Chivalry and True Nobility

The spirit of Chivalry is not only a military and bellicose thing, but also a bulwark of civilized and humane life. To stand fast in the face of danger in defense of the good and right is the sine qua non of a flourishing society. We might say that another word for Chivalry–one perhaps more mundane and domestic, but nevertheless full of mystic significance–is “fatherhood.” But the word “chivalry” has not only the advantage of a more adventurous ring than “fatherhood,” it also, though hard to imagine, is less disparaged.

The French word chevalerie means “horsemanship” and is the origin of the English word “cavalry.” The medieval chevaler (or knight) was a soldier on horseback who had the arms, horses and support personnel necessary to fight in this most effective and deadly way. For this reason, the tradition of chivalry, from its inception, was connected with the wealthy noble class. Therefore, it became the responsibility of the nobility to provide military service to the baronage and police protection to the weak and defenseless.

Considered according to its Christian ideal, the privileges of nobility were based upon their responsibilities. Noble patrimony was an expectation of family excellence that included an acceptance of responsibility for the common good. Hence, not only was military service expected of the nobleman, but his prowess was to be moderated and governed by a standard of loyalty, honesty, courtesy and generosity.