A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry


The following quotes are from Geoffroi de Charny, a famous 14th century French knight who wrote A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry:

 

  1. “Be tender and humble among friends.”
  2. “Tender mercy and assistance toward those who need assistance.”
  3. “Be generous in giving where the gift will be best used.”
  4. “Love and serve your friends.”
  5. “Plan your enterprises cautiously… carry them out boldly.”
  6. “No one should fall into despair from cowardice nor be too confident.”
  7. “Dread vile cowardice more than death.”
  8. “Take care not to be so greedy as to take what belongs to others without good cause.”
  9. “Do not be envious of others.”
  10. “Avoid quarrels.”
  11. “Refrain from saying unpleasant things.”
  12. “Make sure what you say is of some profit rather than merely cautious.”
  13. “Do not praise your own conduct nor criticize too much that of others.”
  14. “Do not desire to take away another’s honor, but safeguard your own.”
  15. “Do not despise poor men or those lesser in rank than you, for there are many poor men who are of greater worth than the rich.”
  16. “Take care not to talk too much.”
  17. “Be careful not to be too guileless, for the man who knows nothing, neither of good nor of evil, is blind and unseeing in his heart, nor can he give himself or others good counsel.”
  18. “Refrain from remonstrating with fools… Remonstrate with the wise.”
  19. “Never regret any generosity you may show. A man of worth should not remember what he has given except when the recipient brings the gift back to mind for the good return he makes for it.”
  20. “Avoid acquiring a bad reputation for miserliness in your old age.”
  21. “Refrain from enriching yourself at others’ expense, especially from the limited resources of the poor, for unsullied poverty is worth more than corrupt wealth.”
  22. “As long as you keep your secret to yourself, it is always within your control.”
  23. “Always expect victory, not defeat.”
  24. “Be sure that you care less for death than about shame. Those who put their lives in danger with the deliberate intention of avoiding shame are strong in all things.”
  25. “In all adversity be always steadfast and wise.”
  26. “Where there is arrogance, there reigns anger and all kinds of folly; and where humility is to be found, there reigns good sense and happiness.”
  27. “What you do not know, you should ask with due humility to be taught it.”

 

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The Book of Chivalry (French: Livre de chevalerie) was written by the knight Geoffroi de Charny (c.1306-1356) around the early 1350s.

He wrote his ideas down to explain the qualities for a knight and evolve the behaviours of the soldiers and those who wish to fight with honour, and to defend this chivalric ethos against its critics especially the clerics who were afraid of losing control.

de Charny was involved in the first phase of the Anglo-French conflict known as the Hundred Years’ War. He was captured twice by the English and grew in prestige from a minor member of the nobility to one of the most respected knights in France, especially under the kingship of Jean II of France.

Jean created the Company of the Star in 1352, for the French chivalric order to outshine that of his rival, Edward III of England, who had created the Order of the Garter. Charny was made a member of the Company of the Star and wrote his Book of Chivalry.

However, the Company began to lose members due to losses on the battlefield, both in civil wars and against the English. In 1356, Jean II was captured during the Battle of Poitiers, leading to the complete breakdown of the order. It was in this same battle that Charny, along with many other French knights, died exemplifying the chivalric ethos that he described in his treatise.

Here are some some themes I have picked up from his book and how they can be related to those who seek value from their lives – through behaving as a ‘Knight’:

 

Humility

The knight should confess his mortality, be humble and keep himself mentally and physically clean. Where the knight follows  a religion or tribe he must not dishonour his religion or tribe.

Where monks or priests are concerned we should not disrespect them but rather hold them to the higher values they say they hold. Many who live as monks or priests are good and faithful to the Creator and must not mix their noble and good life with other offices of the material world as that devalues both.

 

Virtue 

The life of the knight is one of suffering and danger. The trials associated with the knight’s lifestyle outshine the harshest penances of monks, therefore its of greater spiritual worth. The knight is prepared to face danger and accepts that he will die at any time and any place.

There are some seriously good books out there that the more one learns about one subject so many new similar subjects open. Hope you enjoyed some of these quotes and outline of de Charnys ideas.

 

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Mohammed Abbasi

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