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What’s Love Got To Do With Romance?
Can we have romance without love, or love without romance? Or do romance and love go hand-in-hand? In today’s relationships, these questions are as varied as the people who answer them. It’s well-known that women want romance in a relationship, a man she can call her own, a man she can shower with love. Men are more carnal. They’re after one thing: sex. Of course, not all men are like that, yet it’s the nature of a man’s composition.
Imagine what love and romance were like 600 to 1000 years ago. Love was furthest from all the reasons two people married. Wealth and prestige was at the top of the list, along with real estate and heirs. From antiquity, when first marriages were by capture and not by choice, to early medieval times, a woman had little—if any—say about whom she married.
My focus here is on the medieval period, more precisely courtly love. While country marriages were often a result of love shared by the couple, nobles considered marriage a business transaction. If the husband and wife eventually fell in love, they were the lucky ones. In today’s society, imagine being forced to marry a virtual stranger. What if you’re stuck in an arranged, loveless marriage? We have many options for escape; for medieval people, very few options existed.
Somewhere around the 12th century, the sinful nature of passion (as seen through the eyes of moralists) began to ease and gave way to courtly love. Depending on the country, the regions and towns, many young men and women tested the waters of love. Romance blossomed as knights serenaded their ladies and wrote poems, though most were written by troubadours. You will find this line in their Code of Chivalry: “Be respectful of host, women and honor.”
Ovid, a Latin poet of the time, “described the symptoms of love as if it were a sickness.” (CalPoly online source) The afflicted sighed, turned pale or red, were feverish and unable to eat or sleep. Not much different than today’s couple deeply in love. Still, not every man had the freedom to choose; arranged marriages continued for nobles. However, courtly love heightened the status of women. Too bad they couldn’t choose the man of their dreams. But they were given the chance to be wooed by a gallant knight before any wedding ceremony took place.
Courtly love and chivalry gave romance and love a push in the right direction. There are many customs we use that date back to medieval times. What I found interesting in my research was all the “rules” that were drawn up in the Code of Chivalry and the Ten Commandments of the Code of Chivalry. Courtly love had its own set of rules with 31 listed in The Art of Courtly Love, a doctrine compiled by Andreas Capellamus, a 12th century author. He believed in passionate love. On his list was, “No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.” And another, “He who is not jealous cannot love.” What about number 31: “Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.” Did the man who romanced the lady to her liking win her heart? I’ll bet the woman got the man she truly loved, and the man split his time between both of the women he chose.
But what about the aspect of romance? Perhaps it had been confused with passion and love. Although knights are considered a romantic breed, in the medieval period one did not distinguish between romance and love in their pursuit of a lady. Remember how men viewed and still view a relationship? Yet the tides of respect for the fairer sex changed for the better in this period of history.
The envoys of the heart should be
The noble deeds of chivalry:
A daring charge, an escalade,
A knight or banner captive made’
A pass against a host maintained,
A name through trials borne unstained—
Thus love most eloquently speaks;
This is the homage maiden seeks.
Translated from Provencal by John Rutherford
Now that’s romantic.
Knights, chivalry and courtly love went hand-in-hand. Was the romantic notion of a knight and his lady real? Or not? Allowed the freedom, did they fall madly in love for the rest of their lives? Or was the romance made up of fairy tales? And was romance and love one in the same or different? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Jannine Corti Petska
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SURRENDER TO HONOR, book 2, Italian medieval series
Prima Ranieri seeks retribution for her family’s death and loss of home and land. Her plans go awry when the heir to the powerful Massaro family returns home. After only one glance, Prima’s attraction to him undermines her furor toward those she blames for her plight.
After a fifteen year absence, Antonio Massaro returns to Palermo to find a war raging between his family and the evil Falcone. His refusal to accept his rightful position as the head of the Honored Society carries serious consequences. The welfare of the people of Palermo is at stake. But one look at the beautiful woman Prima has become costs him his heart. She’s a deadly distraction…one that jeopardizes her life as well as his own.
Antonio ordered Prima thrown into the dungeon. In this scene, he goes down to release her from the rack where he had previously secured her wrists and ankles.
“If you confess, you will find yourself free before nightfall.”
“I have naught to confess.” She lifted her chin and met his gaze.
“You attacked me. By what reason did you greet me with unfriendly intentions?”
“I thought you were a…thief, looking to prey on the innocent women weeping for their dead.”
She glared up at him.
“You had no other reason than to seek revenge on the Massaro and the Falcone. You thought I came, summoned to Palermo by one of those families, another man willing to join forces with powerful foes.”
“Was it not I who you bade to confess? Alas, since you have spoken my truth, as I already did after you captured me, am I free to leave?”
Antonio forced back a grin caused by her saucy remark. “Clever, piccola.” He pulled open the cuffs at her wrists anyway, ignoring the shock spanning her features. “They were never locked,” he admitted, watching her shock turn to seething hatred.
She sat up, rubbing her wrists. He scooped her surcoat from the rushes and sat down beside her legs on the raised rack. When he took her hand in his, she snatched it away.
“I mean only to tend your cuts,” he said.
“I shall see to them myself.” Prima tugged her surcoat out of his hand. “The ankle cuffs?”
Antonio glanced back at her wiggling feet, all the while aware that her eyes were on the leather tie holding his long hair in place. It was uncommon for a man of wealth and honor to wear his hair below his jaw; he didn’t care. He turned then and caught her staring. The ill-lit dungeon did not conceal the warm flush unfolding up her cheeks.
“It appears we are in a small quandary. The ankle cuffs are locked, and I have not the key.” He rose to search the dungeon. He picked up an axe and curled his fingers around the leather wrapped handle. From the corner of his eye he watched Prima as he raised the old weapon to his lips and blew the dust free. When he cleaved the table with the sharp blade, Prima gasped. “This should do, I think,” he said.
“Wh-what are you about?” Her eyes widened as he raised the weapon high above his head. “What—? Dio!” She clasped her hands behind her neck and pulled her head between her knees. The chains jerked her ankles and her legs slammed together, snapping against her ears. He knew of no easier way to rid her of the chains. One final blow freed her completely. She raised her head, rubbing her ears, and shook herself of the gypsy bells undoubtedly tinkling within. She touched her hair, felt her neck, and exhaled loudly.
Astonished, Antonio asked, “Think you I would take your head?”
She boldly met his gaze. “Sì.”