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A Code of Chivalry


Although chivalry was contemporaneous with feudalism, membership in the chivalric ideal was not heritable as either a social or economic caste structure. Chivalry was disciplined by a code of conduct that was clearly understood without being clearly formulated. Before the medieval era, the customs of gallantry were unrecorded, except in epics and odes, but were nevertheless inculcated; and their later codification was an attempt to retard the erosion of normative social standards, but eventually evolved into a legalistic observance of the letter, instead of the spirit, of the law.

Chivalric Virtues defined by the Duke of Burgundy for the Order of the Golden Fleece (c1400):

Faith, Charity, Justice, Sagacity, Prudence, Temperance, Resolution, Truth, Liberality, Diligence, Hope, and Valour.

Chivalric Qualities:

Adeptness, Advocacy, Agape, Charity, Chastity, Compassion, Constancy, Fealty, Franchise, Gallantry, Humility, Justice, Largesse, Loyalty, Mercy, Nobility, Prowess, Reverence, Valiancy, Vigilance.

A Knight's Code by Léon Gautier:

    Thou shalt believe all the Church teaches and shalt obey her Commandments.
    Thou shalt defend the Church.
    Thou shalt respect all weaknesses and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
    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.

A Code of Knightly Duties by Charlemagne ["Charles the Great"] (c770):

    To fear God and maintain His Church.
    To serve the liege lord in valor and faith.
    To protect the weak and defenseless.
    To give succor to widows and orphans.
    To refrain from the wanton giving of offense.
    To live by honor and for glory.
    To despise pecuniary reward.
    To fight for the welfare of all.
    To obey those placed in authority.
    To guard the honor 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 honor of women.
    Never to refuse a challenge from an equal.
    Never to turn one's back upon a foe.

The Exhortation of Charlemagne [Charles I, Holy Roman Empire] (c800):

    Love God Almighty with all your heart and all your powers.
    Love your neighbor as yourself.
    Give alms to the poor as ye are able.
    Entertain strangers.
    Visit the sick.
    Be merciful to prisoners.
    Do not consent to any wrong.
    Do ill to no man, nor consent unto such as do, for the receiver is as bad as the thief.
    Forgive as ye hope to be forgiven.
    Redeem the captive.
    Help the oppressed.
    Defend the cause of the widow and orphan.
    Render righteous judgement.
    Persevere not in wrath.
    Shun excess in eating and drinking.
    Be humble and kind.
    Serve your liege lord faithfully.
    Do not steal.
    Do not perjure yourself, nor let others do so.
    Envy, hatred, and violence separate men from the Kingdom of God.
    Defend the Church and promote her cause.

A Code of Chivalry:

    Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to all thy pledges.
    Thou shalt acquire all the proper Virtues, without succumbing to hubris.
    Thou shalt be, everywhere and always, the champion of all that is Right and Good.
    Thou shalt believe the Church, observe its teachings, and defend its endeavors.
    Thou shalt perform thy liege duties, if they be not contrary to the Will of God.
    Thou shalt display obedience to thine vested authorities, and loyalty to thine obliged charges.
    Thou shalt bear a noble mien, that's trustworthy with friends and reliable with enemies.
    Thou shalt not recoil from thine enemy, ignore his transgressions, nor succor his allies.
    Thou shalt redeem defeat with dignity, yet prefer death to dishonor.
    Thou shalt be generous with strangers, and forgiving of thine peers.
    Thou shalt sympathize with every weakness, care for the helpless, and protect them.
    Thou shalt love the land and its people, its ways and tongues, from whence thou came.