A Knight’s Tenth Commandment: Combat All Evil, Defend All That Is Good

June 1, 2023

We must confess that the Tenth Commandment of chivalry has not been clearly formulated by our poets, and that we owe it to the Church as a matter of fact. “To combat all evil, to defend all good,” would not have come naturally to the minds of those descendants of Germans who had not been affected by the water of their baptism.

It would be quite possible to show, by a series of texts scientifically chosen and wisely graduated, that this philosophical and definitive formula only introduced itself by slow degrees into the current of our ancestors’ ideas. They did not reach such an astonishing height at a bound, and some of these apothegms—like certain poems, the Dies Irae for example—had to submit to a long incubation of four or five centuries.

TFP Protest against SatanCon in Boston, April 29-30.

In our old songs the maxim, “Combat all evil, defend all that is good,” presents itself principally, curiously enough, in a negative form. When the author of Gaydon sets himself to put forth the infernal Contra Code of Chivalry, he does not hesitate to put this abominable advise in the mouth of one of his traitors—

“Le Mal hauciez, et le Bien abatez.”

Elevate Evil and abase Good.

Nevertheless humanity could not be satisfied with these negative counsels; it had need of clear decisions, and it is the Church which has furnished them to mankind. The liturgy here rises on golden wings, and we rise with it to the highest summits. When William Durand collected, in the thirteenth century, the elements of that pontifical to which his name is attached, he took care to choose for the Benedictio novi militis this magnificent prayer:—

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“O God, Thou hast only permitted the use of the sword to curb the malice of the wicked and to defend the right. Grant, therefore, that Thy new knight may never use his sword to injure, unjustly, anyone, whoever he may be; but that he may use it always in defense of all that is just and right!”

“Omnia cum gladio suo justa et recta defendat.”

There exists a text still more characteristic, still more beautiful, which belongs also to the same epoch in which William Durand lived. When a new knight was dubbed at Rome in the splendid  basilica of St. Peter, which was the center of the Christian World, a sword was very solemnly handed to the warrior, “So that he may energetically exercise justice, and that he might overturn the triumphant edifice of iniquity, ‘ut vim aequitatis exerceret, et molem iniquitatis destrueret.’”

Protest against a Drag Queen Story Hour.

And again, farther on: “Remember, O knight, that you are to act as the defender of Order and as the avenger of Injustice. ‘Ulciscaris injusta, confirmes bene disposita.’” And the conclusion addressed to him in a grave voice, was, “It is on this condition, living here below as a copy of Christ, that you will reign eternally above with your Divine Model.”

That is the language they held at Rome, in the most august sanctuary in the world. Imagine, if you can, anything more elevated.

In any case, there it was; and the grand formula was definitively found.

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 72–3.



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