We have written about Chivalry before, as it is part of our Perfect Gentleman Manifesto and we have also written a defence of Chivalry in the modern world here. What we haven’t gone through is a little bit of the History of Chivalry and then why you should be a Modern Champion of Chivalry and launch into a campaign of Random Acts of Chivalry.
The true definition of chivalry is that of having the ideal qualities of a Knight – courtesy, generosity, courage, honour and skill at arms. It dates back to the Middle Ages and was first written down in the Song of Roland, around 1100. It was a tale about the great King Charlemagne and one of his loyal knights Roland and his betrayal but Roland’s code of conduct was the basis of the Chivalric Code. This code had been developed over the course of the last hundred years or so, but had not been formalised until this point.
It was further emboldened by the bards and authors of the medieval period who likened these virtues to the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the round table.
The modern definition of Chivalry, which is the courteous behaviour towards women, really stems from one developed facet of the Code of Chivalry: the role of Courtly Love. This element of Chivalry, developed in the courts of medieval France and Italy, was to deal with erotic desire and spiritual attainment and in more practical terms to stop rascally young knights forcing their advances onto the young ladies of court.
Chivalry developed over the centuries, becoming less about the Knightly components but increasingly about courteous behaviour towards women. It came under attack and was seen as anachronistic by the rise of the suffragettes and the decline of the military ideals of European culture amongst other things.
So what is its place in modern society? Well, if we take the original definition first, the code of Chivalry is about the virtues of being a knight – Honour, Justice, Courage and more. These are good values to have and to build upon.
If we take the definition of being courteous to women, then once again, is this something we should refrain from as Gentleman? I think not. We are about being courteous to all, but with ladies there are some very specific things that we can do to show our courtesy.
“Chivalry: It’s the little boy that kisses my hand, the young man who holds the door open for me, and the old man who tips his hat to me. None of it is a reflection of me, but a reflection of them.”
Donna Lynn Hope
What are Random Acts of Chivalry? They are gestures, whether small or large, that show you to be a truly modern chivalrous gentleman. For example, such gestures would include handing a handkerchief to a lady who is crying; stopping to offer directions to tourists, even though they haven’t asked; buying and giving a flower to a stranger; carrying someone’s bags up the stairs; offering a homeless person some food. There are many more examples, please let us know your own favourites.
Be a Champion of Chivalry by doing a Random Act of Chivalry, and let us know about it by posting it on Social Media with the #ROAC. The best ones might get a little prize.
Go Forth Gentlemen and Be Chivalrous!