PaladinA paladin is the prototypical knight in shining armour, a hero of sterling character and courage, who rights wrongs and defends the weak and oppressed.
The word comes from Latin palatinus, "attached to the palace." The original paladins of legend were the heroes of the Chanson de Roland and the other romances of chivalry told about the legendary court of King Charlemagne. There were originally twelve paladins attached to Charlemagne's court. The best known list comes from the Italian epics of Tasso and Ariosto and their successors; it includes:
- Astolpho, descended from Charles Martel, handsome and swaggering; he was Roland's cousin, and went to the moon to fetch back Roland's brains when he went mad, as told in Orlando Furioso.
- Ferumbras the Saracen who became a Christian.
- Florismart, friend of Orlando
- Ganelon the betrayer, who appears in the Inferno by Dante Alighieri
- Maugris the sorcerer
- Ogier the Dane, in more recent years the subject of a story by Poul Anderson
- Oliver, rival to Roland
- Otuel, another converted Saracen
- Roland, called Orlando in Italian, the chief hero among the paladins. He was Charlemagne’s nephew.
- Guy de Bourgogne
The late nineteenth century Celtic revival benefitted the Arthurian material and caused it to be reworked and recirculated. No such aura of latter-day romance could assist the Charlemagne material, which was strongly Christian and triumphalist in its presentation. As a result, in the twentieth century Arthur and his Camelot are well known while the paladins of Charlemagne, who once enjoyed equal renown, are mostly forgotten.