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KNIGHTHOOD AND CHIVALRY

Subject: KNIGHTHOOD AND CHIVALRY
   
   We are the Knights of the Kappa Alpha Order. Although the significance
   of the termsknight and order will be fully realized only after
   initiation, you should remember thatknighthood was originally the
   quality of being an armed and mounted warrior. Today itis a special
   dignity conferred on worthy individuals. Chivalry is the code of
   behaviorexpected of a knight. An order is a brotherhood of knights
   devoted to a set of ideals. Aman is chosen for membership in our
   Order because his conduct reflects the true chivalriccode, a code
   modified only slightly to suit contemporary society.
   
   Although Kappa Alpha is an order, it is similar to a fraternity in
   its brotherhood.However, it is vastly different from a fraternal
   organization on all other fronts. KA isan order because its members
   are bound by the same ideal and philosophy of life -- theepitome of
   the chivalric knight.
   
   Knighthood and chivalry date to the early centuries of Medieval
   Europe. Civilization wasthen being remolded by the Christian Church
   and by the institution of feudalism which wasa system of defense
   whereby knights were rewarded with land and privileges in return
   forfighting and governing. The concept and the ceremony of knighthood
   probably originatedfrom an interaction of very early Germanic
   military custom, the nature of Medievalwarfare with its emphasis on
   cavalry, and the impact of Christian influences. Theconduct, ideas,
   and ideals of the knightly class of the Middle Ages came to
   bestandardized and referred to as "chivalry," a term derived from the
   French wordchevalier, meaning knight. Scholars have disputed the
   exact origins of chivalry.Some authorities have traced it to 12th
   century southern France; others maintain that itis of Arabic origin
   transmitted to Europe through Muslim Spain; and others insist that
   itbegan in the Scandinavian countries. Nevertheless, it appears
   reasonably evident that thegreat principles of chivalry are of Gothic
   origin, influenced by the religious charactersof the early Middle
   Ages. It is also known that the rudiments of the laws of chivalrywere
   defined by the 11th century and that they were formally confirmed in
   1025 by theCouncil of Clermont in France. the chivalric code compelled
   a knight to be brave,courageous, honorable, true to his word, and
   loyal to his feudal overlord, and to defendhis Church, protect the
   weak, aid the poor, seek justice, and revere pure womanhood. thisset
   of high standards of conduct significantly refined the character of
   Medievalcivilization and later had a profound impact on the shape of
   modern life. Finally,knighthood and chivalry acquired new dimensions
   with the creation of orders of knights --men bound together for a
   common purpose and who shared an ideal. These orders originatedduring
   the crusades, those 200 years of war that followed Pope Urbal II's
   call in 1095 forthe knights of Christian Europe to unite under the
   symbol of a red cross for the purposeof ending Muslim rule in the Holy
   Land. Such great orders as those of the KnightsHospitallers and the
   Knights Templar appeared as exalted brotherhoods destined to play
   animportant historical role.
   
    A lengthy period of rigorous training and service was required to
   attain knighthood.During training, the candidate was prepared in the
   arts and techniques of war andfamiliarized with the code of chivalry.
   Each aspect of his training was directed to apositive educational
   goal. the process began at the age of seven or eight when the son ofa
   noble was sent to another noble's castle to begin his apprenticeship
   (as a varlet)(. Forthe next seven years, he and others training him
   learned how to ride and care for horses,were taught fighting skills,
   and were instructed in courtesies to ladies and in otheraspects of
   chivalry. At the age of 14, the varlet passed into the rank of squire,
   and atthe same time, was formally assigned to a knight. A ceremony
   marked this occasion, whichincluded a priestly benediction and the
   bestowing of a sword in recognition that thesquire had gained the
   privilege of bearing arms. For another seven years, the squirepassed
   through several degrees. He was constantly instructed by the knight
   and attendedto his personal needs, caring for his weapons and horse,
   and accompanying him into battle.At the termination of this period,
   when he was 21, a squire who had demonstrated hiscompetence and worth,
   either by successful completion of his training or on the actualfield
   of battle, was knighted.
   
   The ritual by which knighthood was conferred began as early as the
   sixth century.Description of the ceremonies, which varied in time and
   place, can be found in the recordsof the Middle Ages. Documents relate
   how Charlemagne girded his son, Louis the Pious,with a knight's sword
   in the year 791, and how Louis bestowed the honor upon his
   heir,Charles the Bald, in 838. Medieval epic literature describes the
   conferring knightlydignity for heroic achievements. The ritual is
   illustrated in the glowing colors ofilluminated manuscripts of the
   times and in the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. Theceremony could be
   simple if performed in time of war, especially if the event took
   placeon a battlefield. However, if the knighting took place during
   peacetime, the rites wereusually solemn and splendid.
   
   The taking of knightly vows brought privileges of class, including a
   style of dress, marksof deference, and a coat-of-arms. The vows also
   entailed renewal of religious faith andacceptance of obligations and
   responsibilities of knighthood and the code of chivalry. Aserious
   violation of these vows could result in a knight being classed an
   undignifiedknight.
   
    In the 14th and 15th centuries, feudalism and its distinctive type of
   knighthood wereslowly transformed as European civilization evolved.
   the decline of feudalism and itscharacteristic institutions resulted
   from numerous interrelated factors, including thedevelopment of
   changed methods of warfare, the end of the crusades, a new era of
   commercestimulated by the reopening of trade with the East; and the
   gradual creation ofcentralized national monarchies. Although feudalism
   disappeared, the concepts ofknighthood and of chivalry survived into
   modern times. Outstanding accomplishments andactions were rewarded as
   sovereigns continued to create exalted orders of knights, as
   forexample the English Order of the Garter, the French Order of the
   Holy Spirit, and theAustrian and Spanish Orders of the Golden Fleece.
   such distinctions are currentlyconferred by heads of state in almost
   every country. Fraternal orders and brotherhoods inAmerica emerged as
   another variation of the original type of knighthood, and even
   asknighthood continued to exist, the spirit of chivalry also continued
   in the concept of thegentleman, which his attributes of honor, faith,
   justice, regard for truth, considerationof others, reverence for pure
   womanhood, and courtesy and good judgment in everydayactions. These
   qualities are still admired, and they remain as applicable in
   today'sworld as they have been in the past.
   
   Kappa Alpha Order, then, is a contemporary order of knighthood. It is
   composed of men whohave been deemed worthy of the designation of
   knighthood, are religious in their feeling,and are pledged to the
   ideals of modern chivalry.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   "The Varlet" Copyright © 1992
   Kappa Alpha Order
     _________________________________________________________________

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