Chivalry

Chivalry – a word hardly recognized in this world we now know. We recognize it rather as a component of fairytales, but at one time, chivalry was the accepted manner in which men were expected to act. In a time when honour and justice were important and gentlemen were not extremely rare, there were codes of conduct and orders than kept the standard of how men behaved and treated others.

Chivalry was a prominent feature of the High and Middle ages in Western Europe. It’s roots stretch back to the 9th and 10th centuries, but the system of chivalry flourished most vigorously in the 12th and 13 centuries before fading at the end of the Middle Ages. However, the ideals of chivalry continued to influence models of behaviour for gentlemen and nobility during the Renaissance and into the 16th century.

The ethics of chivalry represented a fusion of Christian and Military of morality, and still for the basis of gentlemanly conduct. Piety, honour, valour, courtesy, chastity and loyalty were the chief chivalric virtues required of knights. The loyalty was due to their spiritual master, God; to their temporal master, the suzerain; and to the mistress of the heart, his sworn love.

chivalry

In more recent times these ideals were set up as the Code of a Gentleman from the Virginia Military Institute.

        “Without a strict observance of the fundamental Code of Honor, no man, no matter how `polished,’ can be considered a gentleman. The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles. He is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless and the champion of justice . . . or he is not a Gentleman.”

     

    Code

    As I was reading other’s takes on chivalry and behaviour of gentlemen, I came across Kalyan’s Blog where I found this illuminating piece of writing for modern Gentlemen.

    “A Gentleman . . .

    Does not discuss his family affairs in public or with acquaintances.

    Does not speak more than casually about his girl friend.

    Does not go to a lady’s house if he is affected by alcohol. He is temperate in the use of alcohol.

    Does not lose his temper; nor exhibit anger, fear, hate, embarrassment, ardor or hilarity in public.

    Does not hail a lady from a club window.

    A gentleman never discusses the merits or demerits of a lady.

    Does not mention names exactly as he avoids the mention of what things cost.

    Does not borrow money from a friend, except in dire need. Money borrowed is a debt of honor, and must be repaid as promptly as possible. Debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister or grown child are assumed by honorable men as a debt of honor.

    Does not display his wealth, money or possessions.

    Does not put his manners on and off, whether in the club or in a ballroom. He treats people with courtesy, no matter what their social position may be.

    Does not slap strangers on the back nor so much as lay a finger on a lady.

    Does not `lick the boots of those above’ nor `kick the face of those below him on the social ladder.’

    Does not take advantage of another’s helplessness or ignorance and assumes that no gentleman will take advantage of him.

    A Gentleman respects the reserves of others, but demands that others respect those which are his.

    A Gentleman can become what he wills to be. . .”

    Confucianism also had such a code which required a man to strive to be a ‘perfect man’. A succinct description of the “perfect man” is one who “combine[s] the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman”. A hereditary elitism was bound up with the concept, and gentlemen were expected to act as moral guides to the rest of society. They were to:

    • cultivate themselves morally;
    • show filial piety and loyalty where these are due; and
    • cultivate humaneness

    Robert E. Lee also stove to lay down a guide of conduct. Robert E. Lee himself fought inwardly as he felt loyalty to his state, but also felt the justice of Lincoln. He fought for his state, but in the end surrendered, and worked to reconcile North and South.

    • The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
    • The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly — the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.
    • The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He can not only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others

     

    When I see how people interact these days, I long for the days when the above was common practice. I know men are not only at fault, but women as well. So many times I have seen a woman tell a man off for acting in a gentlemanly way – seriously, ‘WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!’ They may say what they like, but every woman likes being treated like a princess. Also, loyalty, fairness, respect and honour sound so foreign, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if they came back into fashion?

     

     

    The International Commission and Association on Nobility.

    Kalyan’s Blog – The Code of a Gentleman.

    Wikipedia – Gentlemen

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    About Shemer

    Author who loves reading, writing, horse riding, archery, books, dancing and many other things. Fulltime Soldier and part-time wildlife management student who loves to do adventurous things and explore the real world or books in her spare time.
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    5 Responses to Chivalry

    1. Siege says:

      The way you have it discribed the art of chivalry, it is apparent why it is becoming a lost art. The foremost reason being chivalry does not help you get the girl. One can be a gentleman to a lady however it does not help if you wish to persue the lady and it does little to encourage the lady to notice said gentleman. Also to enhance this idea, in a day and age where electronic communication and written word is the majority over voice and face to face interaction, ones words only express a limited chivalrous nature.

      My second point is to do with the word hilarity used in the discription of modern chivalry. I do understand it is from an external source however I must ask why public displays of joy should be forsaken? I understand there is a time and a place for everthing but the wrong limitations to the grandeur of chivalry does deminish chivalry as a whole.

      I am curious to your thoughts. Particuarly on my first point.
      -Siege

      • Shamira says:

        Thank you for your comments. On your first topic, you mentioned that chivalry does not help one ‘get the girl’. Fair enough, but I see chivalry as more a way of life than a means to an end. The codes of conduct should be the way of acting towards everyone, or even when no one is around, to cultivate a higher level of living. Electronic communication is a bit of a speed-bump sometimes, but one can tell when another person is honourable and genuinely cares in relation to someone who is just spending some free time chasing boredom. ‘Getting the girl’ is only one small aspect of a gentlemanly way of living, I believe that if someone successfully managed to put this ‘code’ into practice, it would actively affect every aspect of his life – including the way he views God, himself, creation, and his fellow man.
        I think in this context, hilarity has not the meaning of displays of joy, I think it more to be a suggestion at foolery and as the dictionary definition gives it: Extreme amusement, Boisterous merriment. I think they mean that a gentleman would never place himself in a situation that might (on purpose) embarass himself or others.
        Hope I have answered your thoughts :-).

        • Siege says:

          A way of life… interesting perspective but isn’t there only one way of life, God’s way. The road is set before us, all that is left is to walk. Chivalry: Way of Walking LIfe, sounds like the title of a self help style book for teenage/young adults (title could do a bit of work, but I digress. An idea for another time perhaps).

          But no man can really claim chivalry without their own flaws against the ‘code’. Completely executing the code sounds more like a pilgramage, contemplation upon a mountain. Very “monk of the order” cliche.

          I agree boisterous should be avoided but the merriment is unjustly shunned.

          You did dodge the main point to the thoughts, about the guy getting the girl. However I think the flaw of it all lies with the ideal of chivalry doesn’t really inspire courage. Especially when it comes to the persuit of love. How does the guy make a lasting (non-boredom chasing) impression on a girl when all he has is facebook and no idea when she is online. A clash between an timeless conduct and an ever changing society (sounds like the plot for a romance novel. Another thought for later perhaps)…

    2. Barbara says:

      I read many books on Roman history, Italian history, many dealing with knights, legionnaires, etc. There are many codes of ethics. While much of their lives are brutal and the fighting amongst the provinces, especially in Italy were horrific, there were deep codes of ethics.

      My 12 year old grandson is always curious about his Italian heritage and loves to hear about knighthood. I will send him over this site to him. I stumbled on it after I read Masters of Verona where they quoted many of these codes within the story.

      Thank you. We should be teaching our children ethics as a large part of their training. There are now college courses in ethics to some extent. A bit too late if you ask me.

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