Knights Without Ladies?

This is going to be one of my muddled mental musings, in part because of sorting out timelines for characters and motivations, historic and modern. If the ideal of the medieval knight and of the best of chivalry was/is something for men to aspire to, what does it mean when there are very few if any visible ladies for the man to respect and honor and even love?

As I drove back from a meeting of the North Texas Troublemakers (pilots, writers, retired military, writers, skilled craftsmen and women, writers, and generally creative, competent people), I thought about some of the stories, and what didn’t need to be said. The general approbation that met an account of some blue-collar guys who took it upon themselves to remonstrate with the abusive boyfriend of a coworker was part of the catalyst. The way other men went “on point” when a lady commented that she’d been propositioned and hadn’t caught on at first, and had witnessed a would-be purse-thief was another element in my thoughts. The gentlemen would brook no harassing or abuse of “their” ladies. Now, in the second case, the lady in question is able and willing to fend off unwanted attentions, so that wasn’t part of the equation. The men want to protect her. That’s their job, and woe betide the predator who thinks the men’s friend would make easy prey.

So, if the rising generations of females balk at being ladies in the traditional sense—polite, honorable, skilled in a trade or craft, able to assist men and to make a home or just be a good companion and friend, what is the reason for being a knight or gentleman? Back in the day, some men dedicated themselves to the ultimate Lady, the Virgin Mary, serving Her as clergy or knights (Templars, Hospitallers, Teutonic Order, and others). That’s not really an option for most today, and it was not a common calling even back then.

Why not be a slob who indulges in whatever impulses push him? If there’s no lady to reflect the knight and mirror his ideals in a womanly way, why bother? Some young men are raised with personal ideals and standards, but it helps to have help and encouragement – been there. It’s not easy to hold true to beliefs and ideals when no one else does. The military used to provide encouragement, as did organizations like the Boy Scouts. If those are weakened, what remains? Gangs, but their philosophy is more anti-society than pro. And the less said about the role of women in urban gang culture the better.

I’ve said before that I try to be the sort of woman – and general person – that is worth befriending and helping if it comes to that. I try also to be a person who befriends and helps when I can. I’m not as ladylike as my great aunt or mother, but I try. That means encouraging boys and men to be the best they can be, somehow.

So what moves a man to be a gentleman when no one is watching? What inspires him when society doesn’t provide a lady and warps the very idea into something negative? In Jude’s case, his faith, and finding a lady (or perhaps ladies) to help and protect. And his Lady. In a way he’s a bit of a knight, and it would not surprise me at all if Fr. Antonio Manfredi isn’t watching him as a potential deacon and perhaps eventually seminary material if Jude shows any signs of a religious vocation. Or perhaps not, since the good father has experience with other shadow mages. But that’s fiction. In our world? I don’t have a good answer.


“On December 7th, 1941, a Day which Will Live in Infamy”

Lest We Forget.

What is the lesson of Pearl Harbor, other than not to park all your ships and planes so close together that a few bombing and strafing runs can take all of them out? I don’t know. I have a few ideas, but I’ll leave that to the dedicated naval historians and military historians, who can fight with the diplomatic historians.

Battleship Row Today, looking toward the USS Arizona Memorial.

The US and Great Britain avenged our dead, but the cost… Hard fought and very necessary.

“The tumult and the shouting dies, the Captains and the Kings Depart, still stands Thy ancient sacrifice, an humble and a contrite heart.

“Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.”

Rudyard Kipling, “The Recessional”

Why Follow Someone?

Granted, sometimes it is a case of following someone out of morbid curiosity to see what disaster is about to ensue, so that either plausible deniability may be ensured, or to see just how bad it could possibly be . . .

[Speaking of which, NO POLITICS! Please.]

I was thinking more about “What motivates the Hunters to follow a certain leader?” When you have a generally merit-based society, what causes some people to start turning to a particular individual and treating that person as a leader? I do not think of myself as a leader, but other people do. I freely admit, I’m not entirely certain why, save for the “morbid curiosity and entertainment value” aspect of things. But why do the Hunters follow Skender and Arthur? Why do they follow Danut Adrescu? What motivates people to follow, when other options are available?

In Danut Adrescu’s case, blood ties play a role. He’s the clan leader, descended from clan leaders (or their sisters, depending on who was born first and who outlived whom) going back a long way. He and his half-brother have been trained to be leaders, and the others in the larger group have a set of expectations about what the clan chief is supposed to do, how he’s supposed to behave, and how he will reward virtue and punish vice. Adrescu’s going to have to do a bit of the latter, assuming he survives whatever the Ottomans seem to be hatching, assuming that Codrin’s vision is truly precognitive. Radut has also earned the respect of the other men and women, in his case partly because he refuses to allow a crippling injury keep him from doing what needs to be done. His skill as both a horse trainer and horse rider also play a role. Kinship as a tie of military service was found in feudal Japan as well as other places. When in doubt, follow your kindred, circle around the center of the larger family’s property, and protect those related to you – that’s one of the oldest loyalties in the books, literally.

There’s not as much opportunity for loot with the Hunters as in traditional armies. You could argue that the Fruits of the Hunt are loot, and it’s true that the Hunters in Adrescu’s time were not averse to confiscating the goods of people who were proven to be getting into mischief, be it mundane or esoteric. Should Adrescu have to face the Ottoman Turks, his soldiers and Hunters will grab what they can if they win. It’s tradition, and a good reward. In our world, even into the early modern era, there were people who fought with, oh, Prince Eugene of Savoy, because he had a record of winning and rewarding his men very well. Or of letting them reward themselves from the enemy. When the monarchs and princes couldn’t pay their hired soldiers, the men found loot on their own – see Rome, 1527, and Charles V’s problem with losing control of his troops. In Eugene’s case, it also tied into charisma. He took care of his troopers, even when he considered them swine. He tended to win more often than he lost, he ended up with loot at some point during most campaigns, and he tended to be impartial when it came to discipline.

Skender and Arthur proved themselves to the Riverton clan as Hunters first and foremost. Then Skender began quietly taking on more and more duties, especially the lesser duties of the senior Hunter. The then-leader was old, in poor health, and couldn’t do those things. Skender showed that he had the needed skills, sense of duty, and training to lead, should the opportunity arise. Arthur supported his brother, and may have on occasion dealt with other Hunters who might have posed threats to Skender. Perhaps. Maybe. No one ever admitted to doing such, and Skender could more than take care of himself. So when the old clan leader died, the Elders and Hunters agreed that Skender was a reasonable choice. It wasn’t without challenges and fights, as series readers have probably surmised. And every so often a Hunter would push things, leading to injuries.

Now? Skender and Arthur have both proven themselves, and no one is suicidal enough to take them on as a pair. Arthur served as head of the Hunters, overseeing training and ensuring order more-or-less. The other Elders and retired Hunters knew about Arthur’s injuries and how hard he pushed himself, and admired him. The younger Hunters respected him profoundly, feared him, and occasionally challenged him. Once or twice, a younger Hunter went to Arthur for counsel, and he provided it without demeaning the younger man or telling others. When it appeared that he’d been mortally wounded on the Hunt, it hit the “puppies” hard. Skender was the senior Hunter, true, but Arthur was their leader. At the same time, when Skender took full responsibility for his brother’s injuries, Skender gained more respect as well (although it didn’t stop some of the youngsters and Elders from growling about it, well away from the rest of the clan.)

Why follow? There are a lot of reasons. Experience, family ties and tradition, the hope of reward, the desire to be present when the dreadfully creative disaster unfolds (because great stories sometimes start with, “Ya’ll won’t believe what Bubba did this time.”) Me? I like a leader who gives me a long leash and who states clearly what needs to be done, what is being done, and why (when possible), and who supports subordinates when the chips are down.

Veterans’ Day, Armistice Day, Martinmas

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour, the guns fell silent on the Western Front of WWI. It would take far longer for the African and Eastern fronts to quiet down, and one could argue that the war continued with some pauses until 1945. In Europe and the Commonwealth (England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, other nations), this is a day of solemn remembrance. In the US, we save that for Memorial Day (or used to), and today we honor all veterans who served in the US armed forces.

I raise a glass to Dad Red, Uncle Red, Grandpa Carl, Uncle W., Uncle K., Jim E., Dr. M., Peter G., Carl R., Fr. Martial, Fr. Gonzales, Old NFO, Tom R., Jon L., John v. S., LawDog, Fox and Mr. Fox, and all my readers who served in militaries around the world.

Thank you, G-d bless, may your Martinmas goose come out of the oven perfectly roasted, and may today be as wonderful as possible. Prost!

Ut Oh, Someone Secure the Liquor Cabinet –

It’s November 10th. The U.S. Marine Corps’ birthday!

Original source:

Although, knowing some of the Marines of my social circle, they have already secured the cabinet and removed the contents “for safe keeping.”

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, and Guadalcanal, the decks of the USS Ronald Reagan, and a lot of other places, the US Marines stand watch and guard.

Semper Fidelis!

Eras and Ends

The fall of the Berlin Wall and even more so the collapse of the 1991 coup in the Soviet Union. The death of Elizabeth II. The fall of Constantinople in 1453. 9/11. The coronation of Charlemagne. The first three all inspired people to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and say or think, “It’s the end of an era.” September 11, 2001 was sort of the end of an era for most people, not so much for those who had been paying attention to world events since the First Gulf War. The coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor was the start of a new historical period, at least according to historians. We use it as an easy start point for the Middle Ages. The fall of Constantinople is either the start of the Early Modern, or of the Renaissance, or both, depending on what you are looking at. I’d argue that it makes a better “Early Modern Era” touchstone, but I’m not a cultural historian.

Some events are so big that people at the time knew, when they heard about them, that something had shifted. Others took a while, or are just useful pegs upon which to hang names and dividing points. Until 9/11, the Challenger explosion was what a lot of people thought would be the touchstone event, the world changer for my generation. It wasn’t, not was the Columbia disaster, either, although that marked the end of the Space Shuttle program – NASA version. Pearl Harbor was a shock, but not a surprise, based on what I’ve read in newspapers from 1939-1940. By the end of ’40, I get the sense that Americans assumed the war would grow, and we would be dragged into it at some point.

For my age group, September 11, 2001 was a point of mental shift, I suspect. Again, not for people who in the business, or for those who had been watching Al Quaeda and other groups. I know one gent (and I wish I could remember who) said that when the Northern Lion was assassinated, he the academic knew that something big was about to happen. But he didn’t know what until the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I knew as soon as I turned on the radio and listened for a few minutes that the world had shifted. I strongly suspect that there were a few people in Europe for whom learning about the final fall of Constantinople to Mehmed II and the Ottomans was a world-shifting moment. The center of the Greek Christian world, the second Rome, was gone. Constantine’s city and one of the great holy sites of Christianity now vanished behind the green wall of Islam, and what could stop the Ottoman advance?

Queen Elizabeth II reigned for all of my life, and a goodly chunk of my parents’ lives. My great aunt, who had a TV, let my mother come over and watch Elizabeth’s coronation. I remember my aunt talking about it. Sort of like I got up terribly early to watch Diana marry Charles (loved the pomp. Not so sure about the 1980s shoulder poofs, but styles change.) Her passing is the loss of a touchstone, of a living link to a very different world. In some ways, it was a better world, in many ways it was a poorer world, but that connection no longer sits on the British throne. I admired her for sticking to her duty, for not following the latest fads and styles of dress or decorum. She maintained a decent reserve, and by decent I mean proper and fitting. She had a good sense of humor, kept her cool during interesting moments, and understood the big picture of priorities. She was a WWII veteran, serving her country and Commonwealth as best she saw.

And era has passed. The world has changed. Just like 21 years ago, just like in 1453, and at other times for other people.

June 6, 1942 . . .

An SBD Dauntless at Midway. Creative Commons Fair Use:

Planes from the Enterprise and Hornet chased the retreating Japanese fleet. The battle had begun on June 4th and continued until the 7th.

I helped restore an SBD, back when I was in college the first time.

Memorial Day, Decoration Day

This year, 2022, Memorial Day’s observance falls on Memorial Day (actual), May 30. The United States did not have a day set aside to honor war dead until after the Civil War/War Between the States. Because so many families lost sons, fathers, husbands, brothers, the Grand Army of the Republic (northern veterans’ organization) pushed for a day to be set aside. On May 30, 1868, then US Representative James A. Garfield – a veteran – spoke these words:

Thousands of soldiers are to-day turning aside in the march of life to visit the silent encampments of dead comrades who once fought by their side. From many thousand homes, whose light was put out when a soldier fell, there go forth to-day to join these solemn processions loving kindred and friends, from whose heart the shadow of grief will never be lifted till the light of the eternal world dawns upon them.”

The cover of what I suspect was a little history or civics book. Creative Commons fair use. Original source:

He was at the then-new Arlington National Cemetery. Some in the South had already selected a different date, April 26, to use. However, after 1898, May 30 became the common date in all states. In 1971 Congress changed things so that federal employees got three-day weekends, and Memorial Day was shifted to the last Monday in May. Some people still do not care for this, or for the commercialization and loss of focus that followed.

As my readers know, this is not Veterans Day, or July 4. It is to remember the dead. Celebrate life, enjoy time with family, friends, and comrades, but we should not forget those who never came home.

The YouTube video is John Williams “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan. The images are of memorials, and US and Allied military cemeteries around the world.

Below are links to two history sites with more information:

St. George and ANZACs

Before he was dismissed from the official list of saints, George was the patron of Greece and of soldiers. He was very popular in England. Officially his feast day is April 23, but it is observed this year on April 25, which is also ANZAC Day in Australia. It is a fitting pairing.

The “official” story about George is that he was the son of a Roman officer, and so became a soldier himself (as the law required. Martin of Tours [and of Pannonia] had to join the military even though he didn’t want to, because that was dad’s employment.) He became a Christian, refused to return to paganism, and was executed during the persecutions by Diocletian. The unofficial story involves slaying a dragon [devil] that preyed on the young woman of Silene in Libya. George did in the dragon, converted the town’s grateful residents to Christianity, and then the story either ends, or gets really off beat. I’ve only heard/seen the off-beat version once. Let’s just say that even the medieval Catholic Church expressed some qualms about George really being killed three times and coming back twice.

George is the patron saint of England and Catalonia. He is recognized and still venerated in the Orthodox Church, and is the patron of Ethiopia, Georgia, and the city of Moscow.

St. George by Raphael.

Then there’s a somewhat later and certainly more florid St. George.

Peter Paul Rubens. St. George. Public Domain, at the Museo del Prado, Spain.

ANZAC Day is the day set aside in Australia and New Zealand, and wherever Australian and New Zealander military forces are currently serving, to remember the dead of all the wars. The ANZACs tended to hit well above their weight class, and the mildest, most soft-spoken Kiwi can turn into a ferocious warrior when need arises.

Gurkhas honoring another group of warriors. The two often fought side-by-side. The image is from Gurhka Association website.

April 25, 1915, marked the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. They would also fight in South Africa, New Guinea, France, Burma, Korea, Vietnam, and wherever needed. The Australian Military History museum in Canberra was eye-opening, to put it mildly, for a Yank who had very little clue about the huge contributions Australians (and New Zealanders) made in the wars. Or the enormous price those countries paid for that effort.