Courtly love as it has come to be known today was a medieval European idea of gracefully as well as chivalrously expressing love for one another. The term found its origin in the late princely courts of Aquitaine, Provence, Champagne, Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the ducal Burgundy. The term was later coined by Gaston Paris in 1883 and popularised as ‘the nineteenth century romance’.
History states that the concept of Courtly love first came into the fore front when Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen to two kings had brought her ideals of Courtly love all the way from Aquitaine to the courts of France and England. After that, her daughter Marie, Countess of Champagne had expressed Courtly love in the Court of Count Champagne.
Courtly love found its name in the pages of Poetry as Poets then used to highlight the significance of this form of Art. They basically gave the idea of this form of love as being a secret passion that wasn’t showcased in front of the world. This mainly happened because during those times, marriages amongst nobilities had very little to do with the attachment of heart, and so the noble men found passion in expressing love which was missing from their marriages. These love of course had nothing to do with physical relationship but only the mental togetherness. And it almost had this unspoken rule of ‘loving’ that escalated mentally but never physically.
By the Middle Ages it became a popular genre for Prose as well as Poetry with authors like Geoffrey Chaucer, Marie de France, John Gower, Gottfried von Strasburg, Dante, Sir Thomas Malory and Chretien de Troyes emerged as the people who influenced societies. From their works they concluded that Courtly Love belongs to three particular genres: Lyric, Romance and Allegory.
Lyric as the first genre:
Courtly love was born in the lyric. It first appeared in the Provencal poets of the 11th century. The songs were made with heart touching lyrics and words which were supposed to break hearts; these were performed in the court itself for the lady love and generally sung by the troubadours, trouveres and the courtiers themselves. This was also rich source of income for the troubadours as they were handsomely paid by the noble men for their song. Thus it is quiet evident that music then, had a way of intoxicating people both rich and poor, both big and small. Of course these were never proved as our historians never had written as to when and how they were performed. It only pictures and court scenes drawn, or the poems and songs themselves that shed light on the dark past.
Romance as the Second Verse:
‘Roman Courtois’ or the Courtly romance concepts were poetry that exemplified the meaning of love then. These were the literature of leisure that was largely directed to the female audiences of the court. Secret endeavours, love songs and heartfelt music were the order of the day.
Allegory as the Third Ritual:
Allegory was conceptions that were used to decipher the meaning of what was already written. And thus there was a strong difference between religious imagery and human sexual love. Hence Courtly love was reckoned as a pure form of love where the lovers used to love and leave each other for God and then let his decision guide them.