accolade served as a rite-of-passage that initiated worthy candidates
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
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
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
- 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
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.
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
(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.)