Noblesse Oblige
see also franchise

"In the Society we begin with an "everyone's equal" base (newcomers without rank) and procede swiftly to rank people by their relative worth and contributions to the Society. Of course it's not always equitable, but if noblesse oblige is practiced scrupulously, those with rank will be so gracious to those without that no one will feel left out. It's an ideal. We won't reach it, but we can aim for it."

—Ælflæd of Duckford
http://sandradodd.com/ideas/seneschal6.html


This was mailed and forgotten, but Anne Aliz saved it and sent it back to me in November of that year. I'm glad she saved it. It's short, but useful. I've formatted that last paragraph to make it easier to read, but the text is as it was.


Date: Mon, 9 Feb 1998 20:39:23 -0500 (EST)
From: SandraDodd@[...old address]
To: Outlands@unm.edu
Subject: noblesse oblige

Here's an unfinished piece but the good part's there.
I mentioned "noblesse oblige" to someone lately and got the look that means "never heard of it," and so I'm putting it out here as news to some and reminder to others. (Some of you might want to print this out for your squires, perhaps, since even being a squire is a small step up from not being a squire.)

NOBLESSE OBLIGE

Your duty to be courteous is greater than your right to reap the acts of courtesy due your position. In a situation where someone you outrank fails to defer to you or to show you the proper courtesy, your proper move is to be gracious and courteous, rather than indignant and rude. This goes for anyone at any level. "Noblesse oblige" doesn't apply to just nobility, but to anyone with precedence over another.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines noblesse oblige as "Benevolent and honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank." [from French: "nobility obligates"]

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary: "the obligation of honorable, generous, and responsible behavior associated with high rank or birth"

It's your responsibility to show people you outrank how to behave by your own example.

If two people are talking during court, the higher ranking one should initiate the being quiet.
[This doesn't mean the lower ranking should ignore dirty looks and keep talking if his superior fails to take hints.]
If two people are walking along and meet the king, the higher ranking one should acknowledge the royal presence first.
[This doesn't mean that if he doesn't, that the inferior should not acknowledge the king.]
If a duchess approaches a count and a viscount, the count shouldn't wait for the viscount to offer his chair; both should stand and bow, and the count should take the lead in offering courtesy. The viscount should then offer his chair instead so that the count and duchess are seated, and then find himself a third chair if they seem to want his company.
[This is an ideal and theoretical situation; it may not happen that way.]

[and it was never finished, and might never be...]
AElflaed of Duckford


More on Noblesse Oblige from this site:

Reversing Service
"When I can't accept help it's a fault in myself, and not in the volunteer. If someone is willing to go that far out of his or her way to physically aid me, noblesse oblige demands that I fake a good mood and postpone my privacy. If privacy and my personal comfort are all that important I should've stayed home and watched Henry V."
Teachers, and a Wish
"Of course it's not always equitable, but if noblesse oblige is practiced scrupulously, those with rank will be so gracious to those without that no one will feel left out. It's an ideal. We won't reach it, but we can aim for it."
More SCA