I'd always considered myself fairly chivalrous; always a fair fight without cheating, and a gracious opponent whether I'd won or lost. Perhaps more importantly, always a gentleman. Wikipedia states that The Knight's Code of Chivalry was a moral system that stated all knights should protect others who can not protect themselves, such as widows, children, and elders - or at least as much as I could in our 21st Century interpretation of it. But I also wondered if this same noble knight is what women base their solitary "shining armor" one upon? As it turns out, yes. Also - not exactly what today's modern woman might have had in mind.
The "Knight in Shining Armor" of lore also followed some pretty strict rules of engagement where love was concerned, called "Courtly Love" which was (depending upon interpretation) a rulebook for secret affairs.
The romance, rules and art of Medieval Courtly Love allowed knights and ladies to show their admiration regardless of their marital state. During this period of time marriages were arranged and had little to do with love. A successful marriage was perceived as one that brought material advantages to the participants and their families. As love was clearly unrelated to marriage the requirement for romance could be gained outside marriage - as long as the rules relating to chastity and fidelity were strictly adhered to. Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.*
But don't get caught up with use of the word, "chastity" above, as it didn't mean sexual abstinence nor abstaining from pre-marital or extra-martial sex as it does in the here and now, rather "sexual conduct in accordance with cultural standards" e.g. chivalrous "courtly love" in the times of the Middle Ages Knight.
This romanticized view of the Middle Ages was nothing more than that - an artistic and literary movement of fictionalization. Why? Well that's a can of worms as it turns out. A lot about the power of the Roman empire's ability to incorporate many cultures into its own by modifying its own societal rules to make everyone more comfortable (and pliant). This is where we get pagan worship masquerading as Christian holidays. I even read one hypothesis where the term romantic has at its core the very denotation of its origin, "Roman-tic" in an essay which attempts to prove monogamy is far from biblical.
A point of ongoing controversy about courtly love is to what extent it was sexual. All courtly love was erotic to some degree, and not purely platonic — the troubadours speak of the physical beauty of their ladies and the feelings and desires the ladies arouse in them. However, it is unclear what a poet should do: live a life of perpetual desire channeling his energies to higher ends, or physically consummate.*
Who here would deny that such an eternal struggle exists? While creatures of great fortitude and great responsibility, we are also creatures of incredible passion - a passion which evolves as we do. While researching the various ideologies which surround the notion of "romantic love" I was first shocked to find an entry by Ayn Rand, replaced quickly with amazement by what I myself have come to feel. From her Romantic Manifesto, I leave you with this (highlights mine):
I am referring here to romantic love, in the serious meaning of that term — as distinguished from the superficial infatuations of those whose sense of life is devoid of any consistent values, i.e., of any lasting emotions other than fear. Love is a response to values. It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love — with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person’s character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul — the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness. It is one’s own sense of life that acts as the selector, and responds to what it recognizes as one’s own basic values in the person of another. It is not a matter of professed convictions (though these are not irrelevant); it is a matter of much more profound, conscious and subconscious harmony.
Many errors and tragic disillusionments are possible in this process of emotional recognition, since a sense of life, by itself, is not a reliable cognitive guide. And if there are degrees of evil, then one of the most evil consequences of mysticism — in terms of human suffering — is the belief that love is a matter of “the heart,” not the mind, that love is an emotion independent of reason, that love is blind and impervious to the power of philosophy. Love is the expression of philosophy — of a subconscious philosophical sum — and, perhaps, no other aspect of human existence needs the conscious power of philosophy quite so desperately. When that power is called upon to verify and support an emotional appraisal, when love is a conscious integration of reason and emotion, of mind and values, then — and only then — it is the greatest reward of man’s life.*