Chivalry and Knighthood

Course details

From £1435.00

Sun 14 Jul 2019 - Sat 20 Jul 2019

Chivalry and Knighthood


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

The terms chivalry and knighthood mean many different things to different people.  In this class we will explore as many of these as possible.  We will look at their origins, medieval theories; what the ideas meant in practice using the life of William Marshal as a template; how they were portrayed in medieval literature; and what happened as guns changed the nature of warfare.  We will look at life in the medieval castle through a day trip to two of the finest surviving examples.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


The beginnings of chivalry and knighthood – how chivalry evolved from earlier fighting traditions.  Knighthood in theory – the theories, social, moral and religious that evolved about the roles and duties of the knight over the course of the Middle Ages. Other interpretations as to why chivalry evolved.


Knighthood and chivalry in practice. The true nature of the joust and tournament and their function as an aspect of a knight’s training.  The life of William Marshal (1146-1219), one of the greatest examples of knighthood of his time.  How typical was he of his age and how does his life compare with other knights?


Knighthood and chivalry in literature.  We will focus on Chretien’s Knight of the Cart looking at how it relates to theory and practice, and the role of Courtly Love in knighthood.  We will then look at other treatments of knighthood in medieval literature.


Day trip to the great fortification of Chepstow Castle, once governed by William Marshall, and to the remains of the small but perfect Goodrich Castle.  This will give us a chance to consider life in the medieval castle in context.


The decline of chivalry and knighthood? Should we see the 15th century as a period of decline or change? We will use the life of ‘The Good Knight’ Jacques de Lalaing as an example. What happened to ideas  and the practice of chivalry and knighthood after the Middle Ages.

Field Trip:

Chepstow and Goodrich Castles

Excursion Rating: Moderate

Excursion Ratings: Key
(as rated by course tutors)
Easy: Up to an hour's walk on even ground or less than half an hour's walk on rough ground.
Moderate: Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.
Demanding: More than two hours' walk on even ground or up to two hours' walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.

Recommended reading

de Troyes, Chrétien The Knight of the Cart (also known as Lancelot; in French Le Chevalier de la Charrette). Athens, GA and London: The University of Georgia Press, 2011.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals): £1615.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals): £1435.00


Dr Julia Mary Cresswell


Dr Julia Cresswell has long been a regular tutor on The Oxford Experience. She has also taught undergraduates at a number of Oxford institutions, and works as a writer, mostly on aspects of the English language. She is the author of 20 books, and has also worked for many years as a lexicographer.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.