Sunday, 19 June 2011

Is the Age of Chivalry dead or has it just changed?

Hold a door open for a woman today and you are quite likely to get a snarl in return. Give up your seat to a female on the tube and you are immediately a suspect rapist. Men are having a hard time of being chivalrous in today's world!

The somewhat dated image of chivalry.....

Most sources list the origins of chivalry back to the time of the Crusades and the word itself comes from the French chevaliere - normally taken to be a horseman of noble birth. A knight, in other words. And now all the images of maidens in distress being rescued by burly young men on horseback spring to mind.
I am sure that these roots are accurate, except for one thing. From where did the need for chivalry arise? Why should men have adopted a lifestyle aimed at being virtuous and protective of women (amongst other things)?
I have always been led to believe that it stems from love and respect for the Mother of God. Our Lady personifies womanhood. She, alone is unique in the world as being chosen to be both the Immaculate Conception and the Mother of Our Lord and so, all mankind. All women, therefore, are blessed by the grace of Mary and that is why we honour them with courtesy, not because of this 'fairest sex' nonsense.
Medieval knights (and Crusaders) adopted this approach of courtesy and protection to all women out of love and respect for the Blessed Mother. Of course, the 'woman' element must not get out of proportion; in many respects those choosing the chivalry road also adopted a religious rule, much like a tertiary order member might today.

So, typically, a Code of Chivalry emerged along the following lines:-

To fear God and maintain His Church
To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
To protect the weak and defenceless
To give succour to widows and orphans
To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
To live by honour and for glory
To despise pecuniary reward
To fight for the welfare of all
To obey those placed in authority
To guard the honour of fellow knights
To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
To keep faith
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
To respect the honour of women
Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
Never to turn the back upon the foe

Not a bad set of ideals to live and die by.

Now I have two instances to relate; the first, came as a result of most of my career being spent in the education sector. Holding a door open for a woman lecturer one day she snapped at me: "Are you doing this just because I'm a woman?" To which I replied: "Not at all, I'd do the same thing if you were a man". And I meant every word of that statement. That is why we should not get too hung up on chivalry just being about a regard for women; it is a set of Christian principles which we should apply ourselves to.

Always accept the offer of a seat from a beautiful girl!

My second incident occurred just a few weeks ago when I was in London to attend the inaugral meeting of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma.
I was standing on a crowded tube train when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around I found myself face to face with a vision of loveliness; a young woman with a radiant smile and a truly beautiful countenance.
My joy was shortlived as she said to me: "Would you like my seat?". Totally crushed my first reaction was to disdainfully reject her kind offer. I then realised that one must accept chivalry when it is offered; to have spurned the offer would have been just too rude. So, swallowing my pride I accepted gracefully. And that proved to me that chivalry is not the province of the male sex alone; Christian love is a two way street!

And now, some answers to the quiz......................

1. Jezebel  2. 18  3. The pipe organ  4. 'Penance'  5. St John  6. 266 
7. Beheaded   8. A recess to accommodate holy oils  9. St Monica 
10. A letter from a bishop to his priests  11. Jesus fell as recorded at those stations  12. Feed the hungry  13. A kneeler for prayer  14. Scallop shell
15. Witness   16. The two natures of Jesus Christ (divine and human) combined in the one person.  17. Oliver Plunkett   18. Skullcap 
19. St Jerome   20. 1962

Congratulations to all who made the attempt, sorry, no silver teapots!


  1. D'you see the piece by Ms Liz Jones in the Mail on Sunday? She rattles against men who would dare open a door for her. Very, very sad. When a man or woman hold a door open for me [ahead or behind of them] as a common courtesy I will always say thankyou or no, after you, thankyou. It is just common courtesy.

    In the age of road rage wll we now get door rage?

    Dear God!

  2. I'm delighted when a man opens a door for me, gives up his seat, insists that drinks are on him. Best of all is when he gets the menu with the prices and I don't.
    Seriously, it's a question of good manners. I've seen kids lounge on seats while seniors in their 80s have to stand on a lurching bus and hold on for dear life.
    I can remember the days when kids were taught to stand to greet an older person visiting their home and when a teacher came into the classroom.
    There's a culture of coarseness about which makes me feel very uncomfortable.