It is not necessary to adduce further proof of the eminence to which, morally, woman was exalted through the spirit of chivalry. Her empire was notorious and unchallenged. All writers of those times celebrate it, and in recent times it has been attested by the charming pen of Scott and by the sneer of Gibbon. The theory of the worship is beyond dispute; but it may be interesting to examine how the practice of chivalry accorded with its profession, and whether the power and position of the sex were substantially as dazzling as speculation represented them. Upon reflection we shall probably all admit that they were so. For though the phase of lady worship most familiar to us is seen in the practice of the knights-errant, to those vagaries a certain amount of ridicule attaches, there is ample evidence of a real, practical, established female ascendancy.
Independently of the effects of real or fancied passion, or generosity, or condescension, the sex, as such, undoubtedly experienced and exercised the benefits and the powers which the knight’s profession assigned to it.
Dunham, in his History of the Middle Ages, says:
“That woman should be regarded with new respect, that love and poetry should thrive together and become the greatest charm of life, was to be expected. In fact, from this period the sex assumed an empire which had never before existed—an empire which religion could not reach—over the minds of the fiercest nobles. It was not uncommon for a knight to expiate even a venial fault by years of penance at the mandate of some proud beauty.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.