The Virginia gentleman is a concept that attaches the qualities of chivalry and honor to the aristocratic class in Virginia history and literature. Similar to the, which suggested a connection between Virginians and Royalists during the (1642–1648), the idea of the Virginia gentleman is based on a code of gentility and honor that is closely tied to the slaveholding plantation culture of Tidewater Virginia. So-called gentlemen were expected to lead and behave with courtesy toward all, regardless of social status. While not assumed to be personally flawless, they were expected to demonstrate fortitude, temperance, prudence, and justice. A gentleman’s reputation and personal honor were to be cultivated and protected above all else. Developed in the context of slavery and reaching its apogee among Virginians such as and , the concept of the gentleman spread from Virginia across the South and became an important theme in early novels of the region. Just as the Virginia gentleman provided an aspirational ideal, so did these novels present the South and its enslavement of African Americans in terms that idealized the slaveholders. This continued in the decades following the (1861–1865), when the Virginia gentleman was enlisted into the and the justification of slavery. While twentieth-century writers treated it with more irony, the Virginia gentleman still thrives in American popular culture.