“Breaking the Mold: Female Knights and the Untold Story of Women in Chivalry”

The chivalric code of the medieval period was a set of ethical standards that governed the behavior of knights. It was a code that required knights to uphold virtues such as honor, courage, loyalty, and courtesy.

Medieval France Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc was a legendary figure in medieval France

“Female knights were rare, but they did exist. These women were exceptional, both in terms of their physical prowess and their social standing, and they played a significant role in shaping the chivalric culture of medieval Europe.”

Sarah Gristwood, historian and author of “Blood Sisters: The Hidden Lives of Women Behind the Wars of the Roses”.

This code was closely associated with the idea of male knights, but what about the role of women in chivalry?

Were there any female knights, and if so, what was their role?

The idea of female knights is not something that is often discussed in popular culture or history books. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of knights were male, and therefore the history of chivalry is predominantly focused on their actions and achievements.

However, this does not mean that women did not play a role in chivalry, and in fact, there were some notable examples of female knights who made significant contributions to the code of chivalry.

Joan of Arc Famous Medieval People
Joan of Arc

Women & Chivalry – Joan of Arc

One of the earliest examples of a female knight was Joan of Arc. Born in 1412, Joan was a peasant girl from France who became a military leader during the Hundred Years’ War.

She claimed to have received visions from saints, which led her to believe that she was called by God to help the French in their war against the English.

Joan of Arc Ingres Coronation Charles Vii
Joan of Arc Ingres Coronation Charles Vii

She dressed in men’s clothing and led French troops into battle, where she demonstrated great bravery and military skill. In 1429, she helped to lift the English siege of Orleans, which was a turning point in the war.

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Siege of Orleans

“The idea that women could participate in the chivalric tradition was not entirely unheard of in the Middle Ages. There are several accounts of women who dressed as knights and fought alongside men in battle, although such cases were undoubtedly exceptional.”

Kelly DeVries, historian and author of “Joan of Arc: A Military Leader”.

Although she was eventually captured by the English and burned at the stake for heresy, Joan of Arc’s bravery and leadership qualities made her a symbol of French national pride and an inspiration to many.

Women & Chivalry – Mulan

Another example of a female knight was the legendary figure of Mulan. Although she is often thought of as a fictional character, Mulan was actually based on a real historical figure from China.

According to legend, Mulan disguised herself as a man and joined the army in place of her father, who was too old to fight. She served for over a decade and was eventually honored by the emperor for her bravery and military prowess.

Although the story of Mulan has been romanticized over the years, it is clear that the real-life woman who inspired the legend was a highly skilled and respected warrior.

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“The fact that women were excluded from the formal structures of knighthood did not mean that they were excluded from the chivalric culture that surrounded it. Women played an important role in shaping the ideals of chivalry, both through their influence over the knights themselves and through their own embodiment of chivalric virtues.”

Caroline Walker Bynum, historian and author of “Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women”.

Women Warriors Margaret of Anjou & Caterina Sforza

In addition to these famous examples, there were also other women who took up arms and fought alongside men in battles during the medieval period. While they may not have been officially recognized as knights, their actions were no less courageous or significant.

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Women such as Margaret of Anjou, who led her troops in the Wars of the Roses, and Caterina Sforza, who defended her castle against attackers in the 15th century, were both examples of women who defied societal expectations and showed themselves to be capable leaders and fighters.

However, it is important to note that the role of women in chivalry was not limited to military action. Women also played a key role in upholding the virtues of the chivalric code through their behavior and relationships with men.

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“While it is true that most women in the Middle Ages were relegated to domestic roles, there were some who were able to transcend these limitations and make a name for themselves as warriors and leaders. These women defied conventional gender norms and paved the way for future generations of women to follow in their footsteps.”

Judith Bennett, historian and author of “Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World”.

Noblewomen were expected to be paragons of virtue, embodying qualities such as modesty, piety, and loyalty. They were also expected to be skilled in the arts of conversation and entertainment, as well as being knowledgeable about politics and diplomacy.

Women such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was queen of France and later England in the 12th century, were known for their political acumen and played a significant role in shaping the political landscape of their time.

800px Anthony Frederick Sandys Queen Eleanor


In conclusion, the role of women in chivalry is often overlooked, but it is clear that they did play a role in upholding the virtues of the chivalric code. While there were some notable examples of female knights, the majority of women who participated in chivalry did so through their behavior and relationships with men

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“The history of female knights and women in chivalry is a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of women throughout history. Despite facing significant barriers to participation in the chivalric culture of their time, these women were able to carve out a space for themselves and make meaningful contributions to the world around them.”

Dan Jones, historian and author of “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England”.