Category Archive 'Chivalry'

18 May 2017

Moving in Armor

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Arms of Jean le Maingre, known as Boucicaut. Blazoned: Argent à l’aigle éployée de gueules becquée et membrée d’azur.

09 May 2014

Installation of the Order of the Bath

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Edmund Blair Leighton, The Accolade, 1901, Private Collection.

Clive Aslet, in the Telegraph, reports that today Queen Elizabeth II will be presiding over ceremonies linking today’s Britain with the chivalrous traditions of the Middle Ages.

Foreign tourists in the vicinity of Westminster Abbey today, may be in luck. They’ll glimpse Her Majesty the Queen participating in a ceremony that only enters her diary once every eight years: the Installation of the Order of the Bath.

Like the Woolsack, hunting with hounds and the last of the hereditary peers, it’s a piece of traditional pageantry that escaped the reforming zeal of New Labour – perhaps because it is so arcane that they failed to notice it. Certainly most Britons, were they to see the parade of Knights Grand Cross or Knights Commander (Dames too, now), in their gorgeous crimson satin mantles, freighted with stars and tassels, would be as flummoxed as visitors from overseas.

What’s going on? Can there be any earthly point in such flummery, as the nation – otherwise dressing down on Fridays – struggles with the challenges of modern life?

Scrape beneath the surface and the ritual turns out to be more interesting than one might suspect. As a body of knights, one couldn’t expect them to do much practical defending of the faith. It is one of the few occasions in the year when Her Majesty can be sure of being in the company of distinguished people who make her seem, in comparison with their years, positively youthful.

But the ceremony is also an instance of the British ability to preserve and reinvent tradition. You would have to be a firebrand Roundhead to object to something so abstruse, so harmlessly picturesque as the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. And yet it also serves, however obliquely, as a reminder of the chivalric values that – whether or not doors are still held open for ladies – underpin our sense of public virtue. Does honour mean anything, in these fallen days of cash for questions and parliamentary expenses scandals? It does here.

Republicans might object that today’s ceremony, held in Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey, where the Sovereign and the most senior Knights and Dames Grand Cross will occupy stalls in the choir, is an anachronism. Of course it is. That is – and always has been – the point about chivalry. Even in the Middle Ages, it was a romantic throwback to a supposed golden age. Washing ceremonies – yes, the Order of the Bath really is to do with bathing, not a place in Somerset – appear at William I’s coronation, but the touchstone of chivalry was located in an era that far predated him.

Read the whole thing.

Wikipedia entry.

22 Jan 2012

The Birkenhead Drill

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Lance Calkin, The Wreck of the Birkenhead, 1899

The recent wreck of the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia, in which male passengers demonstrated that the age of chivalry was well and truly dead by trampling women in a rush for the lifeboats, quote:

An Australian mother and her young daughter… described being pushed aside by hysterical men as they tried to board lifeboats. …

Another woman passenger agreed, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboats.” Yet another, a grandmother, complained, “I was standing by the lifeboats and men, big men, were banging into me and knocking the girls.”

has provoked a good deal of negative commentary.

Rich Lowry, at National Review, mocked the spirit of our times with a short essay titled: Dude, Where’s My Lifeboat?

Mark Steyn resisted the temptation of Abe Greenwald’s prediction (offered via Twitter):

Is there any chance that Mark Steyn won’t use the Italian captain fleeing the sinking ship as the lead metaphor in a column on EU collapse?

And instead, drew larger meaning and comparisons.

Abe Greenwald isn’t thinking big enough. The Costa Concordia isn’t merely a metaphor for EU collapse but – here it comes down the slipway – the fragility of civilization. Like every ship, the Concordia had its emergency procedures – the lifeboat drills that all crew and passengers are obliged to go through before sailing. As with the security theater at airports, the rituals give the illusion of security – and then, as the ship tips and the lights fail and the icy black water rushes in, we discover we’re on our own: from dancing and dining, showgirls and saunas, to the inky depths in a matter of moments.

Today the wealthiest nations in human history build cruise ships rather than battleships, vast floating palaces dedicated to the good life – to the proposition that, in the plump and complacent West, life itself is a cruise, sailing (as the Concordia’s name suggests) on a placid lake of peace and harmony. Since the economic downturn of 2008, the Titanic metaphor – of a Western world steaming for the iceberg but unable to correct course – has become a little overworked, the easiest cliché for any politician attempting to project urgency. But let’s assume they’re correct, and we’re heading full steam for the big ‘berg. When we hit, what’s the likelihood? That our response will be as ordered and civilized as those on the Titanic? Or that we will descend into the hell of the Concordia?

The contempt for “women and children first” is not a small loss. For soft cultures in good times, dispensing with social norms is easy. In hard times, you may have need of them.

And a variety of commentators remembered the better example set by the men of the Titanic, and by those of the Titanic’s predecessor’s on the HMS Birkenhead.

Mark Steyn and several others quoted Kipling’s Birkenhead poem,“Soldier an’ Sailor Too”:

To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ‘and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An’ they done it, the Jollies — ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies — soldier an’ sailor too!
Their work was done when it ‘adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ‘eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too!

We’re most of us liars, we’re ‘arf of us thieves, an’ the rest are as rank as can be,
But once in a while we can finish in style (which I ‘ope it won’t ‘appen to me).

HMS Birkenhead Memorial erected at Danger Point in 1936.

21 Aug 2010

The Wrong Stuff and the Right Stuff

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We missed this 3:54 video of unmanly behavior from last week which went viral. The young lady says she broke up with him for other reasons than being struck by the ball he ducked.

Hat tip to John Hinderaker.

then found the perfect counterexample. 1:36 video

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