From Jousting for Glory to Dueling for Honor
Knights and chivalry faded out. The old orders of knighthood and chevaliers stayed firmly in place, as prestigious men’s clubs tend to do, but the original point of the knight had been as a fighting unit, a kind of mounted tank, impregnable in heavy metal, on a big strong horse, lumbering and clanking onto the field of battle peering through a slit in his helmet and poking his lance at enemies similarly encumbered. The idea was to push the enemy off his horse, since once unhorsed he lay helpless as an overturned turtle, ripe to be captured and held for ransom.
Henry V‘s nimble archers at Agincourt beat them easily. Joan of Arc was particularly outspoken on the subject; she said her heavenly messengers had told her that artillery was the wave of the future and knights in armor just slowed everything down.
Gradually they hung up their lances and breastplates to rust in a shed. By the time Cervantes published Don Quixote in 1605 [C.E.], the foolish knight-errant was an affectionate joke from the past. Knights turned into gentlemen.
Gentlemen, being unemployed by definition, needed an emotional outlet, a bit of excitement, and some way to measure themselves against their peers now that tournaments were gone. Besides, as the feudal powers of the landowners shriveled under stronger centralized monarchies, a gentleman needed to shore up his status and prove he still mattered, he was still privileged, he still carried a sword. He stopped jousting for glory and started dueling for honor.
— Gentlemen’s Blood, pp. 21-22