Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

To appreciate the novelty of this development, one must bear in mind that previously it had been an offence, often punishable by death, to address a love-song to a married woman: it was conceived as a form of magical attack. Nevertheless the new movement spread before long to northern France, and later to England, under the influence of the strong minded Alienor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie. It also took root in Germany.

It is not difficult to detect other earmarks of matrism in the troubadours: they were innovators and progressives, interested in the arts and sometimes pressing for social reforms; they eschewed the use of force; they delighted in gay and colourful clothes. Above all, they erected the Virgin Mary into their especial patron: many of their poems are addressed to her, and in 1140 a new feast was instituted at Lyons— a feast which, as Bernard of Clairvaux protested, was “unknown to the custom of the Church, disapproved of by reason and without sanction from tradition”— the Cast of the Immaculate Conception. It is even said that some Provencal priests blessed the relationships between troubadours and their mistresses by placing them under the protection of the Virgin.(60)

It therefore seems justifiable to suspect the presence of mother fixation. But, if so, it was mother fixation of a rather different type from that of the Celts, for many of the troubadours—for example, Gaucelm Faidit— explicitly disclaim any desire to possess their mistress physically.(197) Merely to see her is enough for some of them; others will be contented with a tuft of fur from her mantle or a few threads from her glove. Others, it is true, speak of undressing their lady, of gazing upon her naked body, of caressing it, or clasping it to them, but scarcely ever do they suggest complete possession. Says one: “He knows nothing of ‘donnoi’ who wants fully to possess his lady.”(80) Guilhem Montanhagol says: “E d’amor mou castitaz”-From love comes chastity.