Greetings from Sir Richard Fitzalan.
[Originally posted on the Email discussion group for An Tir, "The Steppes"]
In a recent posting Pilgrim and Mistress Elizabeth Braidwood mentioned
This question has been the source of much discussion between
various folk for many, many years and no doubt we could debate it here
at length. I would be remiss in my studies of chivalry if I did not make
the assay to begin this discussion. I ask indulgence from those gentles
who have heard it all before and if in fact there are few who wish to comment
on this topic, which underlays so much of what we value in the SCA we should
take further discussion to private email.
There is a whole discussion in Pilgrim's question. Exactly
what *is* 'Chivalry'? Is it a codefied set of behaviours? An ideal? A set
of combat-rules? It's not what you think it is. It's probably not what
I think it is. I do know that what most people think is Chivalry is really
I would begin by saying I agree with all of what Mistress
Elizabeth said (to paraphrase): It is an ideal code of rules and guidelines
for behavior and intent of warriors. Such warrior codes have existed ever
since ancient cultures tried to curb the excesses of brute force upon their
people and harness their warriors to serve. In the middle ages in Europe,
the word Chivalry was applied to the then predominent warrior class, which
was made up of cavalry (fr. Chevalier) whence the word.
The main forces molding this concept in the middle ages
seem to have been the Christian Church, the rise of Courtliness (or Courtesy)
and Fine Amor (as ruled by high ranking ladies of the day), and the martial
spirit of the germanic warrior.
This code had many definitions during the historical middle
ages and continues to find new definitions in the Victorian era and Current
Middle Ages. Different times and cultures valued various parts of the code
of Chivalry differently so any one definition will undoubtedly fail to
apply universally. But perhaps the general concepts are worthy of discussion.
Putting aside the simple historic definition of cavalry and
concentrating on the warrior's code, several ideals and codes emerge.
Prowess. The skill and strength to be a warrior. To be
able to defend the weak, one's home, one's lord, all took an ability to
Courtesy. Knowledge and application of social graces.
Including poetry, music, dance, how to behave at court, with ladies, etc.
Generosity. Giving bounty to one's friends, followers,
vassals, and the people. Hospitality and display of wealth.
Loyalty. Supporting by counsel and deeds those to whom
you have vows. Your family, your friends, your liege, your vassals, your
clan, your people.
So let me follow my brief comments (if you want a longer discussion
I recommend Maurice Keen's book "Chivalry" to begin) with some questions.
How are these variuos values balanced in YOUR definition of
chivalry within our Current Middle Ages? What do you think knights in the
Society should hold as their code of behavior? How does this differ from
what other fighters should be expected to do? What about other Peers? What
about everyone else? What do you think can be done to help everyone in
the kingdom to act with more courtesy and chivalry? And what do you think
should be done when people fail to do so?