The 7 Knightly Virtues. A Modern Interpretation

The knight is one of the historical figures that has a kind of magic surrounding it. There is a list known as “the seven knightly virtues”. What are the seven knightly virtues and what can we learn from them today? That’s what you’ll find out in this post.

What are the seven knightly virtues?

The seven knightly virtues are a code of conduct for knights. The code contains the seven virtues that they should possess to make sure their behavior is impeccable. A set of characteristics that, if adopted, would turn a rough knight into an admirable man to look up to.

The seven virtues are the following;

  1. Courage
  2. Justice
  3. Mercy
  4. Generosity
  5. Faith
  6. Nobility
  7. Hope

If you want to know more about these virtues, scroll down for a more in-depth explanation.

Knight on horse
The 7 knightly virtues

Where does it come from?

There is no single document about the knightly code that lists all the virtues like this. It’s a modern interpretation of several documents that outline some kind of behavioral code for knights. Between 1170 and 1220 there were several documents outlining a code of conduct for knights but there wasn’t a decision made to use a single one. The overarching idea of these virtues was “chivalry”


The virtues you can find below are trying to qualify what we think of as chivalry.

The word chivalry originated in the Holy Roman Empire. From Wikipedia: “The code of chivalry that developed in medieval Europe had its roots in earlier centuries. It arose in the Holy Roman Empire from the idealization of the cavalryman—involving military bravery, individual training, and service to others—especially in Francia, among horse soldiers in Charlemagne’s cavalry. The term “chivalry” derives from the Old French term chevalerie, which can be translated as “horse soldiery”. Originally, the term referred only to horse-mounted men, from the French word for horse, cheval, but later it became associated with knightly ideals”

Of course the meaning of the word chivalry has moved away from referring to horse mounted soldiers. It does show that people admired those soldiers and they had a certain behavioral pattern that was considered good.

Masculine ideal

It’s almost like the knightly virtues are the ideal masculine character. And in my opinion these virtues are a good ideal to strive towards.

There is something to keep in mind though. This code wasn’t meant for everyone. It’s for soldiers on horses, you know, knights… This combination of virtues is supposed to be the best possible behavior of a  knight, a soldier, a fighting man. There is no mention of women and children anywhere.

It also means that peasants weren’t expected to behave in this kind of way. Now knights weren’t behaving very well which is why there were codes like this popping up in the first place. That means peasants and other folk didn’t necessarily behave worse than this.

Knights were high profile and usually respected. That’s why I think it’s a good thing to aim to possess these virtues even as an “everyday” man. It provides some guidance on which virtues you want to work on and improve as a masculine man.

Need some help awakening your inner knight? Check out the program “Masculine Core”. It’ll help you awaken the masculine man that’s waiting inside of you.

“Nice guy” virtues?

I’m aware that “knightly virtues” sounds a lot like a fedora wearing “nice guy”. If you go back in history, I don’t think you can deny that knights were pretty badass and nothing like the modern day “nice guy”. The difference is that a real knight was strong and powerful. A “nice guy” tries being nice because he is powerless. There is a big difference.

Suggested post: A gentleman is not a “nice guy”

What do the virtues mean?

By now you might be curious what the virtues actually mean. The interpretation of these virtues might be interpreted in a slightly different way than they would be in the middle ages. However, since these seven knightly virtues are already a modern interpretation of old documents that shouldn’t be a big problem.

The goal of this post is to find virtues to aim towards and become a better man.

1.     Courage

Oxford dictionary:

“the ability to do something that frightens one.”

“Strength in the face of pain or grief.”

If you’re courageous it doesn’t mean you’re not scared when you’ve got to do something that could potentially harm you. It means you are scared but do it anyways because it has to be done The pain can be physical or psychological. Courage is the ability to overcome the instinctual response to avoid these consequences.

Courage is not stupidity. Running into a minefield to chase a butterfly is not courage. It’s stupid. For an act to be courageous there has to be a balance between the danger and importance of the act.

If you want to know how to become more courageous, read this post; “Masculine Traits: Courage”

2.     Justice

Oxford dictionary:

“The fair treatment of people”

“The quality of being fair or reasonable”

If you possess the virtue of justice, you are fair, reasonable and treat everyone “right”. Now what you see as “right” or “good”, depends on your world view. In the Middle Ages what was “good” was deducted from Christianity.

While this might not be the same in modern times, most people will still have a sense of what is good and bad.

A good rule of thumb is still: “treat others like you want to be treated yourself”

  • Apply the rules evenly to everyone, even yourself
  • Help others if they need it
  • Punish people when it’s necessary but keep track of the goal

3.     Mercy

Oxford dictionary: “A kind or forgiving attitude towards somebody that you have the power to harm or right to punish”

While having a warrior mindset is not a bad thing. You have to get things done sometimes. If you’re in charge of something, you’ll have to make difficult decisions and not always protect everyone from the consequences of their actions.

Sometimes doing just that is necessary however. Sometimes not harming or punishing someone, even though you feel like they deserve it, is the better decision in the long run.

4.     Generosity

Oxford dictionary: “The fact of being generous (= willing to give somebody money, gifts, time or kindness freely)”

A knight was a person that had some amount of wealth, power and connections. They were in a position to help.

You might not be in a position where you can help other people with money or gifts. That means you should be working towards a situation where you will be able to do this. Most people are able to give some time and/or kindness however. If you have knowledge in some field, help others or mentor someone for example.

Giving and helping people helps to improve the world. It will also make you feel good about yourself.

Setting a trend of helping people in your community will greatly improve your community in general.

5.     Faith

Oxford dictionary: “Trust in somebody’s ability or knowledge; trust that somebody/something will do what has been promised”

In the Middle Ages, faith certainly also included a faith in God. That’s not the only thing faith means however.

It can also be interpreted as “trust”.

You have to be able to trust other people. Sometimes you have to put your trust in other people because you can’t do everything yourself. In certain ways you already trust many people in daily life. A big part of society is based in trust. Trust that people follow traffic laws (for the most part). Trust that the utility companies will provide their services. Etc.

Where things get a bit more difficult is when you have to put trust in people thereby putting them in a position where they can really abuse that trust and hurt you.

You don’t have to trust everyone. But if there is nobody you feel you can trust, take a serious look at yourself and/or your surroundings.  

6.     Nobility

Oxford dictionary: “the quality of being noble in character”

Noble: “having fine personal qualities that people admire, such as courage, honesty and care for others”

Being noble is a combination of a few different virtues. It’s having an admirable character in general. You want to strive to have a character that people admire. Become a person that people look up to.

This doesn’t happen by just trying to be noble. As said, it’s having the right combination and ratios of other virtues.

7.     Hope

Oxford dictionary: “To want something to happen and think that it is possible”

If you’re fighting a war, hopelessness is absolutely deadly. If you have no hope, you give up and stop fighting. Even if you’re not in a fight, having hope is very important.

Hope that you can win in life and have an (even) better future. If you don’t believe you can do it, you’ll never get it. Very few things are given to you in life without effort. To get most things, you’ll have to work for it. If you have hope, you will have the motivation to work.

Being negative and hopeless won’t be conducive to getting a better life, becoming a better man and having a better social life. People don’t like to be around negative people.

Suggested post: Getting rid of victim mentality

Way of life

Living your life with the virtues outlined above, are not a shortcut to a good life. It’s hard work. Virtues are a part of a person’s character. To change your character is very difficult and takes a long time and hard work. In the end I think it’s worth it even though it doesn’t guarantee personal success. I think it’s good because if everyone (or at least all men) would try to improve these virtues, the world would be a much better place.

Keep in mind that these virtues were meant to balance out the aggression and misbehavior exhibited by some knights. So don’t think you don’t need you still need some level of aggression and determination in your life. It’s just that knights were expected to have those traits naturally and nobody should have to tell them.

If you liked this article, you might be interested in other posts about the Masculine Mindset (click).

Or if you’re interested in outward masculinity, check out some of these posts:


Hi there. I'm BetterDaily. I'm a man in his early thirties that likes to travel, ride motorcycles, work out and write. Usually I write about men, things related to masculinity and things men like. Teacher by day, blogger by night.

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