The figure of a knight on horseback is the emblem of medieval chivalry. Much has been written on the ideology and practicalities of knighthood as portrayed in medieval romance, especially Arthurian romance, and it is surprising that so little attention was hitherto granted to the knight’s closest companion, the horse.
This study examines the horse as a social indicator, as the knight’s animal alter ego in his spiritual peregrinations and earthly adventures, the ups and downs of chivalric adventure, as well as the relations between the lady and her palfrey in romance. Both medieval authors and their audiences knew more about the symbolism and practice of horsemanship than most readers do today. By providing the background to the descriptions of horses and horsemanship in Arthurian romance, this study deepens the readers’ appreciation of these texts. At the same time, critical reading of romance supplies information about the ideology and daily practice of horsemanship in the Middle Ages that is otherwise impossible to obtain from other sources, be it archaeology, chronicles or administrative documentation.
Anastasija Ropa holds a doctoral degree from Bangor University (North Wales), for a study in medieval and modern Arthurian literature. She has published several articles on medieval and modern Arthurian literature, focusing on its historical and artistic aspects. Anastasija is a member of the British Branch of the International Arthurian Society and of the Centre for Arthurian Studies. She is currently employed as guest lecturer at the Latvian Academy of Sport Education. Anastasija’s most recent research explores medieval equestrianism in English and French literary sources and documents, and she has been one of the organizers of sessions on medieval equestrianism at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds since 2016.
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