Follow TV Tropes

Following

Courtly Love

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tristanisolde.png
He loved her dearly in his heart, but knew better than to love her any more closely.
Tristan and Isolde, Edmund Leighton (1902)

Good lady, I ask nothing of you
But that you take me as a servant,
For I will serve you as a good lord,
Whatever my reward.
Behold me at your command,
Noble creature, humble, gay, and courtly.
— 12th century song "Non es meravelha s'eu chan" by troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn

Courtly Love was a medieval European idea of noble, pure love dating back to the aristocratic courts of the eleventh century and widely celebrated in Medieval Music. 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 — a type of Romance and Sexuality Separation. The man in question will be in love with his lady — who is normally his social superior, a distant princess — and will 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 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, flowers and sonnets get exchanged. In modern times it might happen just because the characters are too young, such as a Childhood Friend Romance.

It was a common motif in Chivalric Romance. The fairy mistress, being one of the Fair Folk, 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 Newer Than They Think, having only popped up during The Crusades, after reading themes of platonic love in Islamic literature; Arthurian Legend and the Matter of Britain were hammered into shape, and people began to lament that love was no longer what it had been in King Arthur's day. It has now been a Dead Unicorn Trope for a matter of centuries.

There is, of course, a dark side to this seemingly idealized fairy tale. 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 example of the consequences of unfulfilled lust stemming from the stifling constraints of Courtly Love.

In later times, Courtly Love may be the only way for a Celibate Hero or someone whose superpowers are Powered by Virginity, to express their love for someone. The difference between Courtly Love and Unresolved Sexual Tension 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 Knight in Shining Armor, Prince Charming, and Princess Classic.

Older Than Print. Also known as Petrarchan Love, after the Trope Codifier, 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 Sister Trope to Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date, which is a similar romantic ideal that started up centuries after the medieval European period.

Compare The Lady's Favour, Lady and Knight.

Nothing to do with Courtney Love, who is pretty much in the polar opposite position of this trope.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • JK Kunoichi Wa Subete Wo Sasagetai has a one-sided example. Kohana has no intention of acting on her attraction to her (happily-married) lord, seeing such as "beneath [her] honor as a ninja", though she doesn't keep it secret from her peers. The story portrays it as a Precocious Crush that Kohana outgrows as she becomes attracted to a boy her own age.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: Ascot's love for Umi concluded with him stating that the most important was to love her, without expecting reciprocation.
  • My Love Story!!: Takeo will do anything for Yamato, 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.
  • The Rose of Versailles: The romance between Marie Antoinette and the dashing Hans Axel von Fersen. Her husband, Louis XVI was aware of it but wanted her to be happy and trusted that they would never consummate the relationship.
  • Saint Seiya: It's strongly implied 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 Lady and Knight due to her being the Goddess Athena and him being one of her bodyguards.
  • Slam Dunk: Ryota Miyagi loves Ayako and even states he's satisfied as long as he can make her happy.
  • Yona of the Dawn: Hak is completely and utterly undyingly loyal to Yona, having a longstanding childhood Bodyguard Crush on her. He repeatedly places his life on the line to keep her happy and safe, and though tries to make his romantic interest in her clear early on, he remains fully willing to stay by her side even when he comes to the conclusion that it'll always be unrequited—ironically, he comes to said conclusion right about the time when she starts to actually requite his feelings.

    Comic Books 
  • Comic Book/Valhalla: Heimdall spends most of "Freya's Necklace" having a "romantic ideal" type of crush on Freya and is actually offended when she propositions him sexually.
  • Usagi Yojimbo has elements of this in the title character's relationship with his childhood girlfriend, Mariko (who is now married to his rival, Kenichi). There is clearly still love between them, but they both know it would be wrong to act on it. There is also a bit between Usagi and his ally Tomoe; she is committed to serving her lord, Noriyuki, while Usagi feels he should not serve another lord after the death of Lord Mifune and so could never settle down with her.

    Fan Works 

Crossovers

Death Note

  • Fever Dreams when 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.

The Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors

  • The Ghosts of the Old Castle: An evil version thereof is present here. Nushrok keeps his interactions with Anidag strictly platonic and respectful, not that it fools anyone as to the nature of his feelings.

Maleficent

  • Your servant, Mistress: 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.

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong

  • SV Wishes: Luo Binghe is deeply devoted to his master Shen Qingqiu. He moves heaven and earth to be with him and free him of his miserable marriage, but doesn’t expect any reciprocation, despite it leading to his refusal to marry others.

A Song of Ice and Fire

  • A Heart For Any Fate: Aegon and Jaehaera are married at the end of the Dance of the Dragons as a way to formally reunite the two lines and prevent a future feud, but their relationship doesn't progress into a sexual direction — the most intimate moment shared between them is a kiss — in no small part due to Jaehaera not being old enough for them to consummate their relationship.
  • Sweetrobin's Upbringing: Maester Colemon and Myrcella Baratheon settle for this. They care deeply for each other, but Myrcella has been forced to marry Robert Arryn and Colemon, as a maester, is supposed to be celibate, and both of them intend to honor their vows. That's why, except for the actual confession of their feelings, their affair is limited to silent musings and exchanged Longing Looks. Thanks to a happy turn of events, they are freed from their respective vows and get together.

The Witcher

  • The Accidental Warlord And His Pack: Dragonfly, Gweld and Kolgrim absolutely do not understand Ealdred's distant courting of Yennefer, which he says is done with the propriety and respect her position dictates while they feel like he just has a hopeless crush.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Casablanca: Rick 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 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 Courtly Love because he wants his beloved to be happy.
  • Flipped: Bryce and Julie never even kiss although they are only in seventh grade when the story ends.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta's affections for Katniss have 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.
  • Last Christmas: Tom is obviously infatuated with Kate and makes no effort to pretend otherwise, but he never tries to kiss her or even hold her hand, even as they go on walks, joke around, go ice skating together, flirt, and generally act completely smitten with one another. The most physical the two ever get is a scene where, during a rather intense heart-to-heart, he holds her while she rests her head in his lap, and afterwards, he lets her sleep off her drunkenness in his bed. He does crawl in and sleep with her at her request, and the two share a kiss, but he declines to go any further. Given the reveal that Tom has been Dead All Along, his hesitation to do anything physical with Kate makes sense.
  • The Last Duel deconstructs this in an especially dark manner. From Jacques' perspective, he falls in love with Marguerite from afar but initially doesn't pursue her out of respect for his friend Jean, to whom she is married. After Jacques and Jean have a falling out, Jacques goes to Marguerite to confess his love, feeling he appreciates her more than her brutish husband ever could. In his mind he gives in to temptation and seduces Marguerite, only to regret having committed adultery. However, from Marguerite's perspective (and to the audience) Jacques is a Stalker with a Crush who is obsessed with his idea of a woman he barely knows; his 'seduction' of Marguerite was actually him forcing himself on her despite her repeated protests and attempts to stop him.
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones: Defied, since the whole point of the Anakin/Padmé relationship is that he was not satisfied with Courtly Love. As such, when she professes her love to him, they consummate their romance. This resulted in them getting married secretly and conceiving Luke and Leia.

    Literature 
  • Arthurian Legend:
    • The Arthurian Legend's first mention of anything resembling courtly love—the love of women inspiring knights to engage in valorous quests—is in Historia Regum Britanniae (circa 1136).
      The women […] would have nothing of the love of any man, unless he had been proven three times in battle. The women, then, were made chaste and more virtuous, and the soldiers more brave for the love of them.
    • The Trope Namer for courtly love is "Études sur les romans de la table ronde: Lancelot du Lac," a 1883 paper by Gaston Paris that's a treatise on the relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere as depicted in Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart (circa 1176 to 1181), the very first text their relationship appears in. That's the Trope Codifier—or at least the Trope Namer thought it was. And in many ways, it is. Most of what we now associate with the trope can be seen there: Lady and Knight; a married woman and an unmarried man; she's his social superior; his exaltation and idealization of her; pining; a quest fueled by his desire to serve her. No task is too great (a quest to rescue her) or too small (an arbitrary request that he loose a tourney), as long as it's for her sake. However, it's an Unbuilt Trope in that it's missing the chaste, unconsummated thing which is often thought of as the defining feature of the trope today (although not part of Paris's original definition). Lancelot and Guinevere do spend one night of passion together in The Knight of the Cart.
  • The Auburn Knight: Sir Ned Hamilton has this with Lady Roxolana, the daughter of a feudal lord whose lands border those of Ned's father. But Ned is the third son, so he isn't likely to marry Roxolana (until later in the novel, when his older brothers are killed by the Big Bad's sons, making Ned the heir). Ilona keeps calling Roxolana a bitch despite not knowing her. When Ned finally returns to his own time and meets Roxolana, the veil finally comes off, and he realizes that Roxolana is an opportunistic stuck-up bitch. Luckily, by that point, he's already switched the subject of this trope to Ilona.
  • The Belgariad universe: The Mimbrates 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: he's single and 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. 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 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.
  • Don Quixote 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.
  • The Elenium trilogy: This is what the knight Sparhawk was planning, 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. She had other ideas.
  • The Hunger Games: Peeta's love for Katniss 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.
  • 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.
  • The Knights of the Cross 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.
  • Last Herald-Mage Trilogy: Vanyel's mother Lady Treesa adores a variant of Courtly Love — she greatly enjoys light flirtation, having love songs addressed to her, and just getting a chance to give and receive compliments, all with no actual intention behind them. Her actual husband disdains all of that. When Van was a child Treesa encouraged her son's unmanly interests in fashion and music and made him the "pet of the bower", smothering him in this kind of affection and expecting it back. Her ladies were often annoyed by the sense that any adoration from the Long-Haired Pretty Boy was performative and had no actual desire involved. Visiting home as an adult, Van plays along with a lighter heart and once has to tell his boyfriend that no, his mother doesn't actually mean anything by this other than enjoying attention.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Gimli 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 World's Most Beautiful Woman, but since she's married that's as far as it goes.
  • Record of Grancrest War gender inverts this. Altirk mage leader Margaret "Hellfire" Odius is in love with her Lord, Villar Constance, Earl Altirk, but mage guild rules forbid a contracted mage to marry and Villar's mommy issues keep him from properly returning her affections, and he dismisses her from his service on her 25th birthday (as he does with all his contractees). After Waldlind and Dartania invade Altirk, she returns to him and they fight a Last Stand together.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: When originally introduced, noblewoman Stacy Cornwallis has a half-werewolf attendant named Fay Willock, whom she adopted as a child. He's devoted to her as a knight to his master (which lends its name to episode 10 of the anime), but by volume 9 they've fallen in love and know they won't be allowed to be together due to their differences in social rank... unless their research into gaining direct control over Fay's werewolf transformations bears fruit (since mages prioritize pushing the envelope of magic above all other concerns). They succeed, and Stacy's biological father Theodore McFarlane promises to prevail on her stepfather to allow Stacy and Fay to be a couple.
  • The Ship Who Won: Carialle and her brawn Keff have a relationship like this. Shellpeople like Carialle Can't Have Sex, Ever but are often very close with their brawns, and a Pseudo-Romantic Friendship is quite common. Carialle and Keff enjoy LARPing together, though, with him playing the dashing Knight in Shining Armor and her being the Game Master setting up hologram-enhanced adventures and playing all kinds of characters, including Keff's Lady Fair. Even outside of the game, Keff likes to playfully address her as his liege and lady-love. He's protective of her and they're very close but have no sensual desire for one another, with Carialle cheerfully nudging him towards potential lovers who can understand that his tie to her is his top priority.
  • Song at Dawn: This was its heyday. 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Within their world, the peak archetype of courtly love is embodied by the historical Posthumous Characters, Queen Naerys and her champion Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, whom there are songs about. Some suggest they may have gotten physical as well, but it's widely suspected that that's just Malicious Slander that Naerys' husband helped spread so that he could claim that her son was illegitimate and disinherit him when that was convenient.
    • Brienne of Tarth and Renly Baratheon are a gender inverted example. Renly is king-claimant, and Brienne is one of the loyal knights in his bodyguard. They could never be together for several reasons: the gap in social status between a king and the daughter of a lesser noble house; Renly being one of the most handsome men in the realm and Brienne being one of the most homely women; and Incompatible Orientation, with Renly being gay and in a long-term relationship with Ser Loras Tyrell. Regardless, Brienne puts on the armor of a knight, wins a tourney, is awarded a spot in Renly's personal bodyguard, and pledges to fight and die for him, all because it's the only way for her to be close to him.
    • Played with by Sandor Clegane and Sansa Stark. Sandor would scoff at the notion, and he first takes pleasure in mocking Sansa's naïveté 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 Incorruptible Pure Pureness and leaves in (relative) peace, which makes it all sound rather more courtly and genteel than it actually was.
  • Tortall Universe: The young knight Nealan of Queenscove had a habit of loving lovely ladies of the court from afar and writing songs and poetry about them that irritated his friends to no end in the early Protector of the Small series (including Daine the Wildmage and Queen Thayet herself), but when he met Yukimi, the woman he would eventually marry and love for the rest of his life, none of his friends had a clue there was anything between them until his stoic future wife broke down with worry during Neal's ordeal note 
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • Gets an interesting treatment with Marcus Cole and Susan Ivanova. For him, it's a standard case of shyness and Unrequited Love, but she doesn't appear to notice (being Married to the Job). Thus, in effect, their relationship is a form of Courtly Love...IN SPACE!!!
    • Lennier is a sadder version because of the class difference and because he is just too shy, far shyer than Cole. He also knows that Delenn is "destined for another" (which turns out to be Captain John Sheridan). In his case, it ends badly. As B5 is meant to be in the style of The Epic, borrowing from old tropes is really not surprising.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Spike/Buffy relationship in Season 5 shows aspects of this following "Intervention", 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 mutual abuse and emotional frustration/guilt — essentially trading the love for sex. Spike desperately grapples for whatever tiny shred of emotional connection he can find in the relationship, while Buffy's depression worsens because of this vicious cycle, and sees it as one of the most desperately lonely times in her life. Season 7, however, plays it completely 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, reflecting 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.
    • Season 9 and early season 10 of the comics also continue their relationship in this way. In season 9, Spike spends a good chunk of the story hunting after a demon looking for Buffy on his own, stating outright that he'd do anything for her. Later, when she begins to mistakenly believe she's become pregnant, he offers her support and zero judgement in whatever she decides to do—even going as far as to offer to help raise the child if she wanted to keep them, as she would have been a single mother had it not been a false alarm. In early season 10, he rejoins the Scoobies as Xander's roommate and though remains platonically close to Buffy, never at all pushes for romance despite still loving her and everyone and their mother being able to see the raging UST between them. They end up getting together mid-season purely because she made the first move.
  • Game of Thrones
    • Gender inverted 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. In the books, Brienne believes that Renly's lack of romantic interest is due to her ugly looks and lower social status. In the TV adaptation she's well aware that he's gay, but still loved him because of the kindness he showed her.
    • Played straight with Ser Jorah Mormont and Queen Daenarys, even though his infatuation is deconstructed and less chaste in the novels.
  • Gilmore Girls: This is essentially Luke's approach to his relationship with Lorelai in the early seasons. Jess actually calls him out on it, pointing out that doing nice things for her and just waiting for her to fall into his arms isn't constructive.
  • House of the Dragon: The romantic relationship between Lady and Knight Queen Alicent Hightower and her sworn sword Ser Criston Cole is only a Ship Tease, but this is an Implied Trope. It's also a Reconstruction. How can divorcing sexuality from desire be emotionally satisfying for the people involved? Well, if both people are sexually damaged, such a relationship might actually be a good fit for them. Both Alicent and Criston come to this relationship with recent experiences of being sexually exploited in Unequal Pairings with members of the royal family who they cannot turn down. With that background of being used and hurt sexually, it makes sense that they'd be relieved by the chastity of this relationship, experiencing it as safe, respectful, or even romantic.
  • Merlin (2008): Plays out between Lancelot and Guinevere. Lancelot will do anything for her (up to and including a Heroic Sacrifice without any expectation that she'll love him in return.

    Music 
  • 12th century troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn favored this subject.
    • The song "Lo temps vai e ven e vire" is about a man in a courtly love relationship. She's the only one for him and he's not leaving, but he's also not finding the relationship very enjoyable. The lyrics have been preserved; the melody was not. In 1995, Jan-Mari Carlotti wrote a new melody for it.
    • In the song "Non es meravelha s'eu chan," the POV man asks from his lady nothing but that she accept him as her servant.

    Poetry 
  • Petrarch's Laura sonnets are the Trope Codifier. They're also an example of an Unbuilt Trope, as the narrator is pretty up-front about how miserable his doomed love makes him and how it distracts him from more spiritual pursuits.
  • William Shakespeare plays with this trope in most of his sonnets — the ones expressing exalted sentiments about love are addressed to an aristocratic young man (not a typical target for Renaissance love poetry!) and the relationship is (probably) unconsummated largely because of Incompatible Orientation. The speaker and the young man are involved in a love triangle with a "dark lady," and their relationships are essentially the opposite of this trope: one of the most famous sonnets ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun") details how she isn't a classic blonde, blue-eyed Petrarchan beauty, and the speaker's relationship with her is explicitly sexual (she may also be sleeping with the aristocratic young man, and a few of the sonnets suggest she's also married).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder: Paladins of Shelyn are encouraged to practice courtly love because while Shelyn is in most respects the local Love Goddess, she is not the goddess of lust or sex (that's Calistria). Shelyn's focus is on beauty and art, so while she doesn't discourage straight-played romantic relationships (and is herself in a polyamorous lesbian relationship with Desna and Sarenrae), it isn't her primary focus.

    Theater 
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: The reason why Cyrano will give The Alcoholic Ligniere a Disproportionate Reward is because he did an In-Universe Moment of Awesome of Courtly Love at Act I Scene VII:
    Le Bret: But why embroil yourself?
    Cyrano: Le Bret who scolds!
    Le Bret: That worthless drunkard!—
    Cyrano: [slapping Ligniere on the shoulder] Wherefore? For this cause;—
    This wine-barrel, this cask of Burgundy,
    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!...
  • Gioachino Rossini: In Il viaggio a Reims, Lord Sidney and Corinna quietly adore each other without declaring their feelings aloud: at most, Lord Sidney leaves her anonymous flowers, though she is aware they are from him. They don’t even get to sing a duet together (while two other couples do).
  • Romeo and Juliet: Romeo has a nice, conventional courtly love interest in Rosaline. 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.
  • Tannhäuser: The central ideological conflict is between the chaste, spiritual, courtly love espoused by Wolfram von Eschenbach and the sensual, worldly, pagan love of Heinrich. Appropriately enough, they both sing a poetic ode to their own version.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate II: Anomen's romance path seems to start with this, but actually shows in a number of ways how this trope is seriously at odds with reality. CHARNAME is not a noblewoman by any stretch; they can ditch the No Hugging, No Kissing part early; he might never actually become a Knight in Shining Armor. Becomes a Discussed Trope 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.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition has a form of this between Josephine, the ambassador, and Warden Blackwall. The two of them exchange tokens of favor, which is referenced in some bits of party banter and interactions both characters have with assorted Inquisition workers. If either character is romanced by the Inquisitor, however, this is not seen; either way, nothing more ever comes of it.
  • Final Fantasy VIII: In the setting, the idea of a chivalrous 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, although 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 President Evil Sorceress and spends the rest of the game descending slowly into evil and fanaticism.
  • Guenevere: Pursued by (of course) Lancelot towards Queen Guenevere. She can choose to encourage these sentiments or not.
  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker: Referenced and Deconstructed in Valerie's backstory. From a very young age, she was so naturally beautiful that she was sent to be raised as a paladin in the church of Shelyn, goddess of beauty and art. There, she was constantly put on a pedestal and received adoration and declarations of love from countless suitors in this vein, starting with a much older man... when she was nine. Being someone who values more practical things and having to put up with this treatment for years, she eventually got so fed up with it that she tore up the poem one of her suitors wrote, gave up on religion altogether, and went off to focus entirely on her martial skills. However, this did little to stop others from constantly sending her unwanted love letters. Not until her face got scarred after a duel with her former mentor.
  • Samurai Shodown: Ukyo Tachibana and Kei Odagiri 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Double Homework: Defied by Amy in an unusual way. She shows up in her summer school class as a Twitch streamer in a hoodie, not a princess, and she openly hits on the protagonist, hoping to get seduced. On her romantic path, he even tells her to “slow down” because she’s so eager for anal sex.
  • War: 13th Day: 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 Handsome Lech, 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Hark! A Vagrant: Parodied in a series of strips where the knight attempts to engage in the traditional courtly love romance, with chaste distant longing, songs, and defending his lady's honor in tourneys, with a partner who very clearly wants a more carnal sort of relationship.

    Western Animation 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore 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 Masochism Tango in which the participants are Twice Shy, as Anakin looks on in amusement and subtly takes his revenge for Obi-Wan's snark against his relationship with Padme.
  • Steven Universe features Pearl, who was deeply in love with her leader 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 fell in love with Greg Universe and ultimately had a child with him, Steven. Due to the Bizarre Alien Biology involved, Rose sacrificed her life to give birth (or became Steven in a way? it's hard to understand or explain) and Pearl has been 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 Gem designed to be part of a Servant Race, and the reason she fell for Rose is Rose respected her as a person and gave her a choice instead of just giving orders.

    Real Life 
  • The conventions of courtly love were Elizabeth I's major strategy for keeping her court of restless, power-hungry men well under her thumb. It worked quite well for her.
  • In 18th-century 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 would never mention her name, 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—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 slang, "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 Courtly Love levels of devotion, though it's certainly possible.

Top