A Code of Chivalry
Modern, based on the "Old Code"

Brian R. Price
April, 1997


Prowess: To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a knight, martial and otherwise, seeking strength to be used in the service of justice, rather than in personal aggrandizement.

: Seek always the path of 'right', unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by humanity and mercy. If the 'right' you see rings agrees with others, and you seek it out without bending to the temptation for expediency, then you will earn renown beyond measure.

: Be known for unwavering commitment to the people and ideals you choose to live by. There are many places where compromise is expected; loyalty is not amongst them.

: The ideal knight was sworn by oath to defend his liege lord and those who depended upon him. Seek always to defend your nation, your family, and those to whom you believe worthy of loyalty.

: Being a knight often means choosing the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices in service of the precepts and people you value. At the same time, a knight should seek wisdom to see that stupidity and courage are cousins. Courage also means taking the side of truth in all matters, rather than seeking the expedient lie. Seek the truth whenever possible, but remember to temper justice with mercy, or the pure truth can bring grief.

: A knight must have faith in his beliefs, for faith roots him and gives hope against the despair that human failings create.

: Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds. In this way the office of knighthood is well done and glorified, helping not only the gentle spoken of but also all who call themselves knights.

: Be generous in so far as your resources allow; largesse used in this way counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required.

: Seek great stature of character by holding to the virtues and duties of a knight, realizing that though the ideals cannot be reached, the quality of striving towards them ennobles the spirit, growing the character from dust towards the heavens. Nobility also has the tendency to influence others, offering a compelling example of what can be done in the service of rightness.

: Seek to emulate everything I have spoken of as sincerely as possible, not for the reason of personal gain but because it is right. Do not restrict your exploration to a small world, but seek to infuse every aspect of your life with these qualities. Should you succeed in even a tiny measure then you will be well remembered for your quality and virtue.

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The Code of Chivalry

Many people of written to me asking for the 'old code' or the code by which medieval knights lived. In truth there was no such code; chivalry as a set of ideals and duties changed throughout the Middle Ages to meet new socio-economic realities. In our day, they must once again change, maintaining the essential quality of defending 'rightness' that ties the many images of what we call 'chivalry.'

Although there is no 'authentic' code, discussions of knightly virtues can be found in the writings of knights and bards throughout history. What I have done here is to distill many of the essential qualities discussed by all the major sources, Chrčtien de Troyes, Ramon Lull, Geoffrey de Charny, Honoret Bonet, and others. I have modernized them slightly, removing many of the socially dependent elements and replacing them with more generic (and weaker) equivalents palatable to modern sensibilities.

Chivalry is often taken to be a matter of opinion and of dispute, but most would agree that the following virtues all have a place in the virtues a knight should have. There will be grave differences of opinion on what duties and actions are expected in service of these virtues, and of their relative importance to one another, but I hope this serves as a starting point for discussion. Therefore, in response to the hundreds of messages asking for the 'old code', here is a code of chivalry updated for the modern world


© 1996 All material copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.