Greetings from Thorvald the Golden, Earl of Rotherwood and Knight of the Realm!
In honor of this Tournament of Chivalry, I present to you a question on chivalry, its requirements and limitations. I ask that you ponder it and, if possible, share the question and your answer with other nobles this day in conversation. My hope is that this will spur discussion of the meaning of chivalry and continue your consideration of it off of the list field.
A unit is set by the king to hold one of the bridges in a battle, neither advancing or retreating. When the enemy begins to break thru on the bridge next to them, most of the unit goes to reinforce and they win the bridge. Who is to be more praised: those who remained in their ordained place or those who came to rescue the bridge next to them?
A king commands a unit in the woods battle to scout ahead and report back. They see an enemy banner guarded by a small force. Some in the unit turn back and report while others fight and win the banner. Which of these are to be more valued and praised: those who obeyed or those who won the banner?
A knight swears to be “foremost in battle” and “obedient to his liege lord.” If his king commands a retreat the knight feels is unworthy, what must he do? If he leaves, does he thereby lose his honor? What say you?
The king calls his knights to war. One cannot attend although not because of injury, poverty or vow. Is he obliged to provide a replacement for himself? To perform some other task or duty? What say you?
A knight due to age or injury can no longer fight and therefore is never again “foremost in battle.” Is he obliged to resign his belt rather than swear an oath he cannot keep? What say you?
Can a knight surrender in battle when offered the chance to yield? Is this dishonorable? Under what conditions is it acceptable? What say you?
In war should the king fight at the front of his troops risking injury & death or should he fight behind his banner coordinating the battle? Where is his place? What say you?
The king calls a knight to fight in a war where he does not wish to go, but he obeys the summons. During combat his spear is taken by the enemy and not returned. He complains to the king. Is the king obliged to replace his loss? What say you?
You have command of a small unit in a woods battle. As you are heading towards the enemy’s banner, the position of which you know, a messenger arrives from the king commanding you and your unit to return to the main army at the resurrection point. Do you return or continue to the banner? What say you?
You are in a war point battle at Pennsic. Your king approaches, points out another fighter and tells you to kill the man. He is clearly a Midrealm soldier. What do you do?
You are at a war waiting to join the fight at a bridge battle when a soldier across the bridge calls you out for single combat promising a great deed of arms. What say you to the challenge?
You are in a hard-fought bridge battle. A spearman on the other side has challenged your commander to a spear duel. Your commander has accepted and has ordered everyone not to attack the man, but meanwhile the opposing spearman continues to kill your soldiers until the duel can begin. Do you attack the man or obey your commander? What say you?
A king addresses his champions before a war point battle. He commands them not to take blows normally, but to accept only the most overwhelming of force. What should be their response to this? Should they change their blow acceptance as commanded? What say you?
A knight is knocked to the ground in front of the army in a bridge battle where conditions grant the bridge to the side who has advanced furthest. The other side asks him if he is alive or dead. Is he obliged to answer? Can they attack him on the ground if he doesn’t? Is he safe as long as he lays still? What say you?
The rules for a woods battle forbid the sides from crossing large piles of brush because of the danger to the soldiers. Those defending the banner surround it with large piles of brush, making it inaccessible. Is this action worthy? Is it allowed by the laws of chivalry? What say you?
Which would you prefer: To never be accounted worthy in deeds of war, but in all the tournaments you ever take part in to win the prize; or the other way around?
The victory in a war point woods battle goes to the side that kills the opposing commander. What is acceptable for the commander? Must he lead his army or can he be positioned out of danger? May he hide in the woods? What say you?
Fifty knights have taken it upon themselves to fight against one hundred on an agreed-upon day. On that day the fifty defeat the hundred. Would you prefer to be rated the best of the hundred or the worst of the fifty?
Compiled by Sir Guillaume de la Belgique
Caid Chivalry Roundtable
Questions for knights, squires, and other “men” at arms (and women too), after Charny’s list of questions of chivalry and worth.
This roundtable discussion on the ideals of chivalry in theory and practice is led by a small group of members of the chivalry who, it should be hoped, will have diverse, but articulate opinions on honorable behavior, and the qualities that should be expected of a knight (in the SCA, and historically). The members of the table, however, are not expected to be the only ones who have valuable contributions - other knights, peers, fighters, and members of the audience should also be given the opportunity to add their views.
That being said, answers from all respondents should be brief. (The moderator may want to keep time - one minute per answer?)
All answers should be positive, as much as possible. (Talk about what your opinion of chivalry is, not how someone else’s opinion isn’t chivalrous.) When discussing “points of chivalry,” it maybe helpful to consider a scale or spectrum, considering where actions or attitudes fall along a continuum: positive-neutral-negative. (Recognize that there are going to be shades of gray here - chivalry is rarely a “yes or no” prospect.)
In our format - not every member of the panel/table needs to answer every question. If it’s something you haven’t given thought to, or don’t feel is an important issue, you don’t need to respond.
For participants: Recognize that there are no “trick questions” here, and there are no traps or land mines being laid out. The moderator and fellow participants should be sympathetic to the fact that in a discussion of morality and human nature, inconsistency and contradictions will be inevitable. No one will be jumped on or criticized with, “But earlier you said … !” Though you may be asked, “How does that reconcile with your earlier position on … ?”
Responses may range from the historical, to SCA experience, to modern/mundane life, and from the ultimately philosophical/personal, to the practical.
So, let’s begin our discussion:
Q: What is your definition of chivalry on the field in SCA combat?
What qualities would you use to define an action as “chivalrous”? What elements (courage, humility, generosity, selflessness) go into an act of “chivalry” in a fighting situation?
Can you give a specific example of such an action, or a fighting situation you have seen that exemplifies your definition of chivalry?
Q: Is chivalry a quality you expect, or want to exhibit yourself, off the field? How do you define a chivalrous action … in court, in camp, or in some other SCA situation that does not involve fighting?
How do the two go together? Does “off the field” chivalry support, enhance, or refine the actions of chivalry in combat? (Or not?)
Can you give an example of a fighter showing, or performing an exemplary act of chivalry off the field?
Let’s talk about some of the specifics we, in the SCA, view as related to chivalry on the field:
Tournament Fighting and Chivalry
• Do you keep your shield when you take an opponent’s arm? (Any considerations that change that answer - i.e., when you’re fighting dominant hand, against someone who is off-handed?) Do you do the same at practice (not tourney combat)?
• Do you deliberately target arms? Do you consider that to be unchivalrous?
• Do you drop to your knees when you take an opponent’s leg? (Is there a distinction in this answer between taking a leg, and a hip?) Are there any circumstances in which your answer would change? (How about in a melee, if you engage a “grounded” fighter who was hit in the leg by someone else - i.e., you are not the one responsible for gaining the advantage you have?)
• Are there any tactics you consider “unchivalrous” when you are fighting a grounded (knees) opponent? (i.e., stepping to the side; crowding; thrusting between your own legs?)
• When you strike someone in the leg, do you give them time to reset? Do you strike at them as they are kneeling? Do you consider either approach a matter of chivalry?
Tactics and Techniques • Do you use any tactics to interfere with your opponent’s equipment in a fight? (Shield hook/press; trap sword with your shield; grasping the haft of a spear or mace) Do you consider some, any, all of these chivalrous or unchivalrous, and why?
• Are there any fighting techniques your consider unchivalrous in tournament combat?
• Is there any tactic or fighting technique that is deemed “legal” or “safe” by the Fighters Handbook rules, but that you consider unchivalrous? Can an action be legal under the rules, but unchivalrous? (Example?)
• Do you consider it an obligation of chivalry to be aware of the quality of your blows against your opponent - informing them when you’ve hit with a tip, or flat, and not letting them take such blows?
Attitude on the Field • How do you make a distinction between fighting a fierce/aggressive/intense fight, and granting (or not!) concessions of chivalry to your opponent? Can you be competitive (“I really want to win!”) and still be chivalrous?
• Do you change your fighting tactics when fighting opponents who are drastically different from your skill level? Would you fight differently against a multi-time duke, a new knight, and/or a newly authorized fighter if you met them in the lists?
• Do you make changes in your fighting tactics when fighting an opponent who is clearly smaller or weaker than you - in tournament? At fighter practice?
• Have you ever faced an opponent who you felt was literally incapable of striking with enough power to land a “killing blow”? If so (or even if you have to imagine it), what would your sense of chivalry dictate you do in that situation?
• How does your consort help to shape your sense of chivalry? What role does your consort play in your philosophy of chivalry?
• Does your consort have the authority/ability to comment on your actions on the field? Should he/she step in and stop the fight if they observe something that they feel is unchivalrous? Has your consort ever spoken to you about being unchivalrous?
• Do you feel that any lady (or observer from the sidelines) has the right/obligation to tell you if you are being unchivalrous?
• Does the presence and/or opinion of spectators at a tournament change your tactics on the field? Do you feel the opinion of a non-fighter has any validity in the concept of chivalry on the field?
War and Melee Combat
• Is there any change in your definition or understanding of “chivalry” in a war or melee?
• Are there any tactics or techniques that you would perform in war combat, that you wouldn’t consider doing in a tournament, or in a melee situation? (i.e., two-on-one; pushing an opponent out of bounds with your shield; retreating from a superior opponent to find help … )
• Is “killing from behind” a chivalrous or unchivalrous (or neutral) tactic?
• Is combat archery, or missile weapons, chivalrous?
• Is fighting against an outnumbered opponent chivalrous?
Personal Actions and Attitude
• Have you ever been angry or frustrated enough in a fight to allow your emotions to alter your actions on the field?
• How do you deal with a situation where you believe your opponent is ignoring blows, or otherwise taking advantage of a “loophole” in the rules of combat?
• Do you consider it unchivalrous to ask your opponent about his/her blow acknowledgement? (“Was that blow I hit you with good?”) Do you consider it chivalrous to ask your opponent about your blow acknowledgement? (“Did you think that blow you hit me with was good?”)
• Do you feel that getting the marshals involved in a blow acknowledgement situation is unchivalrous? Is “filing a complaint with the marshal's office” against a fighter you’ve had problems with unchivalrous? (Do the expectations of chivalry oblige you to work out your problems yourself, without resorting to “paperwork and bureaucracy”?)
• Has your understanding and commitment to your own understanding of the ideal of chivalry affected your attitude and personality outside the SCA? What action or situation have you found yourself in in “mundane life” that is most like the challenges involved in SCA combat, and how was your response to that situation changed (or not) by your sense of chivalry?
• What do you think that people outside the SCA could most benefit from by understanding “chivalry” as it is practiced in the SCA?
• You are fighting in the lists (tournament) against a squire who authorized that morning. He is fighting two-sword (florentine) and you take his primary weapon arm. Do you surrender your shield?
• In the next round you are fighting another new fighter, and he takes your leg. When you drop to your knees, he does the same. How do you react?
• At Pennsic, you are invited to fight as the Caid representative in the allied 10x10 champions melee. It is down to the last two fighters on your side, you (with a 9’ pike) and one shield man. The only remaining enemy fighter is a shieldman on his knees. How do you proceed? (Guillaume’s note: This one caused a bit of blank-stare confusion in the discussion. The implied “dilemma” here is that, on one hand, you have a competition in which you’re representing your kingdom honor rather than personal honor alone; on the other hand, you’re potentially exploiting an advantage that you did not earn personally. Thus, there maybe more factors to consider here other than just “win the fight as easily as you can.”)
• You are fighting as a spearman behind a shield wall in an open-field style war scenario. In a moment of fierce fighting, the marshal’s call a brief safety hold; during the hold, you glance to the side and notice an enemy unit that has outflanked your army, and will momentarily begin killing your fighters from behind. What does “chivalry” demand that you do once the marshals restart the fighting?
• In a battle at Estrella, your war unit is intact at the end of the broken field battle, and you face the final fighter on the enemy side - the king of one of the opposition kingdoms. There are at least 10 fighters in your unit. Do you offer single combat? What do you do if the enemy fighter requests single combat?
• As you are fighting in the above said scenario, a small skirmish unit you hadn’t seen comes up on your flank. What do you do?