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The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #17: The Code of Chivalry with Scott Farrell

Posted By Brett On February 15, 2010 @ 8:44 pm In Podcast | 12 Comments

Welcome back to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast! In this week’s episode we talk to Scott Farrell, director of Chivalry Today [1]. We discuss the history of chivalry and how modern men can apply the code of chivalry to improve their lives. For more information about chivalry, check out Scott’s site, Chivalry Today [1]. Tons of interesting and useful information there.

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Brett: Brett McKay here and welcome to another episode of the Art of Manliness Podcast, now at the Art of Manliness we talk a lot about the importance of being a Gentleman, in one aspect of it that means being a chivalrous man, but for most of us living in the 21st century being chivalrous means opening the door for a lady, and that’s probably about it. What else does Chivalry mean? What’s its history in relation to Manliness, well our guest today will help us answer those questions, his name is Scott Farrell and he is the Director of Chivalry Today. Chivalry Today exposed the history, literature and philosophy of the Code of chivalry and shows how modern men and women can use chivalry to influence business, politics, love and relationships. Scott has written several articles and has contributed to several books on the subject of Chivalry and the legend of King Arthur. In addition to writing about Chivalry Scott provides presentations on the history in the modern application of the code of Chivalry to businesses, schools and couples, and you can find out more info about Scott’s work at chivalrytoday.com Scott welcome to the show.

Scott Farrell: Thank you Brett good to be here.

Brett: Well thanks taking the time to speak to us today, so Scott to start off what exactly is Chivalry? I mean is it just opening doors for ladies or standing up when they walk into the room or is there something more to it?

Scott Farrell: Well you hit on exactly what our perception of chivalry is which is sort of that heightened and possibly even a little bit absurd sense of manners, but to really understand the full breath of chivalry, we need to go back several hundred years, and understand that chivalry back in the middle ages, was a warriors code of honor, not unlike the code of Bushido that many people are familiar with, from Japanese culture in the Code of the Samurai. The code of chivalry was very much the same sort of thing for the Knights and the warrior class of medieval Europe, and it was sort of an understanding that with the elevated sense in the society of the time and their ability as a warrior of heavily armed and lead warriors along with that came a grave responsibility to conduct themselves with a sense of restraint, and courtesy and awareness of their ability, and so really that is where we get this, the complete sense of Chivalry as awareness code of honor and really more from, we would almost call today as a full rounded code of ethics is really what the code of chivalry is.

Brett: And so you mentioned that you know, we all know Chivalry kind of got start with the middle ages, because we often are associated with knights and slain dragons and things, but this is a time of you know more of a intellectual darkness, and you know you said that Code of Chivalry kind of came up to provided Code of Ethics to the warrior class, but it seemed like a really high end code of ethics for the time, I mean was the code of chivalry developed a reaction to the I guess the moral, just darkness that was facing the land, the world at that time or was it something else?

Scott Farrell: The middle ages was not quite you know really as dark as it sometimes portrayed, but it was very much an era of kind of individualism on the, with not to get too much under history lesson here, but with the overall structure of a greater civilization the Roman Empire kind of gone, it was sort of left you know in some way everybody kind of was on their own, and you know for a while things looks pretty grim, but what evolved was sort of a sense that you know in a vacuum of any other sort of greater authority, everybody needs to be responsible for themselves, and do their part to make society a safe, stable, a pleasant place to be and that was the world, that the warrior, the knight was kind of cast into, and so in that way yes it was sort of Chivalry was sort of a reaction to the society, and the social expectations or lack thereof, at the time and so it is kind of that is kind of where we get that sort of hardy individualist sense of the code of Chivalry, you know and you know at the thought that is you know almost like a, it is what the Boys scout code is drawn from be prepared, be prepared for anything, be ready to do anything that you are called upon to do, and yeah that is very much kind of in response to that, that sense of what the world was like in the middle ages.

Brett: You know going a little more about the history of Chivalry can you explain the transformation of Chivalry?

Scott Farrell: Sure yeah and you know even just talking a little bit about this history, hey you really can kind of get a sense of just how much is behind that they kind of simplistic concept of Chivalry, I mean we are talking about a concept that has evolved and developed with society over the course of 600 or 700 years or even a little bit more, depending on what your definition of the middle ages is, that Chivalry in the medieval sense again as was started as kind of a warriors code of honor, it emphasized the knights were as a protector initially as a protector of the church, the church he was going around doing charitable works, trying to save people’s souls, and the knight was the protector of the clerics and the church and the people who worshipped in the church, and therefore the knight then kind of became by default a protector of all those who were weak, who needed help, who were you know in harms way and danger, and so from that medieval sense of the knights duties, again we get that sense that chivalry is the code of somebody who helps people in need, who goes out of his way even maybe goes out of the harms way to help others, and from that it became something as a military and a political sense, and the code of Chivalry became throughout the later periods, became more of what we think of as the law of arms, a military code that encompasses things as simple, but as foundational of the fact that like for example you don’t shoot at someone who is waving a white flag of truce.

You know we think about, we think of, we still think of that sort of thing in conjunction with a military and even in some ways political standards today, and then of course you know throughout the Victorian and even in the early 20th century, Chivalry, as society again continued to change, Chivalry kind of became that, you know as union leaders or listeners are probably aware that, they kind of gentlemanly are, that sense of the art of being a gentleman that would once have been expected of the rich and aristocratic statuses of gentlemen, kind of became settled down to everyone, to every gentleman as you know that we have kind of became born equal, and that sense of gentlemanly behavior that sense of courtesy and gallantry and ability kind of became part of middle class life and everyone was expected to be a gentlemen, so that’s kind of the progress of chivalry from you know the middle ages and even right up until today.

Brett: Now going back to the middle ages you talk about it was the code of the warrior class, how did someone become a part of the warrior class, and how are they taught this code of Chivalry I mean they get like, they have to go to school and like you know see what their scroll or whatever they use back in, and like read I mean how was this passed onto them.

Scott Farrell: Yeah well again this is a subject that we could you know do a lengthy lecture on right here, but by and large in the middle ages as you kind of mentioned you know it was not a time of great literacy, most people could read and write probably a small amount, but most learning was done especially of the warrior class, and literally just a one-on-one kind of understanding, from some of the writings of the middle ages we can see that there were knights in the period who wrote their thoughts about what chivalry was, what it was to be a noble and honorable warrior, and they took this very seriously, it’s a very sincere, a very sincere part of their lives that they were writing about, but you know much like being kind of a big brother or mentor today, this was something that was passed on in the one-on-one from generation to generation it was something that was learnt very much by example, there was you know very much an understanding of you know you got to practice what you preach, you got to put your money where your mouth is, that learning a code of honor isn’t something you can say, you know be nice and honorable, and then go around and do things that are corrupt and unethical, you’ve got to live by your standards in order to, you know really make that a strong part of a society, and that’s exactly how these things were, how these ideas were taught in the middle ages, you know and we still see today that, you know that means the strongest way of teaching someone, of bringing someone up and kind of instilling good ideals in the next generation.

Brett: And we talk about you know the Code of Chivalry and a lot of times when I hear the word code I am a law student or law grad, and I hear code I think enumerated things, is there like a enumerated list of what makes up the code of chivalry, are there certain values or virtues that, you know a Chivalrous man was supposed to live by?

Scott Farrell: You know that is a really interesting thing because there is no as you say in a kind of a legal senses, no uniform code of Chivalry, there is nothing that you can go to and say, well on Page 298, you know subsection 1 paragraph 8 of the Code of Chivalry it says this, the Code of Chivalry was interpreted differently by every knight in the middle ages and again even through some of the writings that we can see from these knights of 14th, 15th, 16th centuries we can see that everyone of them has a little bit of a different take on what it means to be an honorable warrior, or what it means to be a good servant of a Lord or a King, or what it means to be a protector of the weak, but there are some themes that emerge through all of those individual interpretations, and there is an awareness of for example an appreciation of what they would have called prowess, probably that’s really the highest standard of what you might think of it as a Code of Chivalry which is simply an appreciation of people who take the time and effort to do what it takes to be the best, whatever it is that they are doing whether its in battle, whether it is in tournament, whether it’s as the spiritual, you know religious aspect of their lives, whatever it is to be the, to always strive to be the best that was really a mark of respect, among those people who write about Chivalry, we got respect for that sense of prowess, are there other ideas you know again kind of come through as a universal themes, loyalty to be a loyal to stand by your word, and do what you said you were going to do, but also to have, you know a sense of compassion, a sense of prudence of being you know a shrewd and wise judge, of what needs to be done in a given situation, so we know there was an awareness also that you know blind loyalty doesn’t necessarily make someone a good person, so these are the kind of stay tuned that comes through that we can see that they kind of make up that general, that kind of nebulous concept of Chivalry and honor.

Brett: Very interesting now Scott this is a I guess a statement B we hear a lot in these modern times, but you know that Chivalry is dead, is that the case is chivalry dead or if it is dead, it can’t be revived?

Scott Farrell: Yeah if it is dead is it our life support, and well and I think what we are talking about here is really kind of learn the different perspectives even to that question because you know you think about how long this concept of chivalry has been around since you know the 10th or 11th century, and I think it is only to think that something has been around for you know the better part of the millennium could be dead, it’s a little bit like saying, you know to look around and see the kind of things that are going on in the world today and say well government is dead, well I think Chivalry maybe the perception is that it’s dead, if you look for the ideas, the presentations of Chivalry from another generation in the world today, its easy to think maybe Chivalry is dead, and you know a good example that I tried to give when you mentioned there in the opening there is one of the concepts of Chivalry as a gentlemanly guide, its that a gentleman always stands when a lady enters the room. Well back in the day when most people sat around their parlors in the evening and had you know, had a conversation in a quiet, smoking room or something like that, that sort of thing certainly was a good demonstration of good manners and good etiquette, but imagine today in a you know crowded coffee shop or busy restaurant kind of stand every time a woman enters the room, its just not practical, and its not the sort of thing that would be expected today, but that does not mean that that underlying sense of respect and courtesy is dead, there are just different ways of showing it, you know for example, you know back in the day they didn’t have online electronic communications.

So they yet we can bring that sense of respectfulness to a new venue of our life by understanding, and looking for those that we can express courtesy to respect, kindness, compassion in online transactions, and how we interact with people in chat rooms and email and that kind of a thing, so I think that Chivalry isn’t dead, we just have to continue to look for it and its spirit in what we do in our modern world to understand how its still effective and how crucial its need really is and those sorts of applications.

Brett: And was it a perfect segue to my next question what are some things that today’s modern man can do to implement the Code of Chivalry?

Scott Farrell: Well I think first and most important you really have to kind of look within yourself, understand that no sense of whatever you want to call it chivalry, honor, ethics, integrity no sense of that can be conveyed by a simple checklist of rules that you have to follow, where you have to look for in your every day dealings is how can I express that, what can I do today in any given situation to show respect for someone, to demonstrate courtesy for the people that I am going to come in contact with, to make life a little better for the people in the world around me, and once you start looking at the world like that, you start to see things that you can do to express that sense of Chivalry in a very modern and contemporary way, without having to be old fashioned or stodgy or absurd you know one of the ways I think we can see that sort of thing you know again is in the workplace to show respect and courtesy for your coworkers, your clients, customers, that sort of a thing standing up when you meet someone, you know exchanging pleasant greetings that’s not anything that necessarily is you know biased by a gender, or it’s not sexist, but it is a way that you can express that sort of respectful, dignified behavior in modern terms, and one of the things that I always try to tell people to keep in mind is that you know there is little courtesy the kind of things that we are talking about, opening a door for a lady, tipping your hat, standing up when someone enters the room, all of those that the intent behind that is not so much to show some sort of deference or old fashioned manners, it’s a way of breaking out of our mentality of thinking only about what affects me and thinking about what can I do to help someone in the world around me, what can I do to show courtesy to someone around me, and so they are really acts of courtesy whether it’s letting someone merge ahead of you on the freeway, or standing up when someone enters your office, or always making sure that you greet your children and your wife at the end of the day, all those things are the first step towards being aware of what larger changes need to be made in the world, the sort that things that call on us to stand up for our beliefs to do the right thing to protect someone who is in need, all those are the first steps in being aware and seeing those greater things that can be done to express in a much larger sense of Chivalry, and a code of honor in the broader context of the world.

Brett: Very interesting and then Scott a criticism that’s I guess leveled at Chivalry, modern one at least is that its sexist or that implies weakness in the female sex, how would you respond to that criticism, and do you even think modern women want to be treated with I guess the traditional idea what Chivalry is?

Scott Farrell: Sure yeah and I think it’s a statement that in many ways we kind of don’t understand which is the historical society, historical context, these sorts of things come from. Women have never had a passive place in the concept of Chivalry, but do exactly the matter is the middle age is and even you know up until fairly recently in history, society was indeed a place where any kind of equal roles of men and women could really be expressed. It was a world powered by muscle and then brute force and up until the luxuries of the modern day, we don’t really have the capability of men and women doing the same kind of jobs, but Chivalry gave women a great deal of authority, of prestige, of influence in that medieval world, they were the auditors of Chivalry, it was their job to make sure that the knights who were in the world around them didn’t descend into selfishness and to egotism, and to brutality and corruption, and so they played a very important, but a different part in the Code of Chivalry in that historical sense, in the modern context where we do in fact have a world where at least we are coming you are much closer to real gender equality and, you know equal treatment in society, I think the women can have just as much of a part of this aspect and the presentation of Chivalry as any man, I mean we expect women to be honorable, to be ethical, to be courteous and respectful, and I think that’s great, I think its great that women can in fact take as much of an active and present role in the expression of Chivalry in today’s world, that never have before, so you know I think that there is nothing about Chivalry and about that sense of honor and respect that is inherently male, in today’s world I think that a woman can and frankly should be every bit of Chivalrous as a man should be.

Brett: Very interesting, well Scott thank you for your time it’s been a pleasure.

Scott Farrell: Good to be here Brett thanks and I sure hope your listeners enjoy learning little bit more about the Code of Chivalry.

Brett: Our guest today was Scott Farrell. Scott is the Director of Chivalry Today, and you could find more information about Scott’s work at chivalrytoday.com. That wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast for more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com, and until next week stay manly.


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