Most of the Orlesian aristocracy has ties to the chevaliers. Joining the knighthood and dedicating one's life to the empire is a tried and true method to improve one's social standing. It is the obvious choice for landless nobles and noble children not in line to inherit.
The knighthood welcomes both men and women, although it is rare for a woman to choose the harsh life of a chevalier over the gentle bliss of marriage and children or the peace of the Chantry. Those who do are following in the footsteps of the first woman knight, Aveline, but we hope that not all meet as ghastly an end as she did.
Sadly, some members of the order abuse their power to commit atrocities that will not be recounted here. All decent Orlesians know them to be no true knights. One day, they shall answer to the Maker Himself.
—From Orlais: A Modern History, by Revered Mother Laeticia