Criticism of Crusading in Fourteenth-Century England.
Contrary to the common claim, enthusiasm for the crusading ideal did not decline sharply after the loss of the Holy Land. Lollard criticism is ambiguous and unlikely to be representative of popular attitudes. Various fourteenth-century English authors have been cited in the past as evidence for the unpopularity of crusading, but an examination of their opinions in context makes it clear that some, like Wyclif, were reacting only to their distaste for a particular enterprise (the Bishop of Norwich’s Flanders Crusade of 1383); others, including Langland, have been misrepresented as enemies of crusading by inference because of their enthusiasm for missionary efforts (which were ordinarily thought to complement, not compete with, military expeditions). Gower, whose Confessio Amantis voices unambiguous distaste for crusading (cf. 1620-82, 2241-44, 2484-2515), may be intending the lover’s remarks to be understood as an ironic commentary on the lapse of chivalric ideals since Gower can be shown to have expressed support for crusading at both earlier and later dates. Chaucer’s portrait of the Knight in CT is unlikely to be ironic and subversive in its references to his crusading activities, especially considering the enthusiasm for crusading at Richard II’s court and the influence of such respected crusaders as Clanvowe, Neville, and Clifford.