This is a story about William, a seventeen year old son of sir James – once a powerful feudal aristocrat in England. Sir James used to own a large portion of land in the Wales, but times have changed. As money started to be used, sir James lost parts of his land because he could not afford to keep it. On top of that, some of his peasants have left and became mercenaries who were hired by sir James’s neighbor. These days, around year 1200, sir James is still among the few noble English families left, noble but yet not belonging to magnates.
It is William that sir James counts on to move up the social ladder. William is not a true son of sir James, the boy was born to sir James’s brother, sir Henry. 10 years ago sir Henry died and his brother, sir James, exercised the right of wardship – he started taking care of William and of those lands that used to belong to his father. William started living with his uncle when he was seven years old. As soon as he moved in to sir James’s castle, William became a student of many studies – he was being prepared for a court life.
William is trained to become a good hunter, but also to be able to charm a court lady – he has teachers who teach him to sing songs, tell stories, flirt, dance, he has a special teacher who teaches him the rules of different ceremonies in court, the terminology to use, how to behave, how to dress. All of these activities are taking place in the castle of sir James, which is neither small nor large. A stone castle is surrounded by several wooden homes of sir James’s peasants who are busy with manufacturing of flax, wool, growing of geese and pigs for the inhabitants of the castle.
The whole territory is surrounded by a stone wall. William’s day begins early in the morning. A servant brings him a basin with water to wash. When he is ready, William goes on to morning hunting exercise, which takes place until breakfast. At breakfast William usually meets sir James, they discuss William’s morning practice and talk about the upcoming tournament. After that, William has music and dancing lessons followed by yet another practice.
During his free hours William either sleeps or goes for a walk into the country where he spends hours dreaming about his romantic love for lady Mary, whom he met at the last tournament. After dinner, William spends hours with his teacher of court manners and another one with whom William reads and writes poems. In other words, William spends his days doing and learning everything that chivalry behavior requires. Once done will all classes, William puts on his armor and goes horse riding into the woods.
Supper is usually late in the evening with lots of meat and wine. These days William is busy more than usual with horse-riding and weapon usage practices due to the coming tournament. Being of a noble family William is allowed to participate in knight tournaments where he hopes to attract attention of lovely lady Mary, on whose patronage is also counting sir James. Lady Mary is a heiress of a wealthy magnate and her hand would provide William and sir James a higher status and allow them to enter a narrow circle of English aristocracy.
The previous tournament was a good one for William – he conquered his opponent winning his horse and armor, and on the other hand, at the banquet following the tournament, he was able to speak with lady Mary and got an impression that he has actually charmed her and now she is favoring him. Patronage of lady Mary, who’s father is not only very wealthy but also in a good relationship with the monarch himself, would definitely secure William a place among nobility. The only person who disapproves of William’s lifestyle is his step-father – a priest in the local church, father John.
Father John finds that William’s attraction to lady Mary and court life in general diverts him away from God. However, William is convinced that his chivalry lifestyle is the highest expression of worldly conduct, and is the best path to choose if one has already made a choice in favor of secular and spiritual life path. Thus, William spends his life in accordance with the requirements of his time when feudal aristocracy was in the past giving a place to nobility class which claimed to have a special, highest social ranking and privileges given to them by their right of birth.