The term 'amour courtois' was coined in 1883 by the French scholar Gaston Paris. The literary concept of courtly love, however, developed at the end of the 11th century in the Languedoc area in the south of France. It was spread by the Troubadours and can be found in French as well as German epic and lyric ('Minnesang') by around 1200.
Around 1185, Andreas Capellanus wrote his De Arte Honeste Amandi, which can be regarded as a 'handbook' for courtly lovers. One of the most important literary works in this context is the Roman de la Rose, written by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun in the thirteenth century. The most famous courtly lovers are probably Lancelot and Guinevere, King Arthur's queen.
The concept of courtly love is modelled on the feudal relationship between lord and vassal, which was transformed into the service of a knight to his lady. This pseudo-religious passion had an enobling effect on the lover. Usually a knight falls in love with a beautiful lady, who may even be married, and definitely rejects him. He, however, remains loyal in his admiration of her, fulfills all her wishes and is often sent on a quest to prove his faithfulness and obedience to her biddings. The service of a lady thus becomes a knightly virtue. Having gone through these ordeals and having suffered from love-sickness, sometimes even periods of madness, the knight might eventually be rewarded with the passionate devotion of his lady..