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The Code: Rules of Courtly Love

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

We’re not entirely sure how a Google search on pewter cufflinks and a series of errant mouse clicks led us to a transcript of the first (and possibly best) “self-help” book ever written for men reeling over matters of the heart. But it did.

Penned in 1184 by French poet Andreas Capellanus, The Rules of Courtly Love is simple, sound, and remains eerily relevant 900 years later. It turns out we have a lot more in common with medieval knights than we thought.

Consider the following scenario:

It’s 1195.

Good news: You’re a knight, which is pretty rad. Bad news: You have no land because you’re the youngest of three brothers. Good news: You landed a solid gig serving a feudal lord who’s given you a 5-acre fief by the river. Awkward news: You’re falling in love with the feudal lord’s wife.

Time to consult The Rules of Courtly Love. (Consider it a handbook for young, horny knights who are thinking about porking the boss’ wife.)

That anxiety you’re feeling is totally normal according to rules 15, 16, 20 and 33. And remember, it’s the 1190’s -- marriage is about the dynasty, not love. (And definitely not sex, which might explain why the lord’s wife ‘mysteriously’ appears at the foot of the quarry pond every time you’re scrubbing brain bits off your breast plate.)

That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to play this. And you definitely don’t want to play it the wrong way.

The Rules of Courtly Love, by Andreas Capellanus, 1184 I. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving. II. He who is not jealous cannot love. III. No one can be bound by a double love. IV. It is well known that love is always increasing or decreasing. V. That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved has no relish. VI. Boys do not love until they arrive at the age of maturity. VII. When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor. VIII. No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons. IX. No one can love unless he is impelled by the persuasion of love. X. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice. XI. It is not proper to love any woman whom one would be ashamed to seek to marry. XII. A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved. XIII. When made public love rarely endures. XIV. The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized. XV. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved. XVI. When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved, his heart palpitates. XVII. A new love puts to flight an old one. XVIII. Good character alone makes any man worthy of love. XIX. If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives. XX. A man in love is always apprehensive. XXI. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love. XXII. Jealousy, and therefore love, are increased when one suspects his beloved. XXIII. He whom the thought of love vexes eats and sleeps very little. XXIV. Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved. XXV. A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please his beloved. XXVI. A lover can never have enough of the solaces of his beloved. XXVII. A slight presumption causes a lover to suspect his beloved. XXVIII. A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love. XXIX. A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved. XXX. Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.

That's enough music for now, lads.