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Chivalry was the medieval code of behavior for knights. It mandated loyalty to one's lord and to God, and women were to be honored as the equivalent of the Virgin Mary. The Code of chivalry was not only intended to create good warriors, but also to endow knights with strong morals and faiths. The word itself comes from the French word for "knight", chevalier.

Knights would usually take an oath of chivalry before partaking in the Crusades, leading and protecting the pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem.

Chivalric romances, books which recounted the deeds of heroic knights such as King Arthur and Amadís de Gaula, were a popular genre of fiction in 16th century Europe. They were satirized (and immortalized) in Don Quixote, where an aging aristocrat attempts to apply anachronistic chivalric values to his own time, with disastrous results.

Modern Chivalry

In modern terms, chivalry consists of the following behavior:

  • treating women with flattering respect, such as holding a door or standing when a woman gets up from a table or visits it
  • realizing that every respectable young woman will be someone's future wife
  • refraining from degrading or profane speech in the presence of women
  • recognizing that certain tasks should be done by men, such as taking out the garbage or carrying heavy boxes
  • supporting, and treating, women graciously, and adopting a work ethic to make that possible
  • honesty and fidelity in business dealings
  • avoiding of gossip
  • courtesy and humility in everyday life
  • protecting of the weaker elements of society
  • in religious terms, it can be the devotion and defense of one's belief
  • prohibition of competition between genders, and recognizing innate differences that prevent such fair competition
  • maintaining a posture and demeanor that is respectful to others and to yourself

Chivalry and Education

The concept of chivalry originated from various codes of behavior that were impressed upon knights. This took the form of a codified Code of Chivalry in or about the 12th century, largely spurred on by writings of Medieval courtly literature. Medieval courtly literature glorifies the valor, tactics and ideals of ancient Romans. For example, the ancient hand-book of warfare written by Vegetius called De Re Militari was translated into French in the 13th century as L'art de chevalerie by Jean de Meun. Later writers also drew from Vegetius such as Honore Bonet who wrote the 14th century L'arbes des batailles, which discussed the morals and laws of war. In the 15th century Christine de Pizan combined themes from Vegetius, Bonet and Frontinus in Livre des faits d'armes et de chevalerie.

In medieval times, the concept of chivalry was instilled in the minds of all who became knights, as part of their training. Today, the modern notion of chivalry is often ignored in western public education - false notions of gender equality are taught instead. The lack of chivalrous education in the public school system is one of many reasons why parents may prefer homeschooling for their children. (See Homeschooling: Reasons for Homeschooling.)