posted an epic takedown of the idea of what chivalry really refers to (hint: Not your dating game).
With that said, people love knights. Kids, especially, love knights. Heck, I love knights. Who could be considered a "knight" in the middle ages was fairly limited - but in the world of story, there are some spectacular exceptions that allow knighthood for people who would not traditionally be included.
Chivalry is for everyone.
Let's hear it for the girls! Silence is a 13th century French romance about a girl who is raised as a boy in order to allow her to inherit. She is named Silence for the secrecy, and she becomes a knight, going through epic adventures.
(Read the book here. Also, Dolores Hydock has an epic storytelling performance of Silence, and you can even buy it on a CD!)
Another famous female knight, from Ariosto's 16th century epic Orlando Furioso. She is in love with a Muslim hero, and rescues him from captivity, among other adventures. While not technically a traditional story, Orlando Furioso is built on medieval legends and folklore. Also, this is the source Rowling got the hippogriff from.
(Read about her here)
In addition, here is an entire book on female knights in Chinese folklore!
How about a knight of color? The Romance of Antar is an amazing Arab epic from the early middle ages, one that is said to have influenced many European romances of chivalry. Antar himself is the son of an Arab chief and a black slave woman, and he becomes the hero known all over the Middle East.
(I blogged about the romance of Antar last year)
One of the famous knights of King Arthur's court, Sir Palomedes, is also described as a "Saracen" which in medieval literature refers to Muslims (he converts to Christianity later) and Arabs. He is one of the hunters of the Questing Beast, and he appears in a number of Arthurian legends.
(Read about him here)
Also known as Sir Gawain and the Loathy Lady; I am including it because it is one of the quintessential feminist tales in most modern storytellers' repertoire. The moral of the story is that what women desire in the world more than anything is to be able to decide their own fate. Sir Gawain is proven to be a knight that learns this lesson, and gives up his privilege as a man to allow freedom to the woman he marries.
(Read about the story here)
Bisclavret / Gorlagon
Just for the heck of it: Both stories (one from Marie de France, and one from a 14th century author) involve a knight who is also a werewolf. He gets stuck in wolf form because his wife betrays him, and goes to live in the court of a king (usually King Arthur) until the truth comes to life and he can return to human. I am including it because lycanthropy is often symbolic for physical or mental conditions in tradition.
(Read about Bisclavret here, and Gorlagon here)
Who is your favorite knight and why?