A Lesson in Being a Gentleman

Oh all right, I admit it. I only watched Kingsman: The Secret Service because part of it was set in Savile Row. Oh, and Mark Strong was in it, and I rather like him. Despite all the silliness, gadgetry and violence, there was some pretty good stuff in the film – especially on what it took to be a gentleman. Given that at least one of the candidates to replace Lancelot was a woman, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that these are general principles rather than specifically male ones.

I shall also try very hard not to sound too much like Colin Firth when I do this.

Firstly, a gentleman is not about birth but about breeding. This is one of the lessons that Eggsy has most trouble getting his head around, coming from a council estate and living on the dole. Being a gentleman is about being comfortable in one’s own skin, about being confident that one can adapt to and behave in any situation. As the Kingsman motto has it – manners maketh the man. It used to be clothes in my day, but to be honest, they’re just a sideshow. Good manners cost nothing but make a world of difference, and they are the mark of a gentleman – and they are something that can be learned.

Moreover, being a gentleman is about knowing when to work as a team and when to go it alone. It is about loyalty when needed and ruthlessness when required. Startlingly, it was often the female candidates who proved more adept that this than the men were, so it was no surprise when one became a Kingsman. She was brilliant, a real role model for young women.

Finally – and probably most importantly – being a gentleman is about taking responsibility for your actions. It’s about holding your hands up and admitting when you’re wrong and learning from your mistakes. Physical strength is all very well, but mental strength and tenancity are better; but all pale in comparison to integrity.

Kingsman: The Secret Service could teach everyone a great deal about being a gentleman – and hopefully young people will learn a lot from it as well. Not just how to disarm a gun wielding lunatic from a hundred paces.

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