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chivalry-msg - 5/27/08


Codes of chivalry in period and today.


NOTE: See also these files: Chivalry-art, chiv-orders-msg, courtly-love-msg, knighthood-msg, squires-msg, fealty-art, fealty-msg, 25-years-late-art, courtly-love-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: lisch at sysserver1.mentor.COM (Ray Lischner)

Date: 1 Oct 91 01:19:41 GMT

Organization: The Internet


>>>>> On 30 Sep 91 14:52:00 GMT, JRECHTSCHAFF at hamp.hampshire.EDU said:

Lyanna> I have a little question which is bound to produce some interesting answers,

Lyanna> which is why I'm asking it.  The question is What is Chivalry?  Both in period

Lyanna> and today.


The meaning and concept of Chivalry changed during the Middle Ages,

but there are some common themes.  To start with, N. Denholm-Young put

it best in "The tournament in the thirteenth century," (in Collected

Papers of N. Denholm-Young. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1969.

Originally published in Essays in Medieval History presented to

Frederick Maurice Powicke, 1962.):


    It is impossible to be chivalrous without a horse.


That said, one good place to start trying to understand medieval

views of chivalry is "The Book of the Order of Chivalry," written

by Ramon Llull (I don't remember exactly when; I think 15th century).

There is a modern English rendition in  David Herlihy's "The History

of Feudalism" (NY: Harper & Row, 1970).


It is useful to read what was written in the Middle Ages about

chivalry, but actions speak louder than words.  We can look at

the behavior of people in history who were regarded by their

peers as examples of great chivalry and honor, such as Philip

of Flanders and William the Marshal.  For example, in a tournament,

Philip held his entourage aloof from the fray, waiting for everyone

to get tired.  Then he entered fresh and cleaned up. William

noticed this and suggest that the young King Henry do the same.

In the twelfth century, this was considered a clever idea, and

one of the many things that distinguished Philip and William

from the rest of the knights.


Other aspects of chivalry are described in an article I posted earlier:


A more concrete example of generosity and charity is an incident

involving William the Marshal.  At a tournament at Joigni, the

countess and her attendants were waiting for the tournament to begin,

when someone asked for a dance to occupy their time, asking ``who will

be so courteous as to sing for us?'' The Marshal graciously sang for

them.  Then a minstrel, newly made a herald, sang a song with the

refrain, ``Marshal, give me a good horse!''  When the Marshal heard

the song, he left without a word, a squire brought him his horse, and

he entered the tournament. He unhorsed his first opponent, and, still

without speaking a word, led the horse over and gave it to the

minstrel. (L'Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal, lines 3464-3420).


By his act of generosity, the Marshal supported all of chivalry, and

garnered worship for himself.  He used the opportunity to demonstrate

his prowess at arms, his charity toward those outside of the chivalry,

and his generosity with gifts.


As shown by the Marshal, charity outside of the knightly class is as

important as generosity to one's peers.  Ramon Llull, therefore,

includes charity in the virtues of a knight.


  A knight without charity may not be without cruelty and evil will, and

  cruelty and evil will accord not to the office of chivalry because

  that charity behooveth to be in a knight, for if a knight have not

  charity in God and in his neighbor, how or in what way should he love

  God? And if he had not pity on poor men, not mighty and diseased, how

  should he have mercy on the men taken and vanquished that demand

  mercy, as not of power to escape and may not find the finance that is

  of them demanded for their deliverance? And if a knight were not

  charitable, how might he be in the order of chivalry? Charity is a

  virtue above other virtues for she departeth every

  vice. (Booke of the Order of Chivalry, Chap. VII).


Generosity and charity are among the greatest knightly virtues.

Giving gifts is necessary for the maintainance of the feudal society,

and is a way of establishing a knight's reputation.



Peregrine Payne     (Dragon's Mist, An Tir)

Ray Lischner        UUCP: {uunet,apollo,decwrl}!mntgfx!lisch

    this might work, too: lisch at mentorg.com



From: ag1v+ at andrew.cmu.edu (Andrea B. Gansley-Ortiz)

Date: 30 Sep 91 17:51:55 GMT

Organization: Engineering Design Research Center, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, PA


Greetings gentle Lyanna, and all the good gentles here assembled.


= What is Chivalry?  Both in period and today.


I find this question to be very interesting as what I think chivalry

is changes every time I think on the subject.  But in the vein of

finding an answer to the question (or any question that deals greatly

with defining something) I will turn to Webster's. (How I wish for an

on-line OED, *sigh*.)


In the romance languages, the word for chivalry comes from the word for

horse.  Why?  Because what really separated men-at-arms from knights was

the fact that the knights were mounted.  Hence the first definition for

chivalry in Webster's -- mounted men-at-arms.  


Archaic definitions of chivalry are:  martial valor, and knightly skill.

I find this particularly interesting since these are some of the prime

requisites for being considered for the Chivalry by the Chivalry in the

Society.  So in that respect the Society has a small leaning toward

accuracy in what is 'required' to be a member of the Chivalry.


These next three definitions I find to be more modern in origin.

    gallant or distinguished gentlemen

    the system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood

    the qualities of the ideal knight; chivalrous conduct


Although I'm sure that in the Middle Ages there were 'codes of conduct'

that knights followed, I think that it was really in the Rennaisance and

later where the concept of what chivalrous conduct is or how knights

should act as gentlemen really came into play.


To be chivalrous is to be 'marked by honor, generosity and courtesy'.


This is how I really like to view chivalry.  I think that this is

what the Society is really after when we say we are interested in

recreating the Middle Ages 'as it should have been' or as Cariodoc

says 'selectively recreating the Middle Ages'.  Let alone the slavery,

and poverty, and unkindness that will be found in any society.  Instead

look at the good that came out the Middle Ages; the fine works of art,

the courteous behavior towards others and the high minded consideration

of people 'especially to women'.


To me one of the most wonderful things about being a member of the

Society is to be able to let people treat me as a lady without having

to rigorously defend my right to be 'a person'.


Chivalry is championing someone, and on the other side, appreciating

and supporting your champion.  Being inspired or inspiring.  Giving

flowers to a gentleman (or lady) - just because. [Although I must admit

that I do not often give flowers to ladies. ;> ] Chivalry can be taking

the time out of your feast to be a server.  It can also be taking the

time to write or say something in a special way that creates a warm glow

inside of those who hear or read the words.


I find chivalry to be many things, but honor, courtesy and generousity

are a very good sum of the total.


Su segura servidora,


        Esmeralda la Sabia

        Debatable Lands, AEthelmearc, East




From: L6PJDU at IRISHMVS.CC.ND.EDU (Cathy Lindsay 239-6679, 219)

Date: 2 Oct 91 16:11:00 GMT

Organization: The Internet


Greetings from Katherine.

For what it's worth, I'm going to give my opinion of what chivalry

means in day to day relations.  I suppose it's confused with the

notion of courtesy in my head, since I'm not sure there's a whole

lot of difference.  I'm a fan of Miss Manners too, for what it's

worth!  But seriously, I think my own personal ethos of chivalry/

courtesy is strongly influenced by my Christian beliefs. However,

I don't think this is out of line--the high middle ages was a

very Christian time!


Honesty: essential.  Anyone who plays games with the truth is

disqualified (other than the bardic arts, naturally!). Honesty

is tough: it means owning up to personal responsibility and fault,

and making amends when necessary (instead of trying to cover up

for yourself). Part of honesty then, is keeping your word.


Loyalty: whether related to fealty or not, or just to friends,

personal loyalty is important.  On a personal basis this would

mean keeping confidences confidential (!) and so a person who is

loyal is someone you could trust with your life, if it came to it

(ok, it's related to fighting ;-)   ).


Generosity has been mentioned by others.  I think it entails not

only largess as far as material goods, but also a generosity of

spirit--being quick to see the best in people, not the worst.

Looking for the potential in others, seeing in them what their

best possible selves are (or can be).


Tact/thoughtfulness: I guess that's where Miss Manners comes in!

So, as I see it, by my definitions such things as evil politics

or defamation are marks of those lacking in chivalry/courtesy.

The only way to win is not to play (as far as evil politics, that



Lastly, the Arthurian (Camelot) notion of "might *for* right"

is not limited to the tourney field.  Might can of course be

physical prowess, but in the SCA and mundane life it can also be

influence or skill or reputation.  I think the SCA does need more

of this: evil politics seems present at all levels, for example.

Perhaps people need to be bolder at calling it what it is, and

refusing to participate.  This kind of courage is also what I

think of as chivalry.





From: jakos at DPW.COM (Ceilene Jakos)

Date: 2 Oct 91 20:28:22 GMT

Organization: DP&W, New York, NY


Chivalry is, was and always will be action rooted in HONOR.

Your every thought, word and deed must be honorable, and your

name must be honored.  Your good name is your most prized

possession, and it is the thing which you pass on to your sons

and daughters.  It is your reputation and all that is known of

you.  To act dishonorably, thereby losing your honor, is a worse

punishment than to lose your life.





Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 13:56:36 -0500

From: "Michael Gunter" <countgunthar at hotmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] RE: Chivalry and Supporting your Local


To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org


> I disagree.  "there are times when a Man of Honor can not blindly  

> follow orders".


> the hand that gives the orders is guilty of the thought <still a sin>, the

> hand that committed,carries more guilt, for not only did he knowingly

> commit the act, but He was aware of the Sin of the act<so the do-er is

> twice guilty>.


> my opinion.


Actually, the correct term would be a Man of Principle, not of honor.

I know, it's weird when you start getting into all the niceties. The

best way to explain it would be that the man of honor would be

bound by his oath of fealty to carry out the commands. Now,

his principles could override his honor and have him break his oath.

But oathbreaking was a serious offence. He may have personal honor

which overrides his fealty but it is still an oathbreaking and he would

be considered to have sacrificed his honor.  It may be somewhat

similar to the concept that a traitor is never fully trusted, even if

that traitor turns away from a tyrant.


A principled man who broke his fealty would have to do a lot

of making up in order to regain his honor in the eyes of the

society in which this person exists. As I said, chivalry were basically

laws. To follow these laws was to be considered "honorable",

which was a good thing. To go against them was dishonorable.


Sometimes principles had to go against the code but that was

a personal choice.  Just as sometimes someone might have to

break the law for a personal principle, you still have broken the




I prefer to be a principled person myself.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org