This is the first book on masculine identity and the meaning of nobility using first-hand documentation from the memoirs of knights. This project investigates how the French warrior aristocracy from the end of the Hundred Years War to the beginning of the French Wars of Religion (roughly 1450 to 1550) adopted new perceptions of masculinity. During these years the French knightly elite came under increasing ridicule from critics. They eschewed the gruff demeanor of soldiers. Instead teaching that education and bearing were more appropriate signs of privileged status than martial prowess. King Francis I (1515-1547), as a patron of the Renaissance espoused, architecture, and manners, courtliness and implicitly devalued traditional martial values. Yet this repudiation thinly concealed a paradox. It was precisely through violence that the king was able to maintain power and authority. Knights were also expected to use violence to defend their rights as men. Thus, conceptions of masculinity during Francis' reign were conflicted.
The behavioral requirements of a knightly aristocrat were now simultaneously, if incongruously, violent and erudite, murderous yet courtly, masculine and feminine.