To answer this question, I have asked Professor David Bowles* to be interviewed. He has been quoted as being “bound by the laws of chivalry body and soul”, so he’s far more qualified to explain this than I am. Please welcome, David Bowles.
DR. BOWLES: Thank you, Mrs. Grubb. In an effort to apologize for my meanderings during the last guest post, I promise keep my presentation much shorter than the last one. And I always keep my promises.
KATHARINE: Thank you. So, can you tell us about what chivalry is?
DR. BOWLES: Chivalry is a code of dignified conduct designed to encourage knights of the Middle Ages to protect the weak. Its rules were in place to train a knight in bravery, honesty, virtue, gallantry and self-discipline in all areas. Knights in Europe during this time, but particularly those in France, Germany and England were trained to be excellent warriors. They were also trained in duty and inner character that was certainly encouraged by the church at the time. When using the word chivalry in the context of the typical Medieval knight, often you can refer to a knight’s duties to God, to women and to others in his community.
KATHARINE: That’s all well and good for the Middle Ages, but how can the concepts of chivalry translate into today’s culture?
DR. BOWLES: You are asking one of my very favorite questions. While in today’s culture there is little emphasis on horsemanship and heraldry, there is certain room for young men to consider how he can be a protector to those who are weak around him, how he can develop self-discipline, how he can treat all women well and how he can emulate the inner character of those knights of old. There’s no code, sadly, for young men to read. And it’s too bad that not everyone can sign up for one of my classes. Young men today really have no idea how impressed young women are when they meet true gentlemen. I know what I’m talking about. It also helps greatly if you can pull off an English accent.
KATHARINE: How do you personally practice the code of chivalry?
DR. BOWLES: (Laughs) I’m a bit old-fashioned. I’ve also been called an eccentric. But since I was fifteen, I’ve worked very hard to implement the code of chivalry into my life. To become a warrior, I’ve taken classes in bartitsu, fencing and horsemanship, although it is very rare that I have a chance to actually fight. And you must know, that a gentleman never backs down from a fight, especially if a lady or a child needs protecting. I’ve also taught myself how to be courteous around women, such as opening doors for them (although this particular habit is not nearly has endearing to them as being a good listener and bringing them flowers). I’ve also got a keen understanding (and this came with much help from my father and my driver, Merle) of what is appropriate behavior when pursuing a young woman romantically. I’m also meticulous in my appearance, but I’ve been told that’s more about vanity than anything chivalrous.
KATHARINE: You sound like the perfect man.
DR. BOWLES: That is very kind of you to say so, but it is not true. My love, Laura, can tell you where I have failed. She is a lady, and won’t tell you the specifics, but it has happened. A chivalrous gentleman isn’t afraid to admit he is wrong and learn from his mistakes.
KATHARINE: Besides good manners, a willingness to defend the weak, courtesy toward women and general self-control, what else can a contemporary young man do to be more chivalrous?
DR. BOWLES: Budget for flowers and buy them often. Memorize poetry. Play video games in small doses. Abstain from profanity. Oh, and then there’s this: I didn’t realize I should have learned this as a young man, but learning to pick up after oneself is helpful and considerate to all. And there are many fine examples of gentlemanly behavior in literature, I also personally think that a true gentleman should be a reader too.
KATHARINE: Thank you, Dr. Bowles!
You can find out more about what Dr. David Bowles thinks about chivalry and why he is bound to it body and soul in my book, Falling For Your Madness. Don’t have a copy? You can sign up to get a free one here!