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Under Mahomet II. a girl of the isle of Lemnos, armed with the sword and
shield of her father, who had fallen in battle, opposed the Turks, when
they had forced a gate, and chased them to the shore.
In the two celebrated sieges of Rhodes and Malta, the women, seconding
the zeal of the knights, discovered upon all occasions the greatest
intrepidity; not only that impetuous and temporary impulse which
despises death, but that cool and deliberate fortitude which can support
the continued hardships, the toils, and the miseries of war.
OTHER PARTICULARS RESPECTING FEMALES DURING THE AGE OF CHIVALRY.
When a man had said any thing that reflected dishonor on a woman, or
accused her of a crime, she was not obliged to fight him to prove her
innocence: the combat would have been unequal. But she might choose a
champion to fight in her cause, or expose himself to the horrid trial,
in order to clear her reputation. Such champions were generally selected
from her lovers or friends. But if she fixed upon any other, so high was
the spirit of martial glory, and so eager the thirst of defending the
weak and helpless sex, that we meet with no instance of a champion ever
having refused to fight for, or undergo whatever custom required, in
defence of the lady who had honored him with the appointment.
To the motives already mentioned, we may add another. He who had
refused, must inevitably have been branded with the name of coward: and,
so despicable was the condition of a coward, in those times of general
heroism, that death itself appeared the more preferable choice. Nay,
such was the rage of fighting for women, that it became customary for
those who could not be honored with the decision of their real quarrels,
to create fictitious ones concerning them, in order to create also a
necessity of fighting.
Nor was fighting for the ladies confined to single combatants. Crowds of
gallants entered the lists against each other. Even kings called out
their subjects, to shew their love for their mistresses, by cutting the
throats of their neighbors, who had not in the least offended.
In the fourteenth century, when the Countess of Blois and the widow of
Mountford were at war against each other, a conference was agreed to, on
pretence of settling a peace, but in reality to appoint a combat.
Instead of negotiating, they soon challenged each other; and Beaumanoir,
who was at the head of the Britons, publicly declared that they fought
for no other motive, than to see, by the victory, who had the fairest
In the fifteenth century, we find an anecdote of this kind still more
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