…is dead”, was recently posted on Facebook by none other than the Domestic…yes she’s a goddess…Debacle.
For a brief moment, I was simply sure she was referring to her own home. But, alas, ’tis impossible for me to believe that any man could spend five seconds with her and remain un-chivalrous.
But, the whole thing, and there were many, many responses to her post, made me wonder how Chivalry became chivalry, and how chivalry became…well, gone.
I was sure it was murdered, in the library, with a keyboard, by E-mail. But I’m beginning to think that just isn’t it.
Chivalry, or “Courtly Love”, no, NOT Courtney Love, that’s a whole ‘nother rant, is most remembered from our forced exciting studies of Medieval literature in high school. Many of us got our entire opinion and knowledge from that and a few movies; “Camelot”, “Robin Hood, Prince of Theives”, “First Knight”, and “A Knight’s Tale” to name a few.
But Chivalry, or courtly love was, real or imagined, an attitude, an aura, an ideal, a dream.
“The source of the chivalrous idea,” says Johan Huizinga, in several chapters of his book, The Waning of the Middle Ages , “is pride aspiring to beauty, and formalized pride gives rise to a conception of honour, which is the pole of noble life.”
Y A W N!
The medieval development of chivalry, along with its concept of the honor of a lady and the ensuing knightly devotion to it, not only came from the the peoples’ thinking about the Virgin Mary, but also contributed to it.
If the literature is right, we are supposed to believe that healthy, red-blooded, lusty, sexual men were willing to remain, chaste and pure for the love of a beautiful damsel, whether in distress or not.
Me, thinks not.
The medieval veneration of the Virgin Mary was contrasted by the fact that ordinary women, especially those who were not aristocrats, were looked down UPon.
Although women were at times viewed as the source of evil…oh the places we could go…it was Mary, who, as mediator to God, was a source of refuge for man. The development of medieval Mariology, and the changing attitudes towards women went hand in hand.
i.e. Chivalry…and I know I’m gonna’ take crap for this…was a Christian Virtue.
That’s right, I said it!
Chivalry consisted of duties to fellow Christians, duties to God (protecting the innocent, etc.), and duties to women, who, BTW, were considered helpless, mindless creatures who could do little or nothing for themselves. Hillary would have had such a problem then!
When the feudal system fell, chivalry went with it.
So, in the modern era…pick a date, it really doesn’t matter…chivalry became courteous behavior…especially toward women. You know, opening doors, offering your seat, Sir Walter Raleigh draping his cloak over a mud-puddle so Queen Elizabeth I would not get her dress dirty…stuff like that.
Now, in the current era, if a guy wears a shirt to the dinner table, and refrains from flatulence (sorry Lynn…I can’t help myself), he’s a gentleman. Yes sir and no ma’am are out the window, and patience and politeness are lying under them.
In my mind, chivalry is simply civility: common courtesy, decent behavior, refraining from base behavior, and knowing the situation and audience.
I think Monty Python’s King Arthur said it best in the Holy Grail: “On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place. ”
But, guys, we still need to be chivalrous, and everyone needs to be civil!