In 1790, in his Reflections of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke gloomily observed; ‘The age of chivalry is gone, that of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded and the glory of Europe is extinguished'. While such a judgement is understandable, made as it was under the shadow of the French Revolution, history has not endorsed it. Some 80 years later Charles Kingsley could write; ‘Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past so long as there is wrong left unredressed on the earth'. The recognition and acceptance of duties, service, loyalty, and fidelity to God and man were not passing notions of the early Middle Ages. They represented, in a particular form, obligations which are inherent in the constitution of human nature, always necessary of fulfilment, however unfashionable some may regard them today.

In a poem written in 1230 Raoul de Houdenc listed the virtues expected in the perfect knight. He grouped them under the two headings of Liberality and Courtesy. Liberality represents that generosity of spirit which sees our possessions and the fruits of our talents as to be used for God and the common good. Courtesy recognises that our first duty on meeting others is to think first of the obligations we have towards them, not of their usefulness to us. Both qualities are much needed today. It is ever a duty not to despise the past and idolise the present but to discern the true and eternal in the past so that it may speak to us in the present. It is a matter for thanksgiving that the Imperial Society exists to help us achieve these ends.

Graham Leonard


Members of Council wearing the new robes created in 2002