Drakenfjord, in its early days as a Shire, had become known as something of a haven for the disreputable and disenfranchised. As long as you were willing to obey the (admittedly light-handed) laws of the Shire, caused no harm to it's people, and paid your taxes on time, no questions about your past would be asked and you could pursue whatever trade you wished.
One of these was Knives Owan Pierce, a skilled but restrained assassin somewhat renowned for his skills with dagger, crossbow, and the ladies. In time he proved enough of a professional in skill and conduct that he was hired as the Shire's Constable and Champion. But he also pursued his more shadowy trade. Occasionally this would put him at odds with Shire laws, but he would always turn himself in for trial (sometimes before anyone knew the crime had been comitted) and was always a model prisoner so sentencing was usually light. Even when the penalty was death it was considered a public service to have him resurrected at a respectable discount.
(FYI, it was this was this experience that led Knives to co-found the Stone Coast Bond and Insurance Company, now one of the Kingdom's most lucrative, active, and mostly-honest businesses.)
Knives accepted a contract to remove a troublesome and irresponsible bandit who, due to his ties with important families elsewhere, could not be prosecuted for tax evasion without a lot of political fallout that the Shire wished to avoid. The execution of the contract was flawless as the crossbow bolt penetrated the bandit's heart at two hundred yards of forest underbrush. Knives collected his pay and promptly turned himself in, expecting only a minor jail term since evidence was slim.
Unfortnately, the King and his entourage had been hunting in the forest and had seen the killing. The King called for Knives to be brought to him during court. Ever respectful, Knives came to the King and knelt before him. The King announced what he had seen, declared the shaky evidence more than adequate, and pronounced him guilty of murder. The Sheriff, officers, and many of the populace requested leniency and spoke at length about Knives' many services to the Shire. The King agreed that should be considered. He waived the usual torture and ordered his bodyguards to carry out the execution immediately. Knives was beheaded an instant later, still kneeling obediently at the King's feet. The King then ordered the body burned and ashes scattered to prevent any resurrection.
The Shire as a whole was outraged at the sentence, so much so that the King had to make a hasty exit and had more than one incident with "bandits and highwaymen" on the long road home. Tempers were calmed enough to prevent outright war, but the image of the beloved hired killer's body on the pyre was seared into the hearts of all Fjordsmen who witnessed it.
From that day forward, known as the Day of Bloody Knives, it has been the most solemn oath and highest law of the Shire and later the Free Kingdom of Drakenfjord that no Fjordsman shall humble himself before anyone who is not his better. And since the best that any mortal man can hope for is to be the equal of a Fjordsmen, a person might be worthy of respect but never contrition.
In memoriam of the Right Honorable Knives Owan Pierce,
"Fjordsmen Do Not Kneel."
NOTE: There are two exceptions to this custom.
First, when escorting a Fjordsmen into court, the escorts are expected to accompany the summoned person halfway to the throne then drop to one knee, behind person or to the side of the aisle, as a sign of respect to a fellow Fjordsman being honored by the Crown (also so they can better conceal their readied weapons which might disturb the court attendees. No sense in causing a fuss).
Second, a Fjordsman is expected to kneel before the King during his knighting ceremony only because the spirit of Chivalry is greater than any one man, and the King is acting as Chivalry's mortal instrument.