One of the frequent criticisms I’ve received with my writing on chivalry is that I’m using the term incorrectly. The argument is that chivalry is merely a code of martial honor, and that the ideals of reverence of women, idolization of romantic love, etc. are something entirely separate (courtly love). While it is true that courtly love has been adopted as the academic term describing these specific aspects of what we call chivalry, it is a fundamental part of how we use the word chivalry today, and how we have used it for hundreds of years. As I’ve shared previously, the oldest and most prestigious order of chivalry in the world was founded in 1348 to commemorate the time when the King of England picked up a noblewoman’s dropped undergarment and gallantly declared:
“Honi soit qui mal y pense” (“Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”)
That moment of utmost chivalry was from the 1300s, and British passports to this day have a cover image which commemorates the time a lady dropped her garter and the King cautioned the court not to laugh.
This understanding of chivalry continued in the Anglosphere through the 20th century to our present day. Vox Day has a new post up with a fascinating quote from the Preface to “Heroes and Heroines of Chivalry” from Volume 4 of The Junior Classics (1918 edition). As Vox explains, the preface was removed from the anthology beginning in the 1958 edition:
The campaign for the 2020 edition of the Junior Classics continues to go from strength to strength. To explain why it is important, consider the following preface from Volume 4 of the 1918 edition, “Heroes and Heroines of Chivalry”, which was excised from the 1958 edition for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who is conversant with the concept of social justice convergence and the long-running cultural war against Christianity and the West. And it probably will not surprise you to know that all three of the stories referenced in this preface were also removed from the 1958 edition.
Note that Vox considers Christianity and chivalry to be intertwined. Nearly all Christians today would struggle greatly to separate the two in a meaningful way, especially when it comes to the proper roles of men & women and the morality of romantic love. This is true despite the fact that the ideas now accepted as “Christian” were created as a parody of Christianity. The Bible teaches Christians that wives should submit to their husbands in all things, with fear and reverence, and call their husband lord. Chivalry teaches Christians that a man should submit to his lady in all things, with fear and reverence. Chivalry, the mock religion that decadent medieval aristocrats contrived as a devious joke, is now mistaken by modern Christians for the real deal. This makes modern Christians helpless when trying to fight against feminism, because the temptation is to offer chivalry as the “way back” to Christianity.
Here is an excerpt from the preface (emphasis mine):
By the time a boy was fourteen he was ready to become an esquire. He was then taught to get on and off a horse with his heavy armor on, to wield the battle axe, and practise tilting with a spear. His service to the ladies had now reached the point where he picked out a lady to serve loyally. His endeavor was to please her in all things, in order that he might be known as her knight, and wear her glove or scarf as a badge or favor when he entered the lists of a joust or tournament.
To become a knight was almost as solemn an affair as it was to become a priest. Before the day of the ceremony he fasted, spent the night in prayer, confessed his sins, and received the Holy Sacrament. When morning came he went, clothed in white, to the church or hall, with a knight’s sword suspended from his neck. This the priest blessed and returned to him. Upon receiving back the sword he went and knelt before the presiding knight and took the oath of knighthood. The friends who accompanied him now came forward and handed him the spurs, the coat of mail, the armlet and gauntlet, and having put these on he girded on his sword. The presiding knight now bade him kneel, and, touching him three times on the shoulder with the flat of his sword, he pronounced the words that received him into the company of worthy knights: “In the name of God, of St. Michael, and St. George, I make thee a knight; be valiant, courteous, and loyal!” After this he received his helmet, his shield, and his spear, and the ceremony was completed.
The knight’s real work, and greatest joy, was fighting for some one who needed his help. Tournaments and jousts gave them chances to show off their skill in public. We must remember that there were no big open-air theatres in those days, such as the Greeks had, no public races or trials of strength such as the Greeks held in the stadiums, nor were there chariot races or fighting gladiators such as the Romans had at an earlier day. Tournaments or jousts were the big public entertainments, and you will find a famous description of one by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe, in the volume “Stories that Never Grow Old,” the tournament of Ashby-de-la-Zouche. In it you will find a clear description of how the field of contest was laid out, of the magnificent pavilions decorated with flags, and the galleries spread with carpets and tapestries for the ladies.
The same qualities that made a manful fighter then, make one now: to speak the truth, to perform a promise to the utmost, to reverence all women, to be constant in love, to despise luxury, to be simple and modest and gentle in heart, to help the weak and take no unfair advantage of an inferior. This was the ideal of the age, and chivalry is the word that expresses that ideal.