to go home and just be with each other. You and your beloved are your own little world. Remember that, and keep some things just for you both.

Relish that you have him to come home to. The knight’s journeys, on quests, in battle, to do his king’s bidding, could be long and exhausting, but he would carry favors of his beloved with him, a ribbon from her hair or a scrap of a gown. When you return home, always embrace your beloved. No matter how terrible or wonderful the day has been, whether you emerge victorious or defeated, they are there for you. Always.

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