|May I hold the door for you?|
A brief, and interesting, view of chivalry for fantasy writers and fun.
The original qualities of chivalry, even the idealization of them, were based on notions that are still very much alive today—the strong should defend the weak, keep their word, and be generous to everyone. The idea was that a chivalric knight was essentially a warrior-priest. Some of the orders even took priestly vows of abstinence and poverty, like the Knights Hospitallar and the Knights Templar.
Now, of course, that doesn't take into account some of the darker parts of the chivalric code, which were very much a part of the time and place they grew out of (Europe under Charlemagne), including—fighting and killing “the infidel” (Muslims) wherever they existed, and upholding the Roman Catholic Church at all times. Defending the faith against all-comers was a real thing, and considered very “honorable” at the time.
But the thing about “chivalry” is that it never existed as a single institution at any one time—not so that we could say it was “alive” or “dead” per se. Don Quixote very premise based on this notion, and although the “knight” strives for a better world based on chivalry, he only finds people being people.
|Look, there's some Chivalry right over there!|
So what we really have is a notion, an ideal, that is chivalry, in the same way that Arthur was a king—it’s a myth. The concept was good on paper, but in practice, people with power tend to lord if over others—in the case of chivalry, literally. The feudal system established a class of nobility partially based on their ability to provide knights, who were armed and armored off the hard work of serfs.
On the other hand, being friendly to other people, giving to charity, and basically not being a jerk have never gone out of fashion—though they sometimes feel like they're myths!