Some examples of the Code of Chivalry, as handed down from the Middle Ages and as reconstructed by scholars.
The Knight's Code of Chivalry
A knight was expected to have not only the strength and skills to face combat in the violent era of the Middle Ages but was also expected to temper this aggressive side with a chivalrous side to his nature. The ideals described in the Code of Chivalry were emphasised by the oaths and vows that were sworn in the Knighthood ceremonies of the Middle Ages and the Medieval era. These sacred oaths of combat were combined with the ideals of chivalry and with strict rules of etiquette and codes of conduct towards women.
The Code of Chivalry and the legends of King Arthur
The virtues taken as a Knight's Code of Chivalry was publicised in the poems, ballads and literary works of Medieval authors. The wandering minstrels sang these ballads and poems which described the valour and the code of chivalry followed by the Medieval knights. The Dark Age myths and legends featuring King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table further strengthen the idea of a Code of Chivalry. The Arthurian legend revolves around the Code of Chivalry which was adhered to by the Knights of the Round Table - Honour, Honesty, Valour and Loyalty.
Code of Chivalry - The Song of Rolan
A Code of Chivalry was documented in an epic poem called 'The Song of Roland'. The 'Song of Roland' describes the 8th century Knights of the Dark Ages and the battles fought by the Emperor Charlemagne. The code has since been described as Charlemagne's Code of Chivalry. The Song of Roland was written between 1098-1100 and described the betrayal of Count Roland at the hand of Ganelon. Roland was a loyal defender of his liege Lord Charlemagne and his code of conduct became understood as a code of chivalry. The Code of Chivalry described in the Song of Roland and an excellent representation of the Knights Codes of Chivalry are as follows:
- To fear God and maintain His Church
- To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
- To protect the weak and defenceless
- To give succour to widows and orphans
- To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
- To live by honour and for glory
- To despise pecuniary reward
- To fight for the welfare of all
- To obey those placed in authority
- To guard the honour of fellow knights
- To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
- To keep faith
- At all times to speak the truth
- To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- To respect the honour of women
- Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
- Never to turn the back upon a foe
Code of Chivalry described by the Duke of Burgandy
The chivalric virtues of the Code of Chivalry were also described in the 14th Century by the Duke of Burgundy. The words he chose to use to describe the virtues that should be exhibited in the Knights Code of Chivalry were as follows:
The 'Ten Commandments of Chivalry', from Leon Gauthier's Chivalry
- Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches and shalt observe all its directions.
- Thou shalt defend the Church.
- Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
- Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
- Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
- Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.
- Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
- Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
- Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
- Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.