E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Lance (1 syl.),
in Christian art, is an attribute of St. Matthew and St. Thomas, the apostles; also of St. Longinus, St. George, St. Adalbert, St. Oswin, St. Barbara, St. Michael, St. Dometrius, and several others.
Astolpho had a lance of gold that with enchanted force dismounted everyone it touched. (Orlando Furioso, bk. ix.)
A free-lance. One who acts on his own judgment, and not from party motives. The reference is to the Free Companies of the Middle Ages, called in Italy condottieri, and in France Compagnies Grandes, which were free to act as they liked, and were not servants of the Crown or of any other potentate. It must be confessed, however, that they were willing to sell themselves to any master and any cause, good or bad.