[[quoteright:320:[[Literature/TristanAndIseult http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tristan.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:320:He loved her dearly in his heart, but knew better than to love her any more closely.]]

->''"I say Creator/WilliamShakespeare had the right idea--\\
Put your passion in a poem she won't hear.''"
-->-- Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives, "I Get By"

Courtly love was a medieval European idea of love dating back to the noble courts of the eleventh century. In essence, courtly love was a contradictory experience between erotic desire and spiritual attainment. Courtly Love is having a romantic affair without ever imagining it will be consummated. The man in question will be in love with his lady -- who is normally his social superior -- do almost anything for her and in her name. She may love the fella back, if he's fortunate -- though that's not expected, and not really the point. The lady in question (and, indeed, the man in question) will almost certainly be married or engaged to somebody else: when Courtly Love happens, marriage isn't for love, but [[ArrangedMarriage for more pragmatic reasons]]. In periods where Courtly Love is popular, it may be the only form of affair that doesn't get condemned as evil, simply because nothing more intimate than kisses, handkerchiefs, and sonnets get exchanged. In modern times it might happen just because the characters are too young, such as a ChildhoodFriendRomance.

It was a common motif in ChivalricRomance. The fairy mistress, being one of the FairFolk, was a natural for it; the magical taboos that hedged her around fit well with the ethos of obedience to the lady, however arbitrary her demands. It even allowed the writer to rationalize the taboo into a whim of the lady.

Almost as soon as it appeared, it was NewerThanTheyThink; the KingArthur mythos and the Matter of Britain were hammered into shape, and people began to lament that love was no longer [[GoodOldWays what it had been in King Arthur's day]]. It has now been a DeadUnicornTrope for a matter of centuries.

There is, of course, a dark side to this seemingly idealized fairytale. Just as Courtly Love is the ''only'' genteel and "proper" form of romance short of marriage in nobility, the only outlet for carnal desires falls on the shoulders of those not subject to the respect of chivalry; the peasant class. Malory's writings contain candid accounts of Lancelot casually advising Galahad to rape a local village girl to mend his heart wounded from a failed courtship. This is the most ''benign'' examples of the consequences of unfulfilled lust stemmed from the stifling constraints of Courtly Love.

In latter times, Courtly Love may be the only way for a CelibateHero, or someone whose superpowers are PoweredByVirginity, to express his (or her) love for someone. The difference between Courtly Love and UnresolvedSexualTension is, Courtly Love is ''supposed'' to be satisfying in itself because of the mix of the romantic and spiritual. Even when it was popular, it didn't always work that way; Lancelot's love for Guinevere started as Courtly Love but developed into a different sort of affair.

Later on, this trope helped make the era look far more romantic than it already was. Thus we have KnightInShiningArmor, PrinceCharming, and PrincessClassic.

OlderThanPrint. Also known as Petrarchan Love, after the TropeCodifier, {{Petrarch}}, whose lovesick series of sonnets to Laura made poetry an essential facet of Courtly Love. Today, if one of the two is married, this is known as "emotional adultery".

A SisterTrope to OldFashionedRowboatDate which is a similar romantic ideal that started up centuries after the medieval European period.

Compare TheLadysFavour, LadyAndKnight.

Nothing to do with Music/CourtneyLove, who is pretty much in a polar opposite position of this trope.


[[folder:Anime and {{Manga]]
* ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'': Ryoga's love for Akane.
* Ryota Miyagi of ''Manga/SlamDunk'' loves Ayako and even states he's satisfied as long as he can make her happy.
* Takeo will do anything for Yamato in ''Manga/MyLoveStory'', and tells her that he won't lay a finger on her until they're older. He doesn't even allow himself to hold hands with her, until Yamato voices her desire to.
* ''Manga/MagicKnightRayearth'': Ascot's love for Umi concluded with him stating that the most important was to love her, without expecting retribution.
* It's strongly implied in ''Manga/SaintSeiya'' that this is the actual nature of Seiya and Saori's relationship. They're all but stated to be in love, but know they can't go much further than LadyAndKnight due to her being the Goddess Athena and him being [[BodyguardCrush one of her bodyguards.]]

* In ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'' and its sequel ''Ghosts of the Past'', Harry and Carol's thoroughly complicated relationship seems to be slowly evolving into this and becoming an AnchoredShip, with TheFourLoves being explicitly discussed by the Avengers in respect to which applies (they're not entirely sure, but settle on ''philia'') - [[{{UST}} though with the ever present suggestion that it could get less than platonic at a moment's notice]], leaving the door open for them to become MindLinkMates. Interestingly, their psychic connection, formed accidentally in chapter 2 of ''Ghosts of the Past'', seems to be fuelling both the {{UST}} and the courtly nature of their relationship. The short version, though, is that Carol isn't emotionally up for a romantic relationship, especially not with one of the very few guys she considers a real friend (years of sexual harassment from a horrifyingly young age, boys befriending her solely as a means to an end, and an emotionally abusive father, will do that to you). Harry, meanwhile, is definitely in love with her by the sequel, but also utterly scrupulous about abiding by her wishes, stating repeatedly and sincerely that their friendship comes before anything else - [[SingleWomanSeeksGoodMan this, it is suspected, is why she likes him]]. Either way, they're generally accepted [[TrueCompanions to be completely devoted to each other.]]
* In the ''Manga/DeathNote'' SlashFic ''FanFic/FeverDreams'' when [[spoiler: L dumps him and refuses to see him anymore]] Light pursues "the Lovesick Moron Plan" sending L sappy poetry and spending all his money on sending him flowers and candy that he knew would be immediately rerouted to forensics.
* In the ''Film/{{Maleficent}}'' fanfic ''Fanfic/YourServantMistress'', Maleficent and Diaval have this kind of relationship at the beginning. As they're both into BDSM, and Diaval is submissive, he finds this quite satisfying.

* Spoofed in ''Film/TheCourtJester''.
* Defied in ''[[Film/AttackOfTheClones Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones]]'' because the whole point of the Anakin/Padmé relationship was that he was not satisfied with Courtly Love so when she professed her love to him they consummated their romance. This resulted in them getting married secretly and conceiving [[spoiler: Luke and Leia]].
* Rick in ''Film/{{Casablanca}}'' is a rather complex zigzag of this. In a flashback he met her in Paris and presumably did French things with her, though of course [[GettingCrapPastTheRadar the movie doesn't say directly]]. Later Rick is understandably angry at not being told she was married (though at the time of their romp she believed her husband to be dead). In the final scene he settles on being satisfied with CourtlyLove because [[IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy he wants his beloved to be happy]].
* Bryce and Julie in ''Film/{{Flipped}}'' never even kiss although they are only in seventh grade when the story ends.
* ''Film/TheHungerGames'': Peeta's affections for Katniss has strong aspects of this. He's deeply in love with her, has no real hope that she'll return his feelings (he thinks she's in love with Gale) yet is still willing to both kill and die for her. He plays the role of lover in public but is remarkably chaste with her in private. Even when she lets him into her bed and sleeps in his arms he never tries to so much as kiss her.

* Creator/{{Petrarch}}'s ''Laura'' sonnets are the TropeCodifier.
* ''Literature/TheCanterburyTales'' plays it straight in the Knight's Tale. Averted in every other part.
* ''Literature/DonQuixote'' parodied this along with every other facet of chivalry. Dulcinea, the lady in question, has no idea that Don Quixote exists, yet he believes they have this relationship.
* Creator/WilliamShakespeare plays this straight in all of his sonnets.
* Dante's love for Beatrice in ''Literature/TheDivineComedy''. And in RealLife.
* Many of the interactions between men and women in ''Literature/{{Parzival}}'' take the form of this, with the title character eventually managing to reconcile the spiritual and physical aspects of his love.
* The Mimbrates of Creator/DavidEddings' ''Literature/TheBelgariad'' universe are based on the ultra-idealistic romance take on medieval knights (to a comical degree), and thus also includes this. The Mimbrate Knight, Sir Mandorallan, is one of the main characters, and stuck in one of these: while ''he's'' single, he is hopelessly in love with a married woman whose husband is significantly older, and happens to be Mandorallan's mentor and surrogate father. Mandorallan is too knightly to be anything less than completely courteous, she is too noble to betray her husband, and meanwhile, the husband knows what's between them, knows that he's the only thing keeping them apart, and that they're both too noble to betray him in the least. He decides to take up a few dangerous hobbies. Like going off to war, for instance. Generations of Mimbrate maidens apparently cry themselves to sleep over the sheer, tragic nobility of the situation.
** Even after he dies, they're still caught up in this, annoying Garion until he finally forces them to get married and be happy. Ce'Nedra chastises him (tongue firmly in cheek) for ruining their noble suffering. Belgarath chastises him (tongue ''not'' in cheek) for [[spoiler:using a magically-summoned thunderstorm to do so, screwing up weather patterns all over the world]].
** This trope could also pretty much describe what went on between Polgara and Ontrose, despite Polgara's best efforts.
* Also from Eddings, this is what the knight Sparhawk was planning in ''Literature/TheElenium'' trilogy, intending to basically bury his love for Queen Ehlana under the veneer of duty and find her a good husband closer to her own age. [[spoiler:She had other ideas.]]
* Gimli from ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'' has this with Galadriel. He prizes three strands of her hair above the more precious and practical gifts she gives to the rest of the Fellowship, and offers to fight anyone who sees her face and does not declare her the WorldsMostBeautifulWoman, but since she's married that's as far as it goes.
* Kate Chopin's ''Literature/TheAwakening'' is also a (relatively) modern example of courtly love.
* James Branch Cabell's ''Domnei''.
* Mocked without mercy in ''Literature/TheSquiresTales'', particularly in ''The Ballad of Sir Dinadan''.
* The second mate in ''Literature/TheCaptainsWife''.
* In the novel ''The Widow of the South'' Carrie [=McGavock=] develops this with wounded soldier Zachariah Cashwell, and interestingly, Carrie's husband ''knows'' full well what's going on and supports her.
* The idea was probably more popular back in the Romantic Era with such novels as ''Julie, or the New Héloïse'' written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and published in 1761 where the heroine virtuously renounced her love for Saint-Preux and forced herself to be faithful to her dull husband.
* Peeta's love for Katniss in ''Literature/TheHungerGames'' has strong aspects of this. He's deeply in love with her, has no real hope that she'll ever feel the same way (he thinks she's in love with her best friend Gale) but is willing to die (and kill) for her without a moment's hesitation. While they play the part of lovers in public he is remarkably chaste with her in private, spending countless nights holding her in his arms and never even tries to kiss her.
* In ChivalricRomance, the matter of Britain was known as the one that dealt with love, with Lancelot and Tristan as exemplars. Later works, though continuing many of the elements, would allow the couple to marry.
** In addition to his adulterous affair with Guenever and rape by Elaine of Carbonek Lancelot has a genuine courtly love affair with a lady who falls hard for him after nursing him back to health. When gently informed that Lancelot is already committed she comes up with the bright idea of a platonic vow of mutual affection. It turns out to be the happiest relationship with a woman Lancelot ever enjoys.
* ''Literature/SongAtDawn'' This was its hey day. The Court of Love is all about how it should be conducted. For instance, one of the questions was about the proper gifts lovers could give without revealing their love and under what circumstances one could break off a relationship.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire''
** [[PosthumousCharacter Queen Naerys and her champion Prince Aemon the Dragonknight]], although it's widely suspected they may have gotten physical as well (but, it's just as widely suspected that [[LoveRuinsTheRealm Aegon IV]] helped spread that particular rumour for [[UngratefulBastard his own reasons]]).
** {{Deconstructed}} by Jorah Mormont, who falls in love with a woman [[UptownGirl above his station]], manages to win her hand in a tournament, and demonstrates why these things are pretty in poetry but tend to be disastrous in real life. She gets bored with his provincial life very quickly and he runs his household into the ground trying to provide her with the lifestyle she's accustomed to. [[IgnoredAesop Then he starts making moves on someone even higher up the ladder in Daenarys]], who puts up with none of his shenanigans.
** Hinted at between Ser Barristan Selmy and Ashara Dayne, and Ned Stark and Ashara Dayne as well. She is technically ''below'' Ned's station, but is described as such an otherworldly beauty and consummate ProperLady that ''any'' romance involving her is likely to have shades of this.
** Brienne of Tarth and Renly Baratheon are a gender-swapped example. In the ordinary course of events a match between the third son of a Great House and the only daughter and heir-apparent of a minor one might not have been so impossible, but then Renly puts a crown on his head and places himself out of Brienne's league. The small matter of IncompatibleOrientation makes a physical consummation even less likely, Renly being rather more fond of Brienne's fellow Rainbow Guard Loras than either Brienne or his own wife. Regardless, it being the only way for her to be close to him, Brienne puts on the armor of a knight, wins a tourney and is awarded a spot in his personal bodyguard, and pledges to fight and die for him.
** Played with by Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark. Sandor would scoff at the notion, and he first takes pleasure in mocking [[TheIngenue Sansa's naivete]] and then plans to ''rape'' her, but at the last minute offers to place himself at her service and protect her instead. When she refuses, frightened, he is overcome with her IncorruptiblePurePureness and leaves in (relative) peace, which makes it all sound rather more courtly and genteel than it actually was.
* ''Literature/TheKnightsOfTheCross'' plot starts with Zbyszko falling in courtly love with Danusia. And he apparently used to pine for princess Ryngałła, but stopped when she poisoned her husband.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/GameOfThrones''
** Gender-flipped with King Renly Baratheon and Brienne of Tarth. She is a devoted knight who will do ''anything'' for her beloved king, and she is resigned to the fact that he will never return her feelings.
** Played straight with Ser Jorah Mormont and Queen Daenarys, even though his infatuation is deconstructed in the novels.
* ''Series/BabylonFive'':
** Gets an interesting treatment with [[CelibateHero Marcus Cole]] and Susan Ivanova. For him, it's a standard case of shyness and UnrequitedLove, but she doesn't appear to notice (being MarriedToTheJob). Thus, in effect, their relationship is a form of Courtly Love...[[RecycledInSPACE IN SPACE!!!]]
** Lennier is a sadder version because of the class difference and because he is just too shy, far shyer then Cole. He also knows that Delenn is "destined for another" (which turns out to be [[spoiler:Captain John Sheridan]]). In his case it ends badly. As B5 is meant to be in the style of TheEpic, borrowing from old tropes is really not surprising.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. The Spike/Buffy relationship in Season 5 shows aspects of this, [[http://vrya.net/bdb/essay1.php as pointed out in this essay]]. In the following season they start a sexual relationship, but due to personal issues too extensive to recount here, said relationship quickly devolves into [[DestructiveRomance mutual abuse and emotional frustration/guilt]] -- essentially trading the love for sex. Buffy goes into depression because of this vicious cycle, and sees it as one of the most desperately lonely times in her life. Season 7 however plays it straight again. In "Touched", the antepenultimate episode, while several other couples (Willow/Kennedy, Xander/Anya, Faith/Wood) are shown consummating their relationships the night before a big mission, Buffy and Spike spend the entire night sleeping, fully clothed, with Spike holding her in his arms. This reflects a new level of trust and intimacy between the two. In the following episode, when Buffy presses Spike not to be coy about his feelings, Spike admits that it was the happiest moment of his life.
* Plays out between Lancelot and Guinevere in ''Series/{{Merlin}}''. Lancelot will do anything for her (up to and including a [[spoiler:HeroicSacrifice]] without any expectation that she'll love him in return.

* ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet''. Romeo has a nice, conventional courtly love interest in Rosaline, but after their breakup he gets together with Juliet, who is willing to put out within ''hours'' of meeting him under a wedding sanctioned by nobody but a local clergyman (while she's betrothed!) and thus practically out of wedlock.
* ''Theatre/CyranoDeBergerac'': The reason why Cyrano will give TheAlcoholic Ligniere a DisproportionateReward is because he did an InUniverse CrowningMomentOfAwesome of CourtlyLove at Act I Scene VII:
--> '''Le Bret''': [[DisproportionateReward But why embroil yourself?]]
--> '''Cyrano:''' [[PhraseCatcher Le Bret who scolds!]]
--> '''Le Bret''': [[TheAlcoholic That worthless drunkard!—]]
--> '''Cyrano''' ''(slapping Ligniere on the shoulder):'' Wherefore? For this cause;—
--> This wine-barrel, this cask of Burgundy,
--> [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome Did, on a day, an action full of grace;]]
--> As he was leaving church, he saw his love
--> Take holy water—he, who is afeared
--> At water's taste, ran quickly to the stoup,
--> And drank it all, to the last drop!...

* Ukyo Tachibana and Kei Odagiri from VideoGame/SamuraiShodown can't get together since she's a noblewoman and he's a wandering swordsman, but they always remember each other fondly and whenever she needs his help, he will go to her aid without hesitation.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' had a form of this in between [[ProperLady Josephine]], the ambassador, and Warden Blackwall. The two of them exchanged tokens of favor, but never did the two of them go for anything more.
* In the setting of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'', the idea of a chivalric romance between a Sorceress (a witch-queen) and her Knight is considered to be the romantic ideal, and teenagers strive to emulate the dynamic in their relationships. It differs slightly from the medieval concept in that the Knight is expected to be monogamous, though their love is still chaste. Squall declares to Rinoa his intention to 'be her Knight' and they form a functional pair. Seifer, on the other hand, ends up involved with a much older PresidentEvil Sorceress and spends the rest of the game descending slowly into evil and fanaticism.
* Pursued in ''VideoGame/{{Guenevere}}'' by (of course) Lancelot towards Queen Guenevere. She can choose to encourage these sentiments or not.
* In ''VideoGame/BaldursGateII'', Anomen's romance path seems [[TheDulcineaEffect to start with this]], but actually shows in a number of ways how this trope is [[SubvertedTrope seriously at odds with reality]]. [[PlayerCharacter CHARNAME]] is not a [[HeroicBastard noblewoman]] [[ActionGirl by any stretch]]; they can ditch the NoHuggingNoKissing part early; he might never actually become a KnightInShiningArmor. Becomes a DiscussedTrope in ''Throne of Bhaal'':
--> '''Anomen:''' I was raised in a culture of chivalry -- romance was an art, a craft of specific forms and patterns. Poetic professions of adoration and flattery were the expected ways for a knight to show his love. But now I see how hollow and stilted such conversation is. Forced flirtations hardly seem fit for one such as you.

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* In ''VisualNovel/War13thDay'', Arsenik respects, admires, and loves Ambrosia with all the etiquette of a gentleman and the passion of a man. When she's propositioned to and later blackmailed by a HandsomeLech, he begins a fight to defend her honor.
-->'''Arsenik:''' Don’t succumb to his demands, least of all on my account. It would be far better that you had allowed him to apprehend me. I’m not ashamed of having defended you.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Two prominent examples in ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob:'' [[spoiler: Voluptua]] feels this way toward [[spoiler: Bob]] and [[spoiler: Hibachi]] feels it for [[spoiler: Voluptua.]]
* ''Webcomic/AlfdisAndGunnora'' puts the title characters into a Courtly Love scenario which quickly becomes more romantic.
* [[http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=282 Mocked]] at ''Webcomic/HarkAVagrant''.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsTheCloneWars'' has the romance between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore. They met when they were young and he was assigned to protect her from political enemies. He was noble enough to be willing to leave the Jedi Order for her; she was noble enough not to require that of him. The result, years down the line, is a MasochismTango in which the participants are TwiceShy, as Anakin looks on in amusement and subtly takes his revenge for Obi-Wan's snark against his relationship with Padme.
* Explored with Finn and Princess Bubblegum in ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'' - her repeated rejection of his feelings for her are sometimes shown to cause him serious emotional pain, and he sometimes makes mistakes through trying to impress her instead of doing the right thing.
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' features [[HeartbrokenBadass Pearl]], who was deeply in love with her leader [[FriendToAllLivingThings Rose Quartz]]. In one episode she talks about the way of a knight, "completely dedicating yourself to a person and a cause", and makes it clear she was willing to give up anything and everything to follow and protect Rose. Unfortunately the relationship did not end well, as Rose was apparently oblivious to Pearl's feelings, fell in love with [[BigFun Greg Universe]], and ultimately had a child with him, [[HalfHumanHybrid Steven]]. Due to the BizarreAlienBiology involved, Rose [[DeathByChildbirth sacrificed her life to give birth]] (or ''became'' Steven in a way? it's hard to understand or explain) and Pearl has been [[TheMourningAfter missing her]] ever since, sometimes to an unhealthy degree. Even after Rose's death Pearl still dedicates herself to following Rose's ideals and protecting Steven. Worth noting is that Pearl is a [[SiliconBasedLife Gem]] designed to be part of a ServantRace, and the reason she fell for Rose is Rose [[BecauseYouWereNiceToMe respected her as a person and gave her a choice]] instead of just giving orders.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* It was rumored that the British ambassador had this for UsefulNotes/MariaTheresa. Seems likely enough actually.
* The conventions of courtly love was [[UsefulNotes/ElizabethI Elizabeth I]] 's major strategy for keeping her court of restless, power hungry men well under her thumb. It worked quite well for her.
* [[Literature/TheDivineComedy Dante Alighieri]] had this for his crush and muse, Beatrice.
* In 18th C. Portugal, it was fashionable for a young man to fall in love with a nun. He wasn't supposed to tell the Sister in question, or even make direct contact with her. He'd hang around the convent hoping to get a glimpse of her between the cloister and the chapel. He'd write poems to her--but never mentioning her name, just substituting another name that would fit the meter--which he might share with his friends or even publish on a broadsheet, or if he were especially bold he'd tack on the convent door. If the Sister in question did identify him, or if he were to meet her by chance, it was considered an unmitigated disaster.
* In modern terms, "lithosexual" and "lithoromantic" are occasionally used to describe a feeling of attraction, without the desire for that attraction to be reciprocated. Folks who would describe themselves as one or both of these terms span an entire spectrum of feelings about actually ''being'' in a relationship, and naturally the attraction doesn't necessarily have to reach CourtlyLove levels of devotion, though it's certainly possible.