The Courts of Love

The Courts of Love

Sinfonye, Stevie Wishart (conductor)


The more or less fanciful ‘Courts of Love’ are described in Andreas Capellanus’s Book of the Art of Love where a lengthy chapter is devoted to describing ‘various judgements on love’. Andreas appears to have been a chaplain to the court of Champagne, probably during the years 1181 and 1187 when it was presided over by the Countess Marie who may well have been instrumental in compiling the treatise. We are told of courts headed by noble women such as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (d1204); Marie, Countess of Champagne; Isabel, Countess of Flanders; and Ermengarde, Viscountess of Narbonne, which were assembled in order to judge disputes between lovers – whether their conduct followed the ‘laws’ of courtly love. As a charade of medieval law courts their enactments were all the more piquant since they made a mockery of the accepted social order, and although they functioned only within the artistic milieu of troubadour song, similar courts of love were documented in the fifteenth century during the reign of Charles VI with the Arrests d’Amour by Martial d’Auvergne. Troubadour songs occasionally cite such gatherings, and the creation of courts to which lovers could bring their complaints would be in complete affinity, or even a necessity to the refined elaborations of fin’ amor, or ‘gentil lovyng’, to use Chaucer’s term.

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