Manners Makyth Humanity
Generations of teachers who used William of Wykeham’s observation that ‘Manners Makyth Man’ to reprimand schoolboys for failing to open doors or to stand up when appropriate missed the point.
However worldly the multi-tasking Bishop of Winchester, chancellor and educationalist was, it’s unlikely that his use of the word ‘manners’ referred to tucking in a female companion’s chair at dinner or proffering a coat on a crisp winter evening. rather than making a comment on male etiquette, it seems more likely that he was highlighting the fact that the way we behave determines what we are.
nor, in the 14th century, was the thought startlingly new, having been a key theme of aristotelian philosophy that was conceived more than a millennium beforehand. However, the fact that William of Wykeham chose to make the observation in english, rather than Latin, suggests that he was keen to make a bold, humanist statement.
the publication of Country Life’s fourth Gentleman’s Life comes at an unsettling time—the integrity of some of the world’s most prominent men is under scrutiny and the faith of a bewildered public is crumbling.
For everyone, now is the time to focus, not just on the behaviour that’s being revealed, but also on the manner in which we all conduct ourselves in every aspect of our lives, regardless of our gender or circumstance. Good manners are nothing if they mask a lack of humanity.
some seven centuries later, the sentiment of William of Wykeham’s words, immortalised as the mottoes of Winchester College and new College, oxford, both of which he founded, remain pertinent to everyone, from Friday-night revellers and the baying mob, emboldened by the anonymity of twitter, to the most powerful predators of Westminster, Washington and, of course, tinseltown, where this disturbing conflagration caught light.
if we aren’t able to act with integrity and kindness, then even the most carefully honed etiquette means nothing. Pure platinum amid the conflagration is some muchneeded cheering news. next week, the Queen and the Duke of edinburgh celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. of all the many milestones Her Majesty has reached in recent years, this is perhaps the most touching.
theirs is an enduring partnership that serves as an inspiration to us all, distinguished not only by love and humour, but by the mutual respect and deep sense of duty that William of Wykeham had in mind.