Being a knight in the Middle Ages was not as easy as one would think. For one, he was required to have mad skills and impeccable strength in times of fighting. However, he also had to keep his aggression in balance while displaying respectable behavior, as dictated by the knight’s code. This code wasn’t just a mere set of edicts and statutes to follow, but extended beyond that to be understood by all as a moral system. And thus, chivalry was born implementing a code of conduct that every knight should strive for with values of courage, honor, courtesy, and the utmost treatment of women.
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The Knight’s Code of Chivalry dates back to the 12th century and was widespread, even making appearances in literature, one of the most popular being “The Song of Roland”. In this piece, the code is laid out as follows:
- fear God and maintain His Church
- To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
- To protect the weak and defenseless
- 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
The values of the Knight’s Code were also reflected in the vows made during a knighting ceremony. Needless to say, these were not to be taken lately. As the saying goes, “With great honor comes great responsibility”. The Knight’s Code lasted through the Middle Ages, though undergoing a few changes, and continued through the Dark Ages, as well as laying a foundation for conduct in other cultures.
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