Modern knight riding across Canada to promote chivalry
Published Saturday, June 2, 2012 11:11PM EDT
Trotting past vehicles atop his faithful steed, Vincent Gabriel Kirouac looks as if he's been ripped from the pages of a medieval history book.
Under the metal helmet and billowing robe, he's a 22-year-old Quebec man who longs for the values of a bygone era. But to curious passersby, Kirouac introduces himself as a modern-day knight riding across Canada on horseback to promote chivalry.
"It's really as simple as that," the Don Quixote-esque fellow explains in a phone interview from a barn just north of Toronto.
Roughly two months ago, Kirouac and his trusty mare Coeur-de-Lion (Lionheart) left the city of Riviere-du-loup for unfamiliar stables and roads. Along the way, he's keen to share the details of his mission with strangers.
"I'm not raising money for anything. It's just about being good to people -- trying to bring back valour and honour, devotion and generosity," he says.
Of course, Kirouac goes about this dressed like a present-day Sir Lancelot. Except, instead of a rapier or gauntlet, he carries a horse-grooming kit and a cell phone.
The young knight-errant says he's been saving up for his adventure for several years, and even completed an equine program in college to learn how to properly care for his mare.
From school mascots to costumed protesters, Kirouac isn't the first to don an unusual outfit for a cause. But unlike other disguised crusaders, he says he isn't seeking personal gain.
To Kirouac, knighthood isn't a shtick -- it's a calling.
"This was something that was sleeping in my heart," says Kirouac. "I just told myself, ‘If you really want to be a knight, well you've got to find a way to do it.' And I found it."
Catching up with him isn't easy these days. The first time CTVNews.ca attempted to contact Kirouac, he was en route to a barn where he planned to comb Coeur-de-Lion.
"I've got to be really devoted to my mare so, in turn, she can be devoted to me," he says, breaking down his personal philosophy of mutual love and understanding.
Fifteen minutes later, Kirouac is on the phone again with some good news. He and Coeur-de-Lion have found shelter for the evening.
Finding a hot meal and accommodations has been an ongoing challenge, especially given that Kirouac is dependent on the kindness of strangers.
"I've planned a couple of strategic points, but that's about it. I don't really know where I'm going to go or how. I'm just relying on people," he says.
Thus far, this approach has served him and his steed just fine.
More than 60 days into his journey, Kirouac says he and his horse have never had to sleep outside yet. Strangers continue to come through for him.
Some days on the road can feel long and banal, says Kirouac, noting that he and Coeur-de-Lion try to limit stops to one-hour lunch breaks. Along the way, his steed grazes in parks.
In a method that's reminiscent of the Middle Ages, Kirouac sometimes barters with barn owners for safe lodgings. He has mowed lawns, mended fences and helped with miscellaneous chores on farms. Sometimes, he simply offers his hosts a listening ear.
A few barn owners have turned Kirouac away, but he takes it in stride.
"People are sometimes uncomfortable about having a stranger in their house. This is their right. So I just ask them to refer me to other stables," he says.
Similar to the Knights Templar of the Middle Ages, Kirouac is a devout Catholic. While acknowledging that faith drives him, he insists that his chivalry crusade is non-denominational.
"This isn't about converting anybody," says Kirouac. "I've stayed with lots of different people – Jewish people, Muslim families. Anyone can ‘love thy neighbour.' Being respectful and having integrity is just the basic stuff that anybody needs to have."
And that's precisely the message aims to send as he slowly trots towards the West Coast. At this rate, he anticipates he'll be in Vancouver by late September.
Though Atlantic Canada was skipped on Kirouac's itinerary, perhaps he can be can be forgiven. There's a lady waiting for him back in Gatineau and the two are engaged to be married.
For now, his fiancee manages Kirouac's website and mounting media requests.
"She loves the knight idea and wishes she could be with me," says Kirouac, adding that his wife-to-be is finishing up her schooling.
When Kirouac wraps up his quest, the couple plan to move in together and embark on a tour of Europe -- one that he says won't be undertaken on horseback.
But before then, a long road awaits Kirouac.
He isn't worried about jousting tournaments or the Black Death, only where he needs to get to next. And right now that place is Manitoba.
"I'm going to find a trailer to truck my horse to Winnipeg because I won't let her starve in the forests of the north," he explains.
History books make no mention of Richard the Lionhearted or Renaud de Montauban using trucks to ferry their horses around. But to be fair, they undoubtedly didn't have the option.
Such is the life of a modern-day knight.