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On Chivalry

The Red Baron (Jon de Cles)

From: Tournaments Illuminated, Volume 1, Issue 10 (Spring, 1969 (A.S. III)), "Incipit" article

THE NAME OF THE GAME IS CHIVALRY, and as other games have purposes, goals, rules and rewards, so has ours, however sketchy they may be. No gentleman, for instance, would ever dream of insulting a Lady, however low her rank. A trollop deserves, and receives, the same deference due a high lady of the court; for in the eyes of Chivalry, all women are Ladies until such time as they prove themselves otherwise.

THE QUESTION THEN ARISES; just what is Chivalrous behaviour? What are the rules of the game, and how is the game played? --No easy question, and one I have neither the space nor the ability to answer in full. However, as my lady Diana has essayed to suggest some answers to similar questions of similar import, I shall essay to polish a few old gems of old wisom, and cast them forth; in the hope of enriching the populace.

A GENTLEMAN IS CONSIDERED Chivalrous if, upon the field of Honour, he allows his opponant an advantage. If, for instance, his opponant loses the shield arm and the gentleman throws away his shield so as to even the odds, it is considered an act of Chivalry. Or, as happened recently, if a gentleman should give his opponant some piece of gear (in this case a guantlet) so that the opponant may continue with the fight.

THE MATTER OF A GENTLEMAN'S WORD is of considerable importance to the concept of Chivalry. No Gentleman would consider giving his word falsely. If he gives his word on something, then it will be his true word; for, if once he gave it falsely, he would be subject to doubt thereafter. Rather than give his word falsely, a Gentleman should decline to give it at all. --Conversely, a Gentleman must extend his credence to all other Gentlemen. He must accept the word of others if he wishes to have his own word respected. For if he is capable (in theory, you understand) of conceiving that another man may be false, then he is perhaps capable of being false himself. The world of Chivalry is one of honesty, with others, and with ones self. --Interms of the Society this has very real meaning; for as fighting improves; judges on the field become impracticle. A man must call the blows that fall upon him. Although he may occasionally not feel blows, and thereby not call them, if he reuses to call honest blows that he does feel, it will soon be noticeable; and, as one may, without dishonor, refuse any fight one wishes (for good reason, presumably to be decided by the King if questioned) the dishonorable man will soon find himself with no one to fight. Unchivalrous behavior more than any other single flaw, cuts one off very effectively from the Crown.

SUCH A CONCEPT AS A MAN'S "Word" would, I think we are all aware, be viewed with contempt in the Twentieth Century. It is, admitedly, a rather Romantic concept. But in terms of the Middle Ages, of the attitudes of the people of the past, such a concept, the whole body of Chivalry in fact, is rather an intensely Realistic approach to the problem of the condition of the world of Man in general. Chivalry implies a change in the world, approached from the only practical vantage point: Man himself, and the individual man in particular. The Knight of the Middle Ages was every bit as devoted to bettering the world as a whole as was the monk in his cell. And the Knight's methods were not terribly different. --Whereas the monk took upon himself the task of praying and fasting and living the 'holy' life, the Knight took upon himself the task of improving the conditions of life to the extent that he, as an individual, was capable. The monk lived the 'holy' life, the Knight lived the 'good' life. In carefully following the code of Chivalry the knight was, in addition to following an ideal, improving his own lot immensely. For, keep in mind, without the individual adherence to the code of Chivalry the knight's world would be a pretty sordid place. All the beauty, colour, romance, in short, all the things that we remember (and which made the knight's life more than kill-or-be-killed) existed because the knight, as an individual, forced them to exist. In short, the code of Chivalry was an idealistic dream world which the KNight of the Middle Ages made to exist by living as though it did exist. Which seems something of a paradox, since by living as thought it existed, he made it exist.

WHICH BRINGS ONE off the battlefield and into the parlour, or, in the Middle Ages, into the Mead Hall of the Castle. Though Chivalry may take its most shining examples from the field of honor, its underpnning lies securely at the feed of the Lady, without whom it could not exist. For the knight, battle was more than hacking and slashing and winning or losing a battle. It was more than the aquisition of lands or the necessary defense of lands already held. It was the opportunity to gain honor, to present his lady with another accomplishment. It was... Well, there is a book on that subject, just waiting to be written. Suffice to say, the mechanism is fairly clear. What was necessary (going out and taking your enemy's castle if the wheat didn't come out quite right) became an ideal, a joy, a game. It always improves the world to find pleasant reasons for doing what you have to do.

CHIVALRY AT HOME: Treating your lady like a fragile flower, although you know perfectly well that she can run the whole castle and command your troops in time of siege (and she would not have landed such a fine husband as Lord so-and-so, your close friend, he she could not). Writing poems to your lady, although you and she both know that you are a terrible poet; and seeing the reaction of pleasure that she gets from a deed which takes more bravery than you've ever needed in battle.

PERHAPS it's easiest to say that Chivalry is the set of rules for a gigantic game. A game that made life beautiful and meaningful at a time when, in terms of material comfort, there was not much that was beautiful or meaningful. If, for the sake of the arguement, we accept this thesus, then perhaps we can understand better what we in the Society are doing. For it is fairly eash to understand that a game has rules: otherwise it's not much of a game. We can look at teh deference paid a King and realize that it is not the power the King wields that demands a bow, but rather, the form and beauty of the game. The bow, the ceremony, is, in fact, one of the few things that divides a King from an Executive. One might also say that a King is an Executive with a sense of style, or artistry.

THUS, after meandering all over creation, we somehow get back to the original question, and find it a little easier to answer. Chivalrous behavior, we can define, is playing the game by the rules. The Rules of the Game are Chivalry, the Code of Chivalry, and take many volumns to express. The four Cardinal Virtues of this code are 1( Fortitude: (The Chief knightly virtue, equaling prowesse) including magnanimity, faithfulness, safety, dependibility, magnificence, constancy, tolerance, and firmness. 2(Prudence. 3(Temperance. And 4(Justice. There are lots of other things to be discussed, but if you think about the age of Chivalry, whatever, however little you know about it, you're bound to draw conclusions on your own.

-- The Red Baron, Chronicler

[Editor Note: Minor -- I attempted to leave any spelling errors in tact, simply as part of the original work ... if I inserted any spelling errors, I take all credit, but ... I tried to fix those. -- Hirsch]


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