Ivanhoe. A TV show in the late 1950s, based on the character from the novel by Sir Walter Scott, starring the future James Bond, Roger Moore. I either have a false memory of watching this as a kid but having never actually seen it myself only heard others, older than me, talk of it. Or, more likely, I watched re-runs at a later date. Whichever it is, there is no arguing that Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was a proper knight of the realm. Chivalrous, defender of the weak, righter of injustices, brave, attired head to foot in armour and to top it all off to perfection he rode about on a white charger. I watched a little today on the internet (none of which proved familiar) and good old Rog had his eyebrows well trained even in those pre-Simon Templar (another knightly order connection, have I hit upon a conspiracy?) days.
Obviously, the show was set in medieval times, so let’s wormhole forward several centuries to the modern day…about now will be fine. It would be hard to argue the exalted position of knight hasn’t changed, more accurately the calibre of the people who occupy the role is a trebuchet’s lob (medieval ink there, clever stuff this) away from the high ideals of those who first took up the sword.
I’m not going to name names, or even name colours, but I would bet at some time each and every one of us has heard the latest additions to the courtly heights and thought: ‘Did I just hear right; why the fuck has he been knighted?!’
(Small diversion here. I used ‘he’ because apparently a ‘she’ cannot be knighted as such and become a ‘sir’. What happens to women is they are appointed to the order of chivalry, be it, ‘Most Noble Order of the Garter’ or ‘Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle’ and are then awarded the title ‘lady’. Even to me, as a bloke, they sound a little patronising. Why not just go for broke and call them ‘Most Noble Order of the Peek-a-Boo Nightie’ and ‘Most Haggard and Most Noble Order of the Aggravating Nuisance’?)
Nowadays it appears to become a knight you have to be pretty big in some other arena and have the unerring ability to fill your own pre-armoured pockets with as many golden groats as possible. Entertainers, bankers, civil servants, the list of those who couldn’t heft a broadsword in a righteous manner to defend those weaker, or poorer, than them is feckin’ endless. But worse than that, the vast majority of them don’t appear as if they could be arsed to do so in the first place because outside of their world of ‘me’, the done down peasants don’t exist…or they do but only as floor coverings.
I’m sure some of them (I don’t really believe this, I’m just trying my best to be balanced) do good works for charity on the quiet, or blatantly in front of our faces as loudly as possible whilst not wanting to be recognised for their efforts, but I don’t see any of them going into sack-cloth as they give away their last silver farthing to those less fortunate. These rich buggers appear to stay rich and when they get their title and all the perks that go with it, their lives just seem to get even more sparkly with no apparent roll down brought by this privilege toward the great unwashed.
Okay, I know, I’m comparing solar flares with herrings. I fully understand the ‘real’ knights of yore were probably rich, arrogant, heartless, murdering bastards who would ride their chargers over a serf without so much as a, ‘Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you’because they probably did see them and adjusted their course accordingly. There are plenty of historical facts about the brutality of the ruling classes during the Middle Ages and it would be a hard call to paint The Crusades as a Sunday school picnic. Imagine The Templars coming to your door instead of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I bet you wouldn’t tell them you were a Satanist as a joke. Red hot poker up your arse before you could say, ‘I don’t know Dan Brown!’
So we don’t need modern knights and we certainly, for own safety’s sake, don’t need ‘ye olden dayes knights’ kicking about again; what we do need is a new breed of the warrior class, a stratum of society based on the fictional and mythologised idea of a knight in shining armour. It’s going to take some work socially and genetic engineering will have to pull its lizard/tulip hybrid socks up but what I am proposing is achievable and highly desirable…though probably not achievable, contrary to what I have just stated.
I understand that many of you will be screaming: ‘Just scrap the anachronistic system; it is terminally riddled with cronyism and back-handed envelops stuffed with cash,’ and I agree that is one road we could take. However, I think I have an option that will appeal even more. Controversially, we continue awarding the sham titles to the same highly undeserving type of people we are doing now. This will enable us to keep getting pissed off with the choices made because we all enjoy a good belly-aching rant and I don’t want to deny you that under the new scheme. But, and you’re going to love this, we make the new ‘sirs’ live like proper knights. They can keep their big houses and land (every knight needs a castle and estate), they can even keep their money (squires, lance-bearers, men-at-arms don’t come cheap) but, and this is compulsory, they have to live by a new code. The ‘Code of Chivalry Redux’…or COCX for short. And while I remember, any flash cars, private jets, obscenely lavish boats, in fact, any mode of transport other than a feck-off big horse owned by the newly dubbed will be raffled off.
(This is a work-in-progress version of COCX and the regulations will fluctuate before being codified and chiselled into one of the uprights at Stonehenge.) A knight at all times must wear armour of some description. Plated steel and chain mostly but leather is acceptable for more relaxing times…though they’ll be too busy most of the time to chill out. Their names will be added to the list of services available to contact via ‘999’: Police, ambulance, fire, coastguard, knight. In addition to any emergency work they have to carry out, all knights must, at least once a month, rescue a damsel in distress who must be from a lower social order (whether I will include middle-class damsels I’m still not sure yet as they may be reclassified as ‘trolls’ under the new system). There will be a weekly televised jousting tournament, Saturday primetime, and all knights, regardless of age or infirmity, must take part. It will be a fun, violent version of ‘Strictly’, one for the lads in other words, and I assume it will probably involve fewer marriage break-ups.
Finally, once a year (and this is where I need the geneticists to get their collective, five-knuckled fingers out) all the knights will be required to gather together, live in red and white pointy tents in a field, possibly Salisbury Plain, and work as one harmonious unit to battle a fully grown, fire-breathing dragon. This will be held on St George’s day, for obvious reasons, and will also be televised with all the proceeds going to charity. Details for ‘Dragon-fest’ have yet to be worked out but one aspect I would like to see employed is a phone-in poll to dictate which knight gets sent in first…possibly naked and armed only with a can of petrol.
Apart from the dragon (which could be replaced with a British Army Challenger II tank for the time being while the scientists get all Jurassic Park), the whole of my plan is workable, a ‘put into place tomorrow’ idea, if the desire is there. Or we can carry on being lorded over by a load of rich tosspots with the stupidest knight’s names ever to be uttered, who’ll get preferential treatment and adulation from the simple-minded wherever they go just because of three stupid letters in front of their names.
“King Arthur, whom shall we send seeking the Grail?”
“Send Sir Gawain.”
“He’s tracking down the pernicious and nefarious Green knight, sire.”
“Good, about time someone did. What about Galahad?”
“Punching possessed pigs in Mercia.”
“Not sure where he is…but he’s not with your wife.”
“Who have we got?”
“There’s Sir Paul or Sir Mick or Sir Elton…I believe Sir Cliff is dealing with a devil woman.”
“Paul!? Mick!? Cliff!? Elton!? I suppose there’s one called bloody…Ringo, or something mental like that?!”
“He joins your table next year, sire.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!”