Welcome back, ladies and gentleman! Today, on Old School Knowledge, we’ll be looking at chivalry. That’s right, Chivalry isn’t dead. It’s alive and albeit barely holding on, but if you pay attention and open your mind, you can help to keep it alive for a few more centuries.
What is chivalry?
Chivalry was the knightly system or code of conduct that relates to religious, moral, and social codes prevalent among knights during the Middle Ages. This system is the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight (a soldier of high social rank that typically fought on horseback) such as courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak. In today’s day-and-age we have taken it for granted. Knowing it for just what we see on television as courting and being courteous to women. These codes go far beyond that and as you read on you can see how such codes can help men (and women) elevate themselves beyond merely just existing.
Knights are the best!
Before we go any further, I just wanted to let you know that this topic means a lot to mean. I have always been fascinated with the Dark Ages and especially with knights. The romanticized version of knights, at least. I grew up reading King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and watching movies like Excalibur, The First Knight, and this wonderfully silly cartoon series…
The character classes I usually choose in Dungeons and Dragons and other such roleplaying games have mostly always been knights or paladins. So yes, I am a big fan of knights, medieval times (which is actually a pretty awesome dinner-theater restaurant), and of course chivalry. It is true that as of late, knights have been given a bad rep, and some of that is deserving, but I personally think this stems more out of hate towards the Christian religion and church rather than to the characters of true knights (not criminals and mercenaries hired out during the Crusades). But, whatever your beliefs are, just remember this.
Without the actions of honorable knights, especially the Knight Templars, Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem would not have been possible. And without the call-to-arms during The Crusades, Europe would have fallen to Islam’s greed, bloodlust, and desire to dominate non-Muslims.
Also, despite what people say. The Dark Ages weren’t that dark at all.
Onward to Chivalry
Chivalry as a concept emerged around the 10th century AD in France. It was an attempt of the Christian church to regulate the violence endemic to Frankish society. The term chivalry comes from the French word chevalier, meaning knight, which in turn was derived from cheval, meaning horse. (“Chivalry in Medieval England”. http://origins.osu.edu/review/knighthood-it-was-not-we-wish-it-were). During medieval times the “Code of Chivalry” (there wasn’t an actual authentic code of chivalry) was an important part of society and the lives of the people who lived by it and who understood it. As separation from the church began to increase, many of chivalry’s tenants and virtues have been pushed along to the wayside. Thankfully, there have been quite a few documented works that give us a glimpse of what was expected of knights back in the day.
The Song of Roland (aka Charlemagne’s Code of Chivalry)
This epic poem written sometime between 1098-1100 describes the betrayal of Count Roland, a loyal defender of Charlemagne, at the hand of Ganelon (Charlemagne’s brother-in-law). In it are Roland’s code of conduct which eventually becomes somewhat understood as the code of chivalry and they’re detailed as:
- Fear God and maintain His Church
- Serve the liege lord in valor and faith
- Protect the weak and defenseless
- Give succor to widows and orphans
- Refrain from the wanton giving of offense
- Live by honor and for glory
- Despise pecuniary reward
- Fight for the welfare of all
- Obey those placed in authority
- Guard the honor of fellow knights
- Eschew unfairness, meanness, and deceit
- Keep faith
- At all times to speak the truth
- Persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- Respect the honor of women
- Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
- Never to turn the back upon a foe
(“Code of Chivalry”. http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-knights/code-of-chivalry.htm)
Commandments of Chivalry by Leon Gautier’s La Chevalerie
- Believe the Church’s teachings and observe all the Church’s directions
- Defend the Church
- Respect and defend the weak
- Love your country
- Do not fear your enemy
- Show no mercy and do not hesitate to make war with the infidel
- Perform all your feudal duties as long as they do not conflict with the laws of God
- Never lie or go back on one’s word
- Be generous
- Always and everywhere be right and good against evil and injustice
As you can tell by the two examples of the code of chivalry, a lot of it was based on the teachings of God. And say what you will about the church as it stands today. You really can’t fault the actual teachings of God –whether you believe in religion or not. Personally, I believe if you fight for something greater than what you are, you will find that it is much easier to become the best version of yourself.
Rio Sundown’s Chivalric Code
I’m a fan of the Fast and Furious movies and there was a moment that stood out in Fast & Furious 6. It was when Shaw goes over his and Dom’s codes to live by. Every man has to have a code. Shaw lives by precision. Dom is loyalty, specifically to his family. This is so true. Every man does need a code to live by. This is what chivalry really means. Living by a code that honors both you and those around you. My code: Improvement. Improve yourself all the time and strive to be the best version of you that you can possibly be.
While I don’t have an actual list like Roland and Leon Gautier, and I’m afraid if I did craft one, it may scare some people away. I do have these posts of lessons to live by, “Manners and Etiquette” and “Success is a State of Mind“. Also, just so you don’t think I’m only promoting myself, please do check out The Art of Manliness, a website dedicated to the pursuit of manliness –good for women too!
I highly suggest reading those, and also reading more about knighthood and the Medieval Period (Dark Ages), they’re definitely interesting subjects and you can learn a lot from history. Real history and not altered history that is now being changed constantly. Unless, specifically related to a new discovery within the physical sciences, be very wary of texts dated beyond the year 2000.
Not what you expected?
Chivalry is a little like the Japanese practice of Bushido. They’re actually more related to the art of combat and spiritual existence with only brief mention of how to conduct oneself outside of these realms, especially in terms of treating women.
Not what you expected, right? Don’t worry. I have you all covered for some more modern day, non-combative chivalry!
Be Courteous to Women
- Hold the door open for people, specifically women (if they complain, smile), and especially for people carrying objects.
- Open your car door for your date. Dates, reach over to unlock the door. If the locks are automatic, reach over anyway and laugh about technology. It’s cute.
- Men should walk on the side of the street along the curb. Traditionally, this was a gesture of protecting the lady from hazards on the road and in case a car comes too close and splashes water from the curb.
- Share your umbrella.
- If you are to sit with a lady on a bench and the bench looks a bit cold or dirty, use your jacket as a cover for her to sit on. While traditionally, some would lay their jackets over puddles for their lady to step on, I don’t advise this anymore for several reasons.
- If your date seems cold, offer her your jacket to wear/cover herself up with.
- For whatever reason, if a situation occurs where you must defend yourself and your woman, your jacket makes for a useful tool against melee weapons.
- Walk a woman pretty much everywhere. To her car from work, to her home after a date, to wherever she likes to go. Make sure she’s home safely before departing.
- Don’t gossip. Essentially, don’t kiss and tell and keep everything between you and your date to yourselves.
- Buy her gifts every now and again just because and not just wait for special occasions. This actually goes both ways.
- Stand up for your women against harassment. Defend her honor, but be careful, try to defuse the situation first.
- Be nice and considerate towards wait staff and never treat them as if they’re your servants.
- Take off your hat when you enter a room. This is a little harder to do nowadays, as most establishments don’t have coat and hat racks anymore.
- Remember special days such as birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and anniversaries.
- Care about her opinion and show her respect at all times, even when arguing.
- Limit arguments.
- Always tell the truth and uphold your commitments.
Keep Chivalry Alive!
There you have it. Find your code to live by and follow the above chivalric lists (especially those aimed at courtesy towards women) and you’ll go a long way of helping to keep chivalry alive. And, you may actually get that second date!
I hope you found this useful, let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks!
“The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.”
— Charles Dickens