Chivalry. The word has different connotations for traditional(or at least tradition-sympathetic) monarchist Christians like myself, who love the old ways, and even sympathize(despite my Protestantism), with the Catholic Church, and to mindless feminists, who, I am sorry to say, now come in both a male and female variety. Choose your poison.
Whether or not you are a feminist, a product of the obnoxious egalitarian mindset traceable to the French Revolution(Vive le Roi!), the simple definition of chivalry, that is, the code of conduct considered to prescribe the behavior of a knight, later, that of a high-class landowner, and ultimately, that of all gentlemen in the wider sense, remains the same.
Chivalry emphasized service to God, loyalty to one’s lord(one’s feudal lord, that is), and protection of the weak. It also put a high value on honesty and fair play. And while the knights certainly did not always live up to these ideals, that fact does not help our standing if we jettison them entirely.
The knight has been maligned as an unsophisticated, uneducated, boorish brawler, pillager, and rapist, as a collector of cruel taxes and an oppressor of the peasantry.
A full rehabilitation of the popular image of the knight is beyond the scope of this piece, but suffice to say, this gross oversimplification of history is in my opinion another regrettable part of the modern, emasculated, secularized, democratized West’s effort to demonize its medieval, Christian, monarchical past, an effort which has ultimately brought the West to its knees.
No one else could conquer the West, but it has conquered and destroyed itself from the inside.
But all of this strays from the point. Regardless of the actual behavior of knights, I believe the chivalric ‘ideal knight’ is a valuable model.
Many women today consider chivalry to be insulting to them. This is foolishness. They demand to be treated the same as men, but they’re not the same as men, nor is there any shame in that. They refuse our protection and our aid to their own detriment and at their own peril.
Contrary to popular belief(and it makes a mockery of democracy how often the truth is preceded by that phrase), chivalry does not demean women. It elevates them. Recognizing that the man is naturally stronger, it places him in the role of protector and provider, and thus elevates women first by asserting that they are worth protecting and providing for, and second by shielding them from the abuse and exploitation they would otherwise be subject to. If the gentlemen leave the ladies to fend for themselves, the thugs will come out to play, and it is then that women are denigrated, demeaned, and lowered. Chivalry elevates.
So, having dispatched the main objection to chivalry, let me deal with another:
Is chivalry a mere vestige from medieval times, holding us back from progress, from development?
First, about progress and development; let me say that I have seen them both in an egg. (Thank you, C.S. Lewis!)
Second, it is the assumption of the questioner that medieval is bad, and modern good. In the words of George Orwell, ‘Four legs good, two legs bad!’ Rejecting this assumption along with the irrational modern worship of the god Novus, I find the question misleading.
Or, to put it another way: Damn right, and a good thing too!
There is one other objection to chivalry, and it comes from men. This one too ultimately finds its root in the feminist movement. It is the ‘why should we?’ objection, and it runs as follows:
‘Why should we open doors and pull out chairs and such nonsense for them? They’re no better than we are, and most of the time, they don’t even appreciate it! And as far as protecting the weak goes, you don’t really think that if I fail to give some woman my seat on the bus, that it will lead to her rape or murder, do you?’
To take the objections in reverse order, first, no, I don’t. That’s hypersimplification. But he who is faithful with a little shall be faithful with much, and he who is unfaithful with a little shall be unfaithful with much. A man who will not be chivalrous on the level of basic courtesy can hardly be expected to leap to a lady’s defense when she is genuinely threatened.
Second, the question of whether the unfortunate, misled women whom feminism has produced appreciate it is entirely beside the point, and an attempt by the questioner to abdicate his proper role. You are to do the right thing. Whether others appreciate it or not is a separate issue.
Third, men or women being ‘better’ was never the issue, and by saying ‘they’re no better than we’, you unnecessarily muddy the waters.
The knight was to protect those weaker, not those ‘better’ than he. In terms of moral purity, I doubt either sex can claim much advantage, but that, like the question of whether women today appreciate such courtesies as chivalry offers them, is entirely beside the point.
The entire insistence, by everyone, to everyone else, that ‘You are no better than I’ is a rather obnoxious phenomenon, and is destroying courtesy and civility as a whole. There is a time and place to insist upon one’s rights, of course, but I think our society would probably be a good deal more pleasant if we did it just a little less.
In short, I call upon both sexes to accept, nay, to rejoice in, the created order of God, the role of the man as protector, provider, and head, and of the woman as ‘help-meet’. This is the way God intended it, and this is where both men and women find themselves elevated to their greatest potential, and it is outside this order that both are demeaned.
That being respectfully submitted, I remain always,
Your Humble Servant,
Samuel C Starrett