"In Her Honor"
The queen rises from her throne,
her gown of ivory silk glittering
with belt and trim in cloth-of-gold,
her crown like a circlet of stars
over the sun-gold of her hair.
The young man kneels before her
and swears fealty to fight in her honor.
The queen takes up her sword
and taps the slender blade on
his shoulders, steel chiming
against chain mail, its edge
no more than a finger's flick
from the soft skin of his throat.
The queen sheathes her sword,
and then the knight rises,
already eager to serve.
In all the battles to come,
he will remember this moment,
and her embodiment of heaven's grace:
that gentleness is controlled strength.
* * *
The Accolade is a famous painting.
Oaths of fealty have evolved over time. In the medieval period, knights customarily swore fealty to a liege in exchange for land and privileges.
Gentleness is controlled strength. This is not just a virtue, but also a foundation of dominance theory. If submitting gains the subordinate nothing beyond not getting killed, it holds little benefit and will be abandoned as soon as a better opportunity arises. This makes the relationship unstable for both parties. If the dominant treats the subordinate well, and bestows a portion of resources, the relationship then becomes much more mutually beneficial and stable. Swearing fealty gained the knight social status (and thus better mate selection), a patch of land, and other resources; it gained the liege a fighter on the field, a supporter in court, and a land manager. This was altogether a better deal for everyone, so long as both resisted the temptation to stir trouble in attempt to grab more resources.