Largesse comes to us from an age of Chivalry and Knighthood. It is an act of Generosity, of giving gifts to show your personal wealth or the Wealth of a Kingdom. Kings give Largesse to show faith in the receiver’s loyalty or prowess on the battlefield. The very act of generosity is part of the Knightly Code.
When Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine continued her Grandfather’s traditions of courtly love or “Amors Courtois” and in extension her daughter; The Court of Love was created. This Court put forth that the Codes of Chivalry were an Extension of Courtly Behavior and the Love that flowed from God to Man.
Here is one thought as to the Code of Chivalry: Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to heroic actions, and keeps them conversant with all that is beautiful and sublime in the intellectual and moral world.
There are many different accounts of the Codes of Chivalry. The first is from Chivalry by Leon Gautier a French literary historian.
Mr. Gautier was born at Le Havre, France. He was educated at the École des Chartes, and became successively head of the archives of the département of Haute-Marne and archivist at the Imperial Archives at Paris. In 1871 he became professor of palaeography at the École des Chartes. He was elected member of the Academy of Inscriptions in 1887, and became chief of the historical section of the National Archives in 1893.
In Chivalry, he puts down the Ten Commandments of the Chivalric Code:
Thou shall believe all that the Church teaches, and shall observe all its directions.
Thou shall defend the Church.
Thou shall respect all weaknesses, and shall constitute thyself the defender of them.
Thou shall love the country in the which thou wast born.
Thou shall not recoil before thine enemy.
Thou shall make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
Thou shall perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
Thou shall never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
Thou shall be generous, and give largess to everyone.
Thou shall be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.
When Gautier wrote “The Song of Roland” -He describes the 8th Century Knights and battles of the Emperor Charlemagne. Thus come to us the rules called Charlemagne’s Code of Chivalry and the duties of a Knight were described as follows:
To fear God and maintain His Church
To serve the liege lord in valor and faith
To protect the weak and defenseless
To give succor to widows and orphans
To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
To live by honor and for glory
To despise pecuniary reward
To fight for the welfare of all
To obey those placed in authority
To guard the honor of fellow knights
To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
To keep faith
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
To respect the honor of women
Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
Never to turn the back upon a foe.
Lengthy rules that attempt to define the behaviors and attitudes of Knightly Civilization. Among the many attempts to define the rules of chivalry, Lord Tennyson’s was the shortest and neatest: “Live pure, speak true, right wrong, and follow Christ the King.”
Back to Largesse
The generosity of kings and queens has been termed “largesse” throughout history. In the Society for Creative Anachronism, the giving of largesse allows the Crown and Coronets of a Kingdom to show that Their wealth and happiness is a direct result of the wealth and happiness of the people of The Land. Not only is gift-giving expected of Royalty, is an extension of Their courtesy. It is Their chance to give something back to the populace and say thank you to those who deserve it.
The populace- the craftspeople, artisans, merchants – any and all interested-are asked to donate items to be given away as gifts. These donations have benefits that are two-fold:
1. The Royals will have a wide and diverse stock of items to choose from to give away as gifts to help alleviate the burden of financial expense
2. And the artisans have the opportunity to have exposure for their work, not only to be recognized by the Royals and populace of a Kingdom, but perhaps even throughout the Known World.
It should be stressed that the largesse items are ideally handmade or period in nature, i.e.: lengths of fabric; purchased hand-blown glass, etc. can be acceptable. Items should be as period as possible, or at least medieval in flavor.
Items that can be given away in sets, pairs or individually are also acceptable. These items are bestowed by the Royals as They see fit: gifted to other Royalty, as prizes for event winners/sponsored prizes, or to other such deserving gentles.
Remember that items will sometimes be traveling, perhaps even great distances, both to and from events. Therefore size, weight, and breakability should be considered. When accepting donations, the items should be well packaged, and a written description (including name of artisan and branch) should be included with the item.
Items that are not given away are passed on to the next set of Royalty. All the items should not be given away during one reign. Ideally, the requests to keep gifts coming in should be continuous, so there is enough to fill the need of one reign with enough left over to continue on to the next.
A suggestion was made that when giving Largesse, if one can: make sure to make enough to give one of the items to each Kingdom in the known World and then have some left over for your Barony or Shire.
For Example: Lady Makes a Lot has made 25 embroidered purses, and after showing them off at the A&S display table wishes to make a gift of the purses as Largesse. Her Baron and Baroness being generous give 20 to the King and Queen and keep 5 for the Baronial Largesse chest. The Royals now have plenty to spread the wealth and so does the Barony.
If that trend continues with other creative gentles of the Kingdom then there will be much wealth to spread around indeed. Sometimes one can give smaller lots of a certain gift and the wealth will still be enough to spread around. Follow your heart and by all means stay within the constraints of your pocketbooks. Largesse and Generosity should not bankrupt the giver.