Let’s start with the definition: 1
- the system of values (such as loyalty and honor) that knights in Middle Ages were expected to follow
- an honorable and polite way of behaving, especially toward women.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that chivalry is just abiding by The Knight’s Code so let’s look at some variations below.2
The Knight’s Code, as described by The Song of Roland
- To fear God and maintain his Church
- To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
- To protect the weak and defenceless
- To give succour to widows and orphans
- To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
- To live by honour and for glory
- To despise pecuniary reward
- To fight for the welfare of all
- To obey those placed in authority
- To guard the honour of fellow knights
- To eschew unfairness, meanness, and deceit
- To keep faith
- At all times to speak the truth
- To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- To respect the honour of women
- Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
- Never to turn the back upon a foe
The Knight’s Code, as described by the Duke of Burgandy
The Knight’s Code definitely seems like it contains some good rules to follow and it sure does sound like chivalry but what are some other possibilities?
One interesting opinion is that chivalry is a choice, “the choice to do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times”.3 This too seems plausible.
In the end, I believe chivalry is a combination of the above. The codes listed are definitely good rules to follow but I do not believe they define chivalry, they are based upon it. I also believe that doing the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times is a big part of chivalry. So come on Aidan, what are you trying to say? 😀
Well, every rule listed above has something in common. Selflessness. Each puts those around us as more important. What if instead of “the knight’s ten commandments” chivalry is the act of putting people first? What if instead of being a glorified hero, chivalry is the act of helping that family bring their groceries to the car?
So all that said, in my own opinion, chivalry is the art of selflessness. What are your thoughts?
Note: As I continue to study the “art of chivalry” this article may find itself updated with more evidences and opinions.