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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 12:21 GMT
10 lessons from the medieval knights
Knights at Carlisle Castle
Requests for mercy had to be granted
Police are putting unruly youngsters through their paces on an eight-week "knight school", to teach them some of the ways of medieval knights. The Lincolnshire scheme has been hailed a success in improving behaviour, so what kind of lessons could knights teach youngsters today?

Knights of old were either virtuous and honest men who lived according to a code of chivalry, or a bunch of marauding looters who were lucky to get a good write up in the history books.

Whatever the reality, are there some values associated with chivalry which could be applied today? We canvassed opinion among medieval experts.

1. Generosity was important. Even though knights were of a certain status in society, with servants and followers, they were expected to be generous in handing out rewards. For example, in battle a knight may take quite a lot of booty but would be expected to distribute that to followers in recognition of their service to him.

Lesson for children today - Share.

2. Mercy is one of the key concepts of chivalry. Fighting with another knight, if one offers defeat then the other should exercise mercy and be gracious in victory. The whole concept of ransoming was based on this. A knight would honour and respect a fellow knight when fighting him or when holding him captive.

Lesson for today - If you get in a tussle and win, go easy on the other kid.

3. Loyalty to the king or the nobles was absolutely crucial. That would mean abiding by the rules and recognising that there's a superior authority and in order to be chivalrous you have to be loyal to the person above you.

Lesson for today - Respect your elders.

4. Exercise power responsibly. They didn't get rid of violence but they tried to limit it to justified causes.

Lesson for children today - Just because you're the biggest in the class, don't throw your weight around.

5. Protect the weak. There's also a sense that the strong should protect the weak who are unable to look after themselves.

Lesson for today - Stand up to bullies and gangs who pick on other children.

The chief benefit of Knight School is the remarkable improvement in behaviour
Lincolnshire police spokesman

6. Justice. Seek always the path of "right", unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by humanity and mercy.

Less for today - Fight for what's right.

7. Humility. Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds.

Lesson for today - Give credit to your pals.

And a few lessons not to learn...

8. Crusading, which is about fighting for the faith and against those who believe in Islam.

Lesson for today - Respect other religions.

9. Wielding a very sharp implement.

Lesson for today: Don't carry knives.

10. Courtly love, between champions and ladies, which is rather inapplicable to the modern world.

Lesson for today - Don't think the girls will be impressed.

(1, 2, 3: Dr Gwilym Dodd, Nottingham University. 4, 5, 8, 9, 10: Dr Nick Higham, University of Manchester, 6,7: Brian Price, editor of Knighthood, Chivalry and Tournaments)


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