18 – Chivalry

The long legacy of chivalry sprouted from the unwritten Noble Habitus noted in the twelfth century: loyalty, forbearance, hardihood, liberality, Davidic ethic, and honor. These habits were for all people.

Chivalry customs change with time and were never exempt from exploitation. But, the mature and strong must always look after the young, elderly, and weak.

Bull sessions and rowdy friendship—at proper times—are indeed collective virtue. Hardiness with cheer encourages others by implying that they are tough enough to take it. But, never steal another’s thunder, overstay your welcome, nor let play interfere with work.

Do your own work well and honestly. Work unfinished or badly done makes work for others, even danger. Honor is about self-sacrifice, not saving face. Sacrifice yourself for others, merely because they are near you. Obey God above mortals and angels, pay respect to all, and expect respect from none.

Elbows off the table and napkins on the knee save space. When you must retrieve from across someone’s plate, always say, “Pardon my reach.” Who goes through the door first is not so important as making the passage best and pleasant. Whether to talk at the table changes with occasion and each house has different rules. But, never spit your food at others and never be difficult for any friend.

Never break promises, never betray friends, and never associate with those who wish to. When your friend slips in his chivalry, offer your shoulder to help him stand.

Forbearance and forgiveness make for flexibility and resilience. If your opponent plays fowl, object if the referee blows his whistle. Chivalry ’tis not only about being a good loser, but also not quibbling over fowl play.

When late, make haste, but not so much that ye make waste. Be punctual, don’t get in others’ way, but weep not at interference or tardiness of others. Unlacing over a faux pas is bad chivalry, whether yours or not; it’s best to “not even notice”.

Never lodge complaint over tone of voice. Anyone can practice gruffness or bad grammar if he worked to pay for his own plate, especially if he pays for everyone else’s. Carelessly sharing is most caring, as any chevalier knows.

2 Samuel 19:1-8, John 2: 1-12; 6:1-14; 19:26-30