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The Accolade (Becoming a Knight)

The accolade served as a rite-of-passage that initiated worthy candidates into knighthood.
      Hollywood usually portrays this as a dubbing ceremony, where the kneeling candidate is tapped on the shoulders by the flat of a sword, wielded by a knight or king who formally declares the person a knight in the eyes of God.
     History presents another portrayal, a simple act, often performed on the battlefield. A knight, sufficiently impressed by a warrior's loyalty and skill in combat, would strike the candidate on the head or shoulder with his hand or fist, and say the words: "Be thou knight."
     The ritual became more elaborate as it became more Christianized. This included a bath to wash away sins, followed by a solitary, all-night vigil in church. The acolyte would attend mass the next morning, and receive a lengthy sermon about the responsibilities of knighthood. Only then did the knighting ceremony actual begin. The apprentice would be girded with a sword by his knightly sponsor, who then tied a spur upon his foot. Only then would the striking of the shoulder or head occur that marked his true vocation.
     What does all this means for us on our own personal quests? As advocates for Chivalry-Now, should we be looking for a similar rite-of-passage?
     There are knightly organizations that still exist. A few, like Knights of Columbus, are easy enough to find. The Queen of England occasionally bestows knighthood on select individuals. The Society for Creative Anachronism has specific guidelines, including combat, that must be met before a member can be inducted into knighthood.
     But what about the rest of us, whose lives have been transformed through Chivalry-Now? Do we need some symbolic ritual into manhood, as so many cultures offered in the past, including chivalry?
     It would be nice. The accolade provides legitimacy because it is recognized by others, designating a point in time when a personal transition occurred. It has significant meaning, which is true for all rites-of-passage. In effect, a society or organization has stamped its approval for a new life to begin. In medieval times this cultural acknowledgment granted status, privileges and grave responsibilities.
     Some might consider the accolade as a life transforming sacrament, from which a new vocation, almost religious, begins. There is nothing wrong with that. From a secular perspective, the accolade can be seen as social recognition of the qualities and skills of manhood that the person already possesses.
     A man of truth, however, is a man of truth, accolade or no. People who know him recognize that already. His qualities shine forth. His name might not be prefaced with "Sir," but it carries the same esteem. When he treats people with value and respect, he elevates not only his own worth, status or station in life, but that of others as well.
     We all want to be special, but honor is not something a ritual bequeaths on a man. It comes from inside and is revealed in action. It radiates from his character with his every word and deed.
     Historically, many knights have failed to live up to the requirements of chivalry. Their status did nothing to transform them for the better. Indeed, many acted worse because of the privileges they enjoyed over others.
     Chivalry of old was very much a matter of caste distinction, and the accolade designated entry into the knightly caste. Chivalry-Now, in stark contrast, does not recognize caste — economic, aristocratic or otherwise. We are all people on the same quest, whether we recognize it or not. For our purposes, the concept of knighthood merely denotes our commitment.
     The world has little need for some romanticized notion of rank, separating this person from that. What it has great need for is men of heroic character, strong and true, yet humble as well. Each man can choose to become that, if he so wishes.
     Here is how it work:

  • We are knights when we move from selfishness to the true ideals of manhood, improving ourselves for the benefit of the world we live in.
  • We are Questing Knights when we take life seriously enough to live it as a quest for truth — when our eyes are open to the spiritual qualities of life that can only be experienced firsthand, not from a book.
  • We are knights-errant when we freely help those whom we never personally benefit from.
  • We are noble when our hearts act nobly to all other persons. Bloodlines bequeath nothing of actual nobility. They merely grant superficial privilege, or the lack thereof.
  • We are battle lords when we lead the charge for a good cause. What is a knight, or a man for that matter, if he does not fight for what is right?
  • We are kingly when we so identify ourselves with the well-being of the earth, and all those who live on it, that our personal welfare becomes inseparable from theirs. The kingly heart inspires high ideals in other people. Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King. Mohandas Gandhi.

There you have it. For the present, Chivalry-Now offers no accolade as such (see below), but it does offer something real and meaningful. Its potential lies in your hands — entirely your choice. Whatever you choose either crosses the threshold into manhood, or it does not.
     
If you have a discussion group, it is fine to create your own rites-of-passage, your own accolade. For the sake of Chivalry-Now, in order to preserve its grassroots purity as best we can, please keep things simple and meaningful, utilizing it only for those who best exemplify our ideals.

(On March 31st, 2007, some time after this article was written, the Council of Knights of Chivalry-Now was formed, following the accolade of Sir Dean Jacques by Sir Steven Forgette. They then both inducted each other into the Council. Since that time, the Path to Knighthood program has been formed for those of Companion status who wish to make this meaningful commitment.)

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