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  "Jenkins! Keep your head down before the Huns put it down for you--and put that rotgut away before I have to notice it!"

These guys are considered the model military officers. Most forms of media will typically portray the Officer and a Gentleman as being a member of the upper-class in whatever society he originates, and almost undoubtedly attended a Military Academy. If this character is a British officer (or speaking with an English accent), you can often tell whether he is an officer and a gentleman because he will almost invariably speak with a received pronunciation (i.e., the Queen’s English).

Besides typically being a member of the upper crust, an officer and gentleman is personified by his behavior: No matter how savage the fighting, no matter how pitiless the combat, the officer almost never lets his base nature take over. He will remain polite, and even in the worst of situations will always retain his sense of propriety, often unfailingly displaying a Stiff Upper Lip. If a more clever sort, he may also be possessed of an Upper Class Wit. After all, a gentleman is not a mere label, but a way of life.

For example, an officer and a gentleman will rarely if ever cuss, and never knowingly in the presence of a lady. He will rarely drink to the point of inebriation, unless it is used for comedic purposes or to tragically show how the war may be taking a toll on him. He would never, ever take advantage of a lady, and will be very protective of women, both of their persons and their sensibilities, even when it is not merited. Further, if you insult his honour, or worse, the honour of a lady he fancies, you may earn yourself a challenge to a duel, unless profuse apology is the next thing out of your mouth. Otherwise, expect a fair, gentlemanly duel in which he will proceed to carve you into cutlets. However, he would not think of fighting dirty, and most certainly Would Not Shoot a Civilian on purpose. On the other hand, if he is evil, he might have some of his less honourable henchmen do the Dirty Business for him. Further, whether good or bad, he will always keep his word. . .after all, he gave his word as a gentleman. Characters typifying this trope often have the habit, for better or worse, of displaying Honour Before Reason.

Do not misunderstand--this fellow can be just as deadly as any other warrior; often more so, because one aspect that is often used with this trope is the fact that the more experienced officers are typically very composed and often have Nerves of Steel, making them less likely to act irrationally or misstep. However, while his training and experience may have forged him into a very skilled fighter, he will rarely be a Combat Pragmatist, and can often fall victim to more unsporting chaps.

When it comes to actual leadership ability, the Officer and a Gentleman runs the gamut. If portrayed in a good light, the officer will be shown as being a Reasonable Authority Figure, like The Brigadier, and if he takes pains to look out for his soldier’s wellbeing, he is A Father to His Men. In a really positive light, they may be shown to be great front-line leaders and warriors as well, playing the role of Colonel or General Badass. If they are being portrayed in a negative light, they will be the General Ripper or The Neidermeyer. If they are cruel and/or incompetent, they will most likely be portrayed as a General Failure. While these more negative incarnations may be just as dedicated to politeness and etiquette as the good ones, their good behaviour is reserved for their superiors and people of proper social rank, rather than the rabble of men they lead. Further, the evil officer would not hesitate saying "We Have Reserves." After all, the only ones whose lives are at risk are the commoner soldiers, and who cares about them?

Remember, what separates this character from the Proud Warrior Race Guy or the Warrior Poet is not only the character’s devotion to honour, but to a set of "gentlemanly" principles, which include good manners and etiquette. Most representations of the officer and gentleman are most certainly Lawful Good or at least Lawful Neutral. If on the side of the antagonists, or the major antagonist himself, he will often be Lawful Evil, and is often portrayed as an Anti-Villain. Satirical versions of this trope are often represented as being Lawful Stupid.

If during peacetime the Officer and a Gentleman was an academic, then he is a Gentleman and a Scholar.

Compare with Knight Errant and Knight in Shining Armor.

Not to be confused with An Officer and a Gentleman, the 1982 movie with Richard Gere and Deborah Winger.

Examples of Officer and a Gentleman include:


Anime & Manga

  • Pip Bernadotte in Hellsing is a lot more cultured than most of the men in his squad. And he is the heroine's love interest.
  • Sir Allen Schezar in the Vision of Escaflowne has this kind of quality, being a well-spoken, clean-shaved gentleman commanding a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. He seems rather chauvinistic at times to his love interests (Princess Millerna and Hitomi), though this is somewhat explained through his tragic backstory because Allen is pretty screwed up after he failed to protect three women he very much cared for: his mother (dead), his younger sister Selena (kidnapped and tortured by Zaibach, to the point of her becoming someone else), and his first love Marlenne (married King Freyr, had Allen as her lover and the father of her kid Chid unbeknownst to Allen, died too). To top it all, he heavily blames his Disappeared Dad for abandoning their family... not knowing that Leon Schezar had died many years ago. To his credit, he gets better and is reunited with his sister.
  • Major Armstrong lives this trope, especially compared to the behavior of most of the other officers in the Amestrian Army, who range from sexist pigs, shameless flirts, Badass Briggs soldiers and pencil necked stiffs (with the occasional psychopath thrown into the mix).
  • To a degree, Hiroshi Yagyuu and Yuushi Oshitari from The Prince of Tennis.
  • 2nd Lt. Alice L. Malvin in Pumpkin Scissors has very definite ideas on what it means to be the daughter of one of "the thirteen noble families." The example she sets shames other less principled members of the privileged class, and impresses poor commoners outraged by the nobility's excesses.
  • Major Kusanagi can be an Officer or a Lady. She can be very kind and blends in perfectly with high society but doesn't hold back her badassitude in combat.
  • Several characters in Strike Witches and its associated media. Heinrike Prinzessin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein being the most prominent example, Karlsland ace with noble Orussian heritage.
  • Taki from Hyakujitsu no Bara


Comicbooks

  • Hans von Hammer, from the Enemy Ace comics from DC Comics, is the epitome of the trope.
    • His most noteable aspect, apart from working for the other side, is not shooting down already damaged aircraft. A straight on duel, yes, plinking the defenseless, no.
      • Making it Truth in Comic Books. In the early days of military aviation, fighter pilots had complex rules of chivalry which included "never shoot a cripple."
  • Captain America has his own special ranking within the US military and is considered one of the most gentlemanly of all the heroes in the Marvel Universe. It's not uncommon for even the bad guys to look up to him.


Fan Works


Film

  • Commodore Norrington of Pirates of the Caribbean fame started out this way, but went disappointingly south once he fell from royal favor, Death Equals Redemption notwithstanding.
    • He did let his emotions get the best of him even in the first film. When Elizabeth asked him to go rescue Will from Barbossa, Norrington refused until she agreed to marry him. Then all his talk of duty and serving others went right out the window.
  • Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from Glory. Also a Real Life example.
  • Forbidden Planet: While his crew openly lusted after Altaira, Commander Adams was chastising her for her overt and provocative behavior. Granted, the only male she ever had contact with prior to the arrival of the C57D was her father, so her social skills in this area were decidedly undeveloped. And, of course, it was Commander Adams she ultimately fell in love with.
  • Major West in 28 Days Later initially appears to be this sort of character -- a civilized, erudite gentleman in contrast to his lewd, boisterous underlings. Then he agrees to let his men gang-rape the female civilians they've "rescued". And seems a wee bit fond of Jim, as well. And then, when Jim brutally slaughters all of his men, he abandons what little of his civilized side he has left and goes completely insane.
  • The movie The Water Horse plays with this trope by initially presenting the captain as per the trope as an Oxbridge educated gentleman leading "common" soldiers, but then reveals him as a mild example of The Neidermeyer before allowing some redemption towards the end of the film.
  • Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander represents this trope to a T. Jack is still gentlemanly in the novels, but is far more complex. He often philanders (away from Mrs. Aubrey!), dislikes and goes to great lengths to avoid duels. Even though he is of far lesser "rank," his friend Dr. Maturin is much closer to this idea.
  • Chard, Bromhead, and Bourne in Zulu.
  • The Bollywood movie "Lakshya" (based on the Kargil War between India and Pakistan) has a sequence where Amitabh Bachchan orders his men to bury slain Pakistani soldiers in accordance to their religion. The soldiers protest, citing the defiling of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani army. His reply, translated roughly, is: "Even in war, we show some decency/dignity" ("हम युध मे भी एक शराफत रखते हैं।")
  • Admiral Boom in Mary Poppins, if you sidestep the fact that he shoots cannons from the top of his roof with absolute punctuality.
  • Captain Anson in Ice Cold in Alex not only recovers from Drowning My Sorrows as he flees Rommel's assault in a beaten-up ambulance, but also saves the life of a South African soldier who tagged along for the ride who's revealed to be a German spy.
  • Captain Nicholls in War Horse is a typical example, even objecting to his superior's plan to attack an undefended German garrison with a surprise cavalry charge. Like a good officer, though, he follows orders. He doesn't have much of a Stiff Upper Lip, though, and the look of horror and desperation is evident on his face when he realizes that the Germans have set up machineguns in the treeline, which are mowing down the cavalry. He keeps charging, though.
    • It's a little jarring to see the same actor play the scheming backstabber Loki in Thor and The Avengers.


Literature

  • Discworld subverts this in Jingo in the form of Willikins, Vimes' butler-turned-sergeant. When addressing Vimes, Willikins is the picture of politeness - so far so good - but when talking to the men under his charge he turns into a bellowing, foul-mouthed authoritarian. Also played straight with Lord Rust, who is the negative, incompetent, "Blue Blood who is polite to equals and superiors only" variety, with lots of "honor" and not a lot of reason, utterly convinced that their enemy (who has spent the last several decades fighting a variety of enemies and getting really good at it) will "turn and flee the minute they taste cold steel"; he is described in Night Watch as following the "subtract the enemy's casualties from thine own, and if the number is positive, then it was a Glorious Victory" school of strategy.
    • Sergeant Jackrum would tell you that as a sergeant, Wilikins is neither an officer or a gentleman. Sergeants are crafty bastards, and he would know.
    • Lieutenant Blouse of Monstrous Regiment fame would fit this trope if it were any other kind of story--he's an officer, a gentleman, and honorable to a fault -- but war is a very ugly thing that has no time for honor and chivalry.
  • Any book by Lois McMaster Bujold is guaranteed to have one of these, probably at least twenty years older than his Romantic Interest.
    • Except for her original usage of the trope, where Aral was about 10 years older than Cordelia... and given that he was mid-40s and she mid-30s, it was hardly a gap.
      • Interestingly, Cordelia herself (as a captain in the Betan Expeditionary Force) is the female equivalent of this trope.
      • As contrasted with Cordelia's prior tour in the Betan Astronomical Survey, where being captain was more like being Team Mom.
    • Ista from Paladin Of Souls ends up with that guy's younger brother who behaves much more casual and considers himself second best at everything. Of course the older one was taken and undead.
  • The Chaste Hero Captain Avery in the book The Pyrates which is a Deconstructor Fleet of pirate movie cliches fits this description perfectly.
  • Despite being a rabble-rousing populist, General Nortier of The Count of Monte Cristo provides a good example of a gentleman soldier behaving honorably to those of the same class, even if on opposing sides. In the backstory which lead to Dantes' imprisonment, Franz d'Epinay's father, a Royalist, was caught infiltrating the group of pro-Napoleon soldiers Nortier belonged to and seeing that d'Epinay was a fellow gentleman, Nortier allowed him to duel to the death instead of simply killing him outright.
  • Several examples in War and Peace. Two prominent ones are the French captain Ramballe and Field Marshal Kutuzov. War isn't very personal; most prisoners throughout the book are treated relatively well, even equally.
  • Capt. Laurence, of Temeraire. He was originally a British Navy captain--where such is apparently expected--before harnessing Temeraire, and is still more polished and formal than most of his crew and fellow officers, the Air Corps almost necessarily being much less formal. His own crew, out of admiration for him, started taking after his example. However, he is slowly starting to bend, especially concerning his lieutenant, Granby.
  • Peter D'Alembord from Sharpe, a charming, elegant and well-educated gentleman (who only joined the army because he killed a man in a duel).
  • Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Outbound Flight, qualifies as one, if one given to somewhat underhanded tactics and a his own set of morals. However, later-set books have him as an Affably Imperial Cultured Warrior.
  • The hares of the Long Patrol army in the Redwall series behave like this (even some of the ones who aren't actually in the Long Patrol). The Long Patrol itself didn't appear by name in the first few books, but grew in importance eventually taking centre stage in (naturally) The Long Patrol.
  • Jane Austen's Persuasion plays this straight with Captain Wentworth.
    • More famously subverted by Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.
      • Played dead straight with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Colonel Forster.
  • Quite a few characters from Starship Troopers.
  • Sten mocks this trope with the incompetent Admiral van Doorman, who prides himself on spit-and-polish while sneering at Army-trained Sten. Yet Sten himself embodies this trope to a certain degree. His Combat Pragmatism is never really seen with regard to women, to the point that it's an Informed Attribute. Doubtless it's to preserve the sympathy of readers who have yet to reach the egalitarian attitudes of the future.
  • The armies of Victorian Europe in the Flashman novels are full of officers who are jovial, charming, considerate of their men, and thoroughly chivalrous. Naturally our Fake Ultimate Hero protagonist despises every last one of them.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) does his best to be seen as one.
  • In Gene Stratton Porter's Michael O'Halloran, cited to counter the argument of a Royal Brat that gentlemen don't work.

 If the world has any gentlemen it surely should be those born for generations of royal and titled blood, and reared from their cradles in every tradition of their rank. Europe is full of them, and many are superb men. I know a few. Now will you tell me where they are to-day? They are down in trenches six feet under ground, shivering in mud and water, half dead for sleep, food, and rest, trying to save the land of their birth, the homes they own, to protect the women and children they love. They are marching miles, being shot down in cavalry rushes, and blown up in boats they are manning, in their fight to save their countries.


Live-Action TV

  • In Rome, Lucius Vorenus has ironclad impulse control (except when it comes to his infamous temper), which is amusing given that the generals of the army (Caesar and Anthony) are just as lewd as the enlisted men.
  • Captain Jack on Torchwood manages to be this even though he's an extreme pansexual lech.
    • And don't forget how it was played straight in the case of the real Captain Jack Harkness who modern Jack stole the name from.
    • A more straight forward example would be the character of Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, who appeared several times in thw classic series, mostly alongside the 3rd Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith as the head of UNIT.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Starfleet is a pretty genteel place (exceptions need apply only to the Engineering division, and occasionally Security), but Picard still stands out. Better manners than most of the diplomats we see; unflappable except around Borg and children; fences; rides horses; fond of classic literature...
    • The writers were certainly well-aware of this tendency in his character, anyway; in the future timeline of All Good Things..., Picard is an Ambassador (or rather, a retired one). The same honor was previously given to Spock.
    • Romulan officers often are this way, notably the one Kirk fought in Balance of Terror. They are rather Darker and Edgier then Starfleet officers but can be Worthy Opponent s.
  • Major Edrington ("I am in fact the Earl of Edrington") in Horatio Hornblower "The Frogs and Lobsters" (also known as "The Wrong War")
  • Both Sinclair and Sheridan from Babylon 5, in different ways.
  • James Bellamy in Upstairs, Downstairs is hinted to be this.
  • Lt. Giles Vicary from Red Cap is the young-and-somewhat-naive variant.
  • General Hank Landry of Stargate SG-1. Apart from being a fine general, he was also fond of quoting historical figures like Patton and Churchill.


Tabletop Games

  • The ideal for Imperial Guard officers in Warhammer 40000, penchant for shooting their own troops for cowardice notwithstanding. As in real life, most of them fall well short.
    • Some Space Marine commanders fit this as well.
    • The occasional Inquisitor falls under this trope.
  • Crimson Skies has Nathan Zachary; captain of the pirate airship Pandora and known throughout the Americas as the Gentleman Pirate.
  • Seventh Sea has too many to count.


Theater


Videogames


Western Animation

  • Captain Amelia of Treasure Planet fits this trope perfectly right down to the upperclass British accent and Stiff Upper Lip, blending it with sharp Gentleman Snarker wit, Lady of War badassery, and Ice Queen unattainability (eventually defrosted).
  • Though a twenty-six-star General rather than a captain, "captain" Zapp Brannigan subverted this in Futurama with his incredibly lecherous (and cowardly, and irresponsible, and moronic...) behaviour.
  • Skipper of Madagascar penguins (and in The Penguins of Madagascar) has some of these qualities. He is a lot more cultured than the rest of the commando penguins, generally courteous towards ladies, and also pulls off the craziest stunts.
    • Case in point: "No little girl will shed a tear on my watch!" from "What Goes Around."
  • Griff of Gargoyles, complete with British accent and derring-do. He helps the Royal Air Force battle those damn Nazis in the skies above London, later meets the goddamn King Arthur
  • Surprisingly, Yosemite Sam of all people is able to pull this off during one cartoon where he is a Confederate officer who didn't get the message that the American Civil War ended decades ago. Though he relentlessly pursues Bugs Bunny, bent on keeping Yankees off of Confederate soil, when Bugs disguises himself as a woman, Sam is genteel and unfailingly polite to the "Scarlet Ma'am." This is also one of the few times where Sam isn't talking at his usual volume level.
  • Near the end of Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines episode "Medal Muddle", Dick Dastardly was falling and had no medal to offer Muttley so, in order to convince the dog to save him, Dastardly invoked the trope and promised to help Muttley find his lost medals. Dastardly kept good on his promise.

Real Life

  • Real life subversion in conduct Robert Graves, the author of I, Claudius, describes doing during World War One. He describes an occasion when a German officer was sighted as being within sniping range, and declaring that it would be dishonourable to kill a fellow officer this way, Graves handed his gun to a lower class soldier and ordered him to make the kill.
  • After the death of legendary German WW 1 Ace Oswald Boelcke (known for writing the first manual of air combat, still relevant today), the English sent a plane to drop a wreath mourning the loss.
    • Just because there's a war on, it doesn't mean you have to be insensitive, dontcherknow.
    • World War I had several of these moments, mainly because the war was mostly political and the soldiers were just fighting because they were obliged to.
    • It happened again with Boelcke's student, Mandred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron. After he was shot down in combat, the Allies organised a full military funeral, and many soldiers placed wreaths on his grave inscribed with such phrases as "To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe".
  • Truth in Television, again: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Union general at the American Civil War battle of Petersburg, received applause and a brief unofficial cease-fire from both sides for bravery. He later returned the favor at Appomattox when he ordered his troops to salute the surrendering Confederate troops as equals. The Confederate general who received the salute later called Chamberlain "one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army."
    • Which is probably about the only way Chamberlain could have possibly topped his previous feats of talking 80 disgruntled deserters into joining his regiment and then using them to save the entire Union Army (with a bayonet charge!) less than 24 hours later at the battle of Gettysburg, earning himself a well-deserved Medal of Honor.
      • And the kicker is that, in peacetime, he was a professor of rhetoric- basically a guy whose day job was studying and explaining Rousing Speeches.
      • He was also wounded 6 times, but still made it home to become the governor of Maine.
  • In the War Of 1812 the British navy was demoralized after losing several engagements against the newer and heavier American frigates. Captain Broke of HMS Shannon sent his accompanying frigates away, and then sent the following challenge to the USS Chesapeake, safely docked in Boston Harbor, captained by James Lawrence.

  "As the Chesapeake appears now ready for sea, I request you will do me the favour to meet the Shannon with her, ship to ship, to try the fortune of our respective flags. The Shannon mounts twenty-four guns upon her broadside and one light boat-gun; 18 pounders upon her main deck, and 32-pounder carronades upon her quarter-deck and forecastle; and is manned with a complement of 300 men and boys, beside thirty seamen, boys, and passengers, who were taken out of recaptured vessels lately. I entreat you, sir, not to imagine that I am urged by mere personal vanity to the wish of meeting the Chesapeake, or that I depend only upon your personal ambition for your acceding to this invitation. We have both noble motives. You will feel it as a compliment if I say that the result of our meeting may be the most grateful service I can render to my country; and I doubt not that you, equally confident of success, will feel convinced that it is only by repeated triumphs in even combats that your little navy can now hope to console your country for the loss of that trade it can no longer protect. Favour me with a speedy reply. We are short of provisions and water, and cannot stay long here"

    • The USS Chesapeake then left harbor and sailed for Shannon, neither ship firing until they were at point-blank range. After the battle there were more than 200 killed and wounded, one of the bloodiest ship to ship battles of the age. Captain Broke was badly wounded and would never command another ship. The American Captain Lawrence was killed in action, and buried with full military honors by his enemies, with 6 British Naval officers as his pallbearers.
  • Also General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy, a cultured Southern gentleman who only commanded the Confederacy's army rather than the Union's because his home state of Virginia joined the Confederacy, and Lee believed in My State Right Or Wrong (at the time, most Americans considered themselves citizens of their home states first and as Americans second).
    • The fact that Lee clung to his Officer and a Gentleman ideals in the face of crushing defeat, especially his abhorrence of guerilla warfare and "collateral damage" had as much to do with reuniting the Union as anything Lincoln or Grant did.
  • Peruvian admiral Miguel Grau. After sinking the Esmeralda battle boat in 1789, he immadiately wrote the Esmeralda captain's widow praising her dead husband's bravery and sent her the guy's personal effects.
  • Yet another example: Korvettenkapit än (Lieutenant Commander) Karl von Muller, during World War One as the commander of the commerce raider SMS Emden [1] He often risked his ship and crew in order to be polite and often released his prisoners aboard neutral or civilian ships. Still regarded as an example of a wonderful campaign and Knightly service.
  • George Washington was known for his gentlemanly conduct both on and off the battlefield. After one battle during the Revolutionary War, the dog of British General William Howe wandered into the colonial camp. Washington had the dog returned with a friendly letter, and Howe wrote a glowing assessment of Washington's character in his journal.
    • During the winter at Valley Forge, when Washington took up residence in a local farmhouse, he actually paid rent (as opposed to simply occupying the house by force).
  • Major John Andre, the British spymaster who assisted Benedict Arnold's treason and was caught and hanged by the Americans, comported himself with such dignity that even his jailers were saddened by the necessity of his sentence. His only complaint was that he would have preferred to face a firing squad (as a soldier, rather than be hanged as a spy). When the time came, he blindfolded himself and put the noose around his own neck.
  • "Conduct unbecoming an officer" is still a listed court-martial offence in the British armed forces, the "and a gentleman" part having been removed in letter but enduring in spirit.
    • It's still an offense in the US military as well (and the "gentlemen" bit remains), usually tacked on to any other offense(s) an officer commits.
  • Subverted by the Auxiliary Division of the RIC during the Irish War of Independence.Composed of veteran WW 1 officers they had a notorious reputation for their lack of discipline, drunkenness,for carrying out murderous atrocities and for burning Cork city center to the ground.They later wore burnt cork in their hats as a symbol.
  • Gregorio del Pilar, one of the youngest generals in the Philippine Revolutionary forces, and one of the youngest commanders in the Philippine-American War. After a delaying action to cover Philippine leader Aguinaldo's retreat, the five-hour standoff resulted in Del Pilar's death due to a shot to the neck. Del Pilar's body was later despoiled and looted by the victorious American soldiers and his body lay unburied for days, exposed to the elements. An American officer, Lt. Dennis P. Quinlan, was disturbed by this treatment of what he deemed a Worthy Opponent and gave the body a traditional U.S. military burial. Upon del Pilar's tombstone, Quinlan inscribed, "An Officer and a Gentleman".
  • Compared to many of his fellow generals, Erwin Rommel was the most chivalrous of the Wehrmacht Field Marshals. He repeatedly ignored orders to execute Jewish POWs and when he was placed in charge of building the Atlantic Wall, he demanded that the French workers be paid for their labour rather than be treated as slaves.
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