Young Knights of the Empire

by Sir Robert Baden-Powell



_A Scout should be polite to all--but especially to women and children, old people and invalids, cripples, etc. And he must not take any reward for being helpful or courteous._

Courteousness is much the same sort of thing as Chivalry, which is closely allied to Honour. Both were practised in the old days by the Knight's, who went about risking their lives in order to defend and help the weaker people, women and children, against bullies and marauders.

Why did they do this?

It did not bring them money, for it would be a disgrace to a Knight to accept any reward for doing a good turn. It only brought them danger of wounds or death. It was an adventure. They were good sportsmen and manly fellows. Their conscience told them that it was right for the strong and plucky man to protect those who were weaker than himself. They were not obliged to do it by the law of the land, but there was a stronger law which appealed to them--and that was their own sense of Honour which led them to be chivalrous men.

Honour was the _spirit_ that moved them;

Chivalry was the putting into practice what their Honour bade them do.

The ordinary boy has no chivalry--at least, he has got it all right under the surface, only he is in the silly-ass stage, and he forgets it. If he sees a poor hunchback or a cripple he will often laugh or stare at him. He forgets that the other is an unfortunate, and has had the bad luck to be born that way.

A healthy boy on seeing a deformed person ought to thank God that he is himself sound in body and able to enjoy life, and he should do what he can to make things pleasant for his less fortunate brother.

That, is what a Scout would do, because he is chivalrous.

* * * * *


A.D. 506.

Sir, you that desire to receive the Order of Knighthood, swear, before God, and by this Holy Book, that you shall not fight against the King, who now bestoweth the Order of Knighthood upon you; you shall also swear with all your force and power to maintain and defend all ladies, gentlewomen, widows, orphans, and distressed women; and you shall shun no adventure of your person in any way or war wherein you shall happen to be.

Fourteen hundred years ago the old Knights of Britain used to be sworn to do their duty in these words.

Their oath was much the same as the promise which the "young Knights" of the present time make when they become Boy Scouts, for they promise to serve God and the King, and to help others, especially women and children, and not to think of their own trouble or risk so long as they do a good turn to others needing help.

The Knights, being mounted men, were called the "Chivalry," the old word for "Cavalry"--from the Latin "_cavallus_" and the French "_cheval_," meaning a horse.

Then any noble act done by the Knights was said to be "Chivahous" or Knight-like.

So the word "chivalry" now means doing things which the Knights of old did.

It is chivalry to do one's duty to God and the King, to help women and children, and all people in distress; and to be plucky and brave in carrying out one's duty.

That is why Boy Scouts are frequently being described in the papers as "chivalrous." I hope they will go on and continue to deserve the title.

One great step in "Courteousness" is to be grateful when anybody does you a "good turn," and to tell them you are grateful by saying "Thank you." It is a little thing to do, but it is a great thing to the person who has done the kindness to feel that it was not thrown away.

* * * * *


A bus drove by under my window. It was crowded with people, inside and out. On the outside every seat was filled, so much so that one woman had to stand. I saw men look round at her, one apparently annoyed because she accidentally jostled his newspaper, but none offered to give her his seat.

They were most of them well-to-do men, such as go by the name of gentlemen so far as their dress and appearance went but when it came to the true test of a gentleman, that is, the feeling of chivalry and politeness to women, the only gentleman among them was a working boy, a lad of about fifteen, in dirty clothes, with dirty hands and face.

When he saw a woman standing he at once left his seat and beckoned her into it. I hope that some of his so-called betters had the good sense to feel ashamed at being taught manners by a working boy. Perhaps he was a Scout. At any rate, he acted as a Scout would in the same circumstances.

* * * * *


Many people are inclined to think that the word "gentleman" means a man who was born rich, and that a boy brought up at expensive schools and colleges must therefore be a gentleman when he has grown up. But this does not always follow.

A fellow who is lucky enough to have been brought up in that way has certainly better chances of being a gentleman than many a poor boy has; but at the same time a poor boy can be just as good a gentleman as a rich one.

A gentleman is what the word says; he is a man, but a gentle man, not a rough, bullying, coarse customer, but a fellow who, though big and strong, can be kind and chivalrous and helpful to other people.

As good a sample as any of a "gentleman" is the London policeman. He is at all times courteous and helpful to others, even to the extent of being ready to risk his life at any moment to save people in cases of accidents, or to protect them against rough handling, and he treats rich and poor, old and young, with equal attention and patience, and good humour.

* * * * *


Several years ago I spent, some time with Arabs in North Africa, in Tunisia and Algeria, and I found them first-rate fellows, They were very fond of any kind of adventurous sport, and were hospitable and courteous.

Numbers of them used to come out with their dogs to help me to find game, and after a long day's beating in the thorn bush and high grass, when we finished hunting, they used to shake hands and go off home, quite happy if I had had a good day, and not expecting or seeking for a tip or a reward as is so generally the case, I am sorry to say, in England. Men here seem to think that they ought to be paid for every blessed thing they do.

The Arab chiefs, too, were kindly hosts, they gave me the best of food, generally a sort of Irish stew of chickens and rice, and made me comfortable in their own tents at night under their blankets.

They are very clean people, very brave, very courteous and very honourable. So they are true Scouts of the Desert. They have a number of little camp customs which Scouts ought to know--and many of them are like those practised by scouts.

Arabs are always very strict in saluting each other.

The custom of saluting came, as you know, from the old times, when everybody carried weapons, and the act of raising the right hand on meeting another man was meant to show that you had not got a weapon in that hand, and were therefore a friend.

It is exactly the same to this day with the Zulus and other South African tribes, who carry clubs and assegais; on meeting each other they pass their weapons into the left hand, and raise their right to show that it is empty, and that therefore they don't mean to fight you.

So it is, too, with the Arabs.

If a horseman meets a man on foot, the horseman salutes first, because he is in the more powerful position, and it is only fair that the man on foot should therefore have his weapon ready till he knows that the mounted man is friendly.

In the same way, if a man is sitting down and another walks up to him, the man who is walking is in the better position for attacking, so he salutes first to show that he is friendly.

It is very bad form to pitch your tent close to the water supply of the camp, because it looks as if you were taking possession of the spring, and that anyone else wanting to use it would have to get your permission or be liable to be attacked by you when getting his water. So an Arab always pitches his tent at some little distance away from the spring or well, in order to show that it is free to all.

When an Arab comes to a strange camp he rides up to the largest tent and dismounts., and walks straight to the fire around which the inhabitants are sitting. He then says in a loud voice:

"Peace be with you."

All those sitting round the fire get up and reply:

"And with you, peace."

Valid HTML 4.01!