The Ten Commandments of Chivalry

May 9, 2011

I.              Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches and shalt observe all its directions.

II.           Thou shalt defend the Church.

III.         Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.

Medieval illumination representing the social organization in three levels: the cleric, the knight and the worker, from the British Library

IV.        Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.

V.           Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.

VI.        Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.

VII.      Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.

VIII.   Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.

IX.        Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.

X.           Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

Léon Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (New York: Crescent Books, 1989), p. 26.


Also of interest:

Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation



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  • Wow, how the world would be different if the nobility and chivalry of the Christian West still subscribed to these awesome Ten Commandments

  • RaymondDrake

    Thank you for your interesting comments on The Ten Commandments of Chivalry.
    I would like to highlight that they were not written up as a theological treatise, but a somewhat literary “code of honor.” They surfaced during the First Crusade and were put together, not by theologians, but by rough knights, amidst the fog and turmoil of war.
    The “infidels” whom they were fighting were the Muslims.
    As is known, the Muslims attacked Christendom first. They invaded and dominated Spain for centuries. They frequently carried out razzias (raids) on Sicily and the Christian countries bordering the Mediterranean and Adriatic Sea in which they captured women, taking them as slaves for their harems, and young boys to turn them into Muslims and fierce Janissaries, the elite Islamic troops used to fight Christians.
    Also, the Crusades were not a preemptive war, but a response to the continuous Islamic attacks on Europe, and they were convoked by Pope Blessed Urban II, for the defense of the Byzantine Empire which was in danger of falling to the power of the Muslims (the Crusades held off the fall of Constantinople for 300 years).
    Moreover, please bear in mind that these Ten Commandments reflect the language usages of the times, and thus, to "make war" "without mercy," meant to wage it vigorously, with impetus and courage. It didn’t mean to wage it bereft of Christian mercifulness.
    I don’t think you were being “politically correct,” but rather had doubts on a purely theological level. However, putting the Ten Commandments of Chivalry in their historical context should help understand better the spirit behind them: a spirit of Faith, honor and combativeness.

  • David

    I have to wonder whether number VI fits in with Catholic doctrine. It seems to fail on three points: 1. Isn't Catholic Just War doctrine premised upon DEFENSIVE warfare rather than "making war"?; 2. Is it left to the individual or to the Church to determine the fidelity or infidelity of our fellow man? and 3. Are we ever supposed to act "without mercy?"

    Regarding that last query, the Scriptures are replete with God's call for us to be merciful, but one particular passage seems to directly contradict the thrust of this sixth commandment of chivalry:

    For as you also in times past did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy, through their unbelief; So these also now have not believed, for your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all. Romans 11:30-32

    Interestingly, the Douay Rheims explains "concluded all in unbelief" with these words:

    "Concluded all in unbelief"… He hath found all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, in unbelief and sin; not by his causing, but by the abuse of their own free will; so that their calling and election is purely owing to his mercy.

    Now if "all are in unbelief" (infidels) and God showed them mercy, then doesn't it stand to reason that in our attempt to be "perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect" that we are to show mercy too?

    Perhaps I am so polluted with modern political correctness that I am being weak to my enemies. But I don't believe so. Rather, I think it takes greater strength to be merciful and that the chivalrous warrior knows when to "make war" and, more importantly, when not to.

    • Robert

      David, you are completely right: it is a very delicate subject and we ought to understand it in the light of the Magisterial teachings of the Church. First of all, we must emphasize as often as we can – together with Saint Paul, the apostle – the fact that our fight "is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens." (Ephesians 6: 12). Any kind of earthly battle is just a reflection of the spiritual (unseen) warfare. But, simultaneously, we must see if there are not some sort of enemies which deserve no mercy. Yes, they are: spiritual fallen angels. Based on the divine Revelation we know that they are completely committed to our destruction. Against these creatures (and against any of the capital vices which are spread by them on the face of the earth) we must fight perpetually ("without cessation"). On the other hand, there are people on earth who are their allies. We must fight not against them as human beings, but against their ideas and neo-pagan "values". That is a why I am deeply indebted to Professor Oliveira: because he says that the most important sword is the pen… Yes, the most important field in this battle are all our Catholic schools and institutions. In a word, it is our FORMATION (or – if you like – our EDUCATION). Charlemagne is a such a great king not just because he is a great warrior, but mainly because he invited Alcuin to create an extraordinary Catholic educational system. (I would like so much to write something about the translation from a Pagan model of heroism specific for Ancient Greece – which completely rejected "mercy" as a virtue – to a Christian model of heroism – based on mercy as much as on courage and…)

  • RaymondDrake

    "Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born." Now this is beautiful!

    • Jason

      It’s time to bring GOD back to our land! It first starts with us~

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