This is one I revisit from time to time because it sets a standard for me.
The Company of the Star was a short-lived order of knights created in 1352 by Jean (or John) II of France, meant to rival the English Order of the Garter. Geoffroi de Charney was one of the top knights of the age, honored by friend and foe alike as a shining example of what chivalry was about. He served during the early decades of the Hundred Years War, a period when France was getting stomped by the forces of Edward III, and heroes were needed to inspire the troops and the common people. This book is the manual he prepared for the Company of the Star as a guide.
This version recreates the medieval French on one page, with the facing page in modern English translation. As the title suggests, context is offered in the form of historical explanation and analysis that comprises the first third or so of this volume. Once the reader has been invited into this world, then de Charney’s words speak plainly across oceans of time to those with ears to hear. To my mind, there has never been a finer or more complete book printed concerning the concept of chivalry and the means to make it a reality through understanding of why the concepts are presented as they are. While it is most definitely a product of its time, I find unshakable truth within these pages that continues to inspire, as well as the means to unlock many of the mindsets and beliefs of that age. It’s said that the flower of French chivalry perished under the English longbow at Agincourt. While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, the idea tends to ring true on some levels. If you want to understand what was lost, read this book.