Saturday, January 28, 2023

How to Live a Life of Honor

 From Return to Order:

This understanding of the epoch is what makes A Knight’s Own Book on Chivalry by Geoffroi de Charny, such an important read. Written in 1352, Charny’s recently-republished manuscript could be considered chivalry’s last gasp in a process that has led to the modern world’s complete loss of the notion of honor. Honor is the central tenet of chivalry and therefore a reoccurring theme of the book.

The introduction of this work, which takes up nearly half of its 107 pages, was written by Dr. Richard Kaeuper. While he presents some insightful pearls about Charny and his book on chivalry, he has other perspectives which leave the reader disappointed. One example is the historical fact that Charny was the first known owner of the Shroud of Turin, the famous burial cloth of Christ. Dr. Kaeuper unnecessarily devotes a lengthy paragraph presenting arguments that the Shroud is not the actual burial cloth of our Lord, but rather a piece of cloth which dates to the fourteenth century.

However, the setting of Charny’s thesis as presented by Dr. Kaeuper is most useful. The treatise came about during the turbulent war between French and English armies known as the Hundred Years War. When King John II acceded to the French throne, he noticed the decadence of the chivalric ideal. To counteract this downward trend, the king founded a new order of chivalry called the Company of the Star.

Knights who belonged to this distinguished group wore red mantles adorned with a circular badge on the collar bearing a single white star below a crown. Their motto, Monstrant regibus astra viam (The Kings’ star shows the way), was inscribed on the circumference. This was a reference to the Three Magi Kings who followed the Star of Bethlehem to the manger of the King of Kings. Therefore, the goal for this new order was clearly a quest for a greater union with the ideal man, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Geoffroi de Charny was the best person to write a treatise for the Company of the Star since he was considered a “perfect knight” by medieval standards.

Since Charny was a devout Catholic, he understood that those seeking Christian perfection could reach a high degree of honor if they simply followed the succinct counsel of Our Lord: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

Self-denial for Charny meant truly denying himself daily. For warriors of the time, this entailed honing military skills in jousts and tournaments in preparation for local and distant wars. Since each step toward armed combat brought a greater degree of honor, he constantly reminds the reader that “he who does more is of greater worth.” (Read more.)


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