Reflections on the Revolution in France "The Age Of Chivalry Is Gone"

Edmund Burke

"The Age Of Chivalry Is Gone"

Context: Burke was a believer in law and order, and all that contributed to the preservation of law and order he admired. He was equally a lover of liberty, and he saw in the French Revolution a threat to law and order, and to liberty, throughout the European world, as well as in his beloved England. He saw the Revolution's leaders use abstract theories to produce chaos and bloodshed in the name of liberty, and the sight led him to continue his advocacy of slow change in government and equally slow change in the bounds of liberty. He was particularly struck by the mistreatment of the French royal family during the Revolution, as he was impressed by what he termed "the serene patience" with which Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, endured her mistreatment. In writing about her and her fate he says he would have expected ten thousand Frenchmen to have leaped to her defense with their swords if she had been even looked at insultingly, but, he remarks:

. . . the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.