Sunday, January 14, 2018

Modern ideas of Chivalry

Let's start out the New Year with a story about modern ideas of chivalry.  I found a 15-year-old account of the SCA's Pennsic War lurking on my hard drive while I was looking for something else.  It was a year when a good number of us fighters were revisiting the medieval sources for chivalry (meaning both fighting and non-fighting aspects)  with the desire to see the relevance of the medieval ideas and practices to a bunch of fun-loving reenactors.  Lots of special events touching on this took place that year,

One of the key medieval characteristics of chivalry is the conviction that present-day knights (or men-at-arms) are not living up to the standards of the Good Old Days.  Several modern scholars have pointed out the strong reformist strain in medieval treatises.

At the Pennsic War in question, there was one notable incident that showed the disagreements about the nature of chivalry could easily pop up.  A rather large group of fighters were in one of the camps working on practice exercises based on 14th-century techniques.  No doubt they felt rather virtuous; I did. (Yes, I was one of them.) Most SCA fighting is based on no medieval precedents. Here we were doing something provably medieval!

Then we were called out.  Here's what I wrote at the time:

A male inhabitant of the camp rather self-righteously informed us that all us “gentlemen practicing a martial art” had ignored a lady struggling to put up pavilion walls the previous day.    After our apologies and his departure there was a lot of speculation about whether this had actually happened or how much we were at fault, since none of us had noticed said lady.    I discussed this with lots of people over the next few days, and even wondered rather maliciously if this should be a topic for the chivalry roundtable on the upcoming Monday, instead of the proposed questions.
A victory for medieval re-enactment:  we re-created the lack of sympathy between fighters and non-fighters.  At least we got close.  And everybody got to feel virtuous and that the other guy just didn't get it.

Image:  Damsel in distress.  Did the knight carry her luggage to his camp afterwards?

No comments:

Post a Comment