In the 21st century, a good question is what does it mean to be a Gentleman? In the centuries gone by it was someone who upheld the codes of etiquette, manners and chivalry. Today, as these traditions are dying, what does it mean to be a gentleman and what do we need to do to ensure Gentlemen don't become an extinct species?
The word "Gentleman" means in Middle English (in the sense 'man of noble birth'): from gentle + man, translating Old French gentilz hom, which refers to any man of good courteous conduct.
In later use, the term denoted a man of a good family (especially one entitled to a coat of arms) but not of the nobility.
The original meaning denoted a man of the lowest rank of the English gentry, below an esquire but above a yeoman.
This category included the younger sons of the younger sons of peers and the younger sons of baronets, knights and esquires in perpetual succession and thus, the term captures the common denominator of gentility shared by both constituents of the English aristocracy: the peerage and the gentry.
A gentleman would also sign a letter with the ESQ, this stood for the title Esquire historically and was a title of respect accorded to men of higher social rank, below the rank of knight and above the rank of gentleman. It later came to be used as a general courtesy title for any man in a formal setting, usually as a suffix to his name, as in "Grant Harrold, Esq.", with no precise significance.
Now we understand the title of 'Gentleman' but what does it mean in the 21st century. To me, it is someone who treats ladies, the old and children with the utmost of respect and of course show courtesy to other gentlemen. This includes the rules of etiquette and manners. Etiquette is the rule book of how to behave around others and manners being how to behave and treat others. For example, holding doors open, giving up your seat to ladies, children, the old and disabled on public transport and helping others with simple tasks such as crossing the road and helping hail a cab and very importantly, keeping promises. Sadly, the younger generation tends not to understand these time-old customs and it is my duty and that of other similar to me to make sure that these values do not disappear. We do live in a time when ladies are of course treated as equals to men, but there is nothing wrong with showing them respect and courtesy by the values I mentioned above.
All gentlemen should have a basic understanding of etiquette and a full knowledge of manners which should be taught from a very young age. Some of these include knowing when not to say anything, possesses at least one well-made dark suit, one tweed suit and a dinner jacket. They will help carry a house guests’ luggage to their rooms, tip staff in a private house and a gamekeeper in the shooting field, will always say his name when being introduced, is good with staff, can tie his own bow ties, excellent at time keeping and can of course make the perfect Gin and Tonic.
Last week, on social media we ran a poll asking the question "My question this week is: In the 21st century do you feel Gentlemen have become an extinct species?" I must stay the people who voted was staggering! With over 625 people voting, which showed me this was a question that people feel very passionate about, and thankfully people joined in on the poll to register their vote and feelings on the subject. The results were:
As always, I can't thank you all enough for taking part in the Twitter poll. My personal feelings are that if we don't do something, then the one day we will not have Gentlemen in the world and this will be a very sad day, that our future generations will need to read books or should I say look online to understand what a gentleman was. I will run my next poll this week.