Modern-day “knight” on a mission to restore chivalry

Chris Mikula, The Ottawa CitizenThe age of Courtly Love is long past, but a Quebec man has made it his mission to single-handedly revive chivalry in the modern age.

As the Ottawa Citizen reports, Vincent Gabriel Kirouac has swathed himself in knight errant gear, saddled up his faithful horse Coeur-de-Lion (Lionheart), and is now six weeks into a Quixote-esque pilgrimage across Canada to spread the love.

Or, as he told the paper, "I'm crossing Canada on horseback dressed as a knight, to remind people of the values of long ago, such as devotion. All the values of the knight."

Kirouac said his motivation was faith-driven — he's Catholic and therefore wants to "give everyone a hand and do my best". But his actions are rooted in a medieval code of conduct that created a moral system around protecting the "weak," honouring women and behaving in a loyal, generous and noble way.

Chivalry began as a way for the aristocratic warrior classes to conduct themselves both on and off the battlefield, but eventually filtered into a more generic way of acting with truth, honour, loyalty and nobility.

These days, the term "chivalry is dead" has come to define behaviour that could be classified as rude, selfish or ungainly. In particular, it's used to describe men who fail to treat women with respect, whether it's something as simple as holding open a door or as serious as being abusive.

But Kirouac said his notion of chivalry encompasses all the qualities those courtly knights dispensed as they made their way across the land, qualities he'd like to reintroduce into Canadian life.

He started in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, and though he has tried to keep to back roads and rural areas for the sake of his trusty steed, the self-described "full-time knight" said the allure of trotting through the nation's capital was too great.

Reaction from our capital dwellers has been gratifying. "It's incredible. People are very touched," he told the paper. "They're very emotional. People say I have made their day, that it's their lucky day . . . I talk to a lot of people on the road."

Though running a horse through city streets (not to mention the intensive workout Coeur-de-Lion has been getting for the past month and a half) may strike many as the opposite of chivalry towards animals, Kirouac said he walks half the time to give his equine pal a break and has so far relied on the kindness of strangers to put both of them up for the night.

"I give her all that she wants. I walk beside her when she shows any signs of fatigue. I give her the food she needs," he said, adding that she's doing "super-well."

For anyone still raising an eyebrow in cynicism over Don Kirouac's journey, his supportive fiancée back home stands in testament to chivalry's enduring power. (The fact that they keep in touch via cellphone stands in testament to his battery's enduring power.)

But at a time when empathy is on the wane, anything that reminds people of the basics — even when it looks like it stepped out of a period piece — deserves a little credit.