The Story of the Beautiful Knight

One in a series of blogs about confluences between The Avengers and random medieval stuff.

The following is an episode from the medieval vida (biography) of Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, a troubadour from southern France who was active at the turn of the thirteenth century. He wrote many fine songs in Provençal, a southern French dialect that sounds like a mashup of French and Spanish. Many of his songs were addressed to his Bel Cavalher (Beautiful Knight). His vida tells us how he came to address his Lady by this senhal (nickname).

belcavalher.raimbautOnce there was a troubadour named Raimbaut de Vaqueiras. He fell in love with the sister of the marquis, whose name was Beatriz, and she was the wife of Henry of Carrette. Raimbaut composed for her many beautiful songs, and called her his “Beautiful Knight” (Bel Cavalher). And this is how he came to call her thus:

Raimbaut had the good fortune to be able to watch the Lady Beatriz whenever he wanted. He could see into her chamber through a cellar window. And noone ever saw him do it.

One day, the marquis was going to the hunt. He came into the chamber, took off his sword, set it next to the bed, and went out. Lady Beatriz was in the chamber. She took off her surcote but left on her underdress. She took up the sword, and fastened it around her waist, in the manner of a knight. Then she drew the sword and brandished it; then she took it in her hand and swung it as far as her arm could reach, and touched it to one shoulder and then to the other. After this, she sheathed the sword, unbelted it, and put it back near the bed.

And Raimbaut de Vaqueiras saw this through the cellar window just as I have told it to you. And it is because of this, that when he writes songs, he calls her his “Beautiful Knight.”

Translated from Michael Zink’s edition of the story
Portrait of Raimbaut from Paris, BNF MS 854, f. 75r
You can read Raimbaut’s poems here, in Provençal with English translations

If what Raimbaut wrote in his songs is true, his relationship with the Lady Beatriz was never anything other than courtly love, and Raimbaut was badly tormented by the knowledge that it could never be anything else.

Steed has his own Bel Cavalher, who can swing a sword with the best of them. Even better, she has a sword of her own. And even better than that, she can welcome her preux chevalier and love him in every sense of the word.

blogs in this series
Preux Chevaliers, concerning Emma, Steed, and knightliness
The Story of the Beautiful Knight, about Emma Peel as Steed’s Bel Cavalher
Amor’s Commandments in Le Roman de la Rose, wherein we see how well Steed measures up in the practice of fin’ amours
John Steed and the “Douce Ennemie”: Cathy, Emma, and Steed through the lens of a Machaut virelai, plus an analysis of the opening fencing scene in “Town of No Return”
Courtly Love in The Avengers: Steed’s relationships with his partners through the lens of amour courtois