Knights and KnighthoodPosted: November 9, 2011
By Shannon Loh
“About Medieval Knights”
Medieval knights were the most loved around town. They were much like the Kings of War. When a knight in shining armour strolled into town with his horse, all eyes would be upon him, clapping and cheering (Some girls might even be swooning). The most prosperous knights were similar to being big celebrities around medieval times.
Medieval Knights also had strong Christian beliefs. They rest assured that fighting bravely was a way to impress God and show how good of a Christian they were. Bold knights were expected to have a place in heaven preserved for them.
Types of Knights
There three types if knights, back in the medieval times:
King Knight – This was the top knight. He leads the country’s army and was the richest of the three.
Noble Knight – A posh knight who owns a lot of land. He serves his king by fighting in his army.
Average Knight – A knight who fights for a noble. In return, the noble would give the knight a place to live.
All average knights were expected to fight for their noble for at least 40 days. However, if wars drag on, then the knight must keep fighting. Of course, the knight does get paid for working overtime.
Knights are taught, at a young age, respectful manners and discipline. They must follow a strict set of rules known as the Chivalry. The word Chivalry came from way back in the 12th century. It was then, that French lords decided to pursue a code of conduct for all horseback warriors. Because of the French word, “Cheval” or “Chevalier” – meaning horse – the code of conduct was entitled Chivalry. Chivalry was split into two essential factors:
Bravery – A “Chivalrous” knight would be a very brave and courageous one. Knights must even be brave to the extent of being incautious. Some might even call them crazy!
Honour – Knights must also show the sign of respect and honour. To be a knight, you must be impartial and mannerly. This is what separated knights from other warriors. They were esteemed, upright fighters and did not cheat or act rude.
Other rules included:
Knights in Love
Medieval knights were expected to devote their heroic accomplishments to a specific woman. Usually a rich and substantial one.
Firstly, the knight would choose a woman. The woman might not even know the man….yet. The knight would then commit themselves to love the lady more than anything else in the world. At that point, the knight would spend almost the rest of his life doing bizarre, fearless things to try impress or even just get her attention. The woman might never actually speak to the knight. Otherwise, she could call the knight many things of which may not be very pleasant. But of course, this does not stop the knight from doing crazy activities, though. Because it just proves, how much better she is than him.
“Training a Knight”
At the age of 7-8, a young boy would be sent away from home to live in a lord’s castle (The lord would already be a knight). The lord must first be convinced that the boy comes from a rich background. Some would lie about their wealth and some would marry into a noble family. The boy would, first, be called a page.
When a page first starts out, he would be treated as lowly as a servant – sometimes even lower! The page would spend his time cleaning, serving meals and doing the jobs that no-one else would want to do. But as a page grows older, into his 9th-10th year, he could start learning more about a knight’s duties.
To begin with, the page would be taught how to read and write, sing, dance, show good manners and simple fitness exercises, such as running or swimming. Then, as the days pass, he could start learning simple sword strokes and wielding a lance. A boy’s first horse would be a wooden horse on wheels that is pulled by a rope by another person. The page would practice attacking with a lance by charging at a quintain – a wooden target that was shaped like a human with a sack on one end and a shield on the other. It was constructed so that once it is struck, it would spin right around, causing the knight or page to quickly dodge and avoid being hit.
Page’s would also practice fighting with other page’s from other castles. They would wrestle with one another whilst piggy-backing on a elder as a basic training for balance. An elderly solider of even the knight himself would also watch the young page’s fight one another with wooden swords and shields and yell out commands and advice as they go.
Playing chess or checkers would also be part of training as it teaches the page to think strategically and tactically.
The knight could declare the page a squire from the age of 10-16. But, the general age was 14.
Squires took more action in serving the knight himself. He would cater to the knight’s every need – Even helping him get out of bed! The knight would have the squire comb his hair and make his bed every morning. In return, the squire became the knight’s apprentice. He would begin fighting with real swords and learn to handle a real lance. His small wooden quintain would evolve into a much larger one and his wooden horse on wheels became a live horse.
The squire would prepare the knight’s armour and weapons by cleaning and polishing them and then help the knight dress himself by strapping on separate pieces to his body. Another thing a squire must do was to look after the knight’s horse by feeding, grooming and making sure the horse was well and fit for battle. Then, as part of his training, the squire could follow the knight to battle tournaments and prepare to fight at his knight’s side. It is the squire’s responsibility to give the knight first aid if he became injured.
A squire also had to prepare and serve the lord knight his every meal in the right manner. He had to learn every cut for every piece of meat, for example, deer meat was broken, duck meat was unbraced and hen meat was despoiled. The squire must cut the meat using his sword.
After long years of proving himself worthy to the lord knight, the squire could become a knight. The squire would normally be about 20-21 years old and the lord knight must agree with the squire to dub him in a traditional dubbing ceremony. The night before the ceremony, the squire would do many preparations. He would bathe himself (or servants could also bathe him) in cold water to cleanse himself of impurity and then dress himself in a white robe – The robe represented “the servant of God with a clean heart”. He would then spend the rest of the night fasting and praying, at the side of his armour, for sanctitude – This was called a vigil.
When morning arrives, A priest would listen to a squire confessing all his sins. Then the squire will walk down the church’s isle, wearing his white robe covered by a red tunic with a white sash – The red tunic illustrated that he was “willing to shed blood” and the white sash illustrated that he was “pure” (Sometimes, the squire might wear a coif which stood for a “pure heart”). When the squire kneels before the lord knight (or king), the lord will present a new sword which he would use to tap the squire once on each shoulder and say “I dub thee sir ________ knight!” . This was a symbolic action that stood for the early middle ages dubbing action – The lord knight or king would slap the squire on the back of his neck knocking him over. The sword will then be given to the new knight along with a pair of golden spurs – The sword signified “self-defense” and the spurs signified his “service”.
The ceremony would end with a great feast with music and dancing.
Squires of regular foot soldiers could also be knighted quickly on the battlefield. Fancy ceremonies did not have to happen in order for a man to become a knight but the actual dubbing with a sword did. Priests set the rules that all knights should be created in that manner because knights were meant to fight for the Church. Dubbing only took about two minutes on the battlefield and could be done by another knight. This is often how peasants and locals took on the knighthood.
“The Knight’s Armour”
When a knight is developing as a squire, they would be learning to handle the two main weapons: The sword and the lance. But when the squire becomes a knight, he must learn to weild more than a sword and lance.
The Suit of Armour
Since many weapons were thrown and swung around, knight’s needed strong protective armour.
In the early medieval times, knights wore heavy chain mail armour. This armour was made up of tiny iron rings all linked together and was put on in five different parts: The hauberk, which covered the body and arms, a pair of greaves, which were leggings that covered the legs and the hood which covered the head, but not the face. The face was covered with a helmet that was places over the hood.
It wasn’t until the later medieval times, when most knights began wearing plate-armour. This armour is made of many plates of metal so the knight is able to move flexibly. There are thirteen main parts:
A knight’s suit of armour relied heavily on the knight’s wealth. A King and noble knight would often have a very flexible, good quality plates of armour with very high protection. An average knight, however, would be more of a gamble for a plate of armour. Most average knights do succeed in acquiring plates of armour, although some unfortunate ones end up wearing the chain mail armour.
During Medieval times, there would be plenty of war happening around or even in town.
Because the many wars that knights attend, battle tactics are mandatory. Though there would’ve been many tactics used by many legends, the most common one that was used on the battle field was called The Cavalry Charge – This is when a group or 4-6 knights bunch close together, side-by-side with their horses, and raise their lances. When a signal is heard, they would charge furiously at their enemy.
Of course, enemies had their tactics too. Because knights run wild on their horses, foes usually set a few traps for them.
1. Potholes – An annoying hole in the ground that was dug beforehand by the enemy to stop horses in their tracks from charging at full speed.
2. Stakes – Stakes provide a major nuisance. They are large, pointy sticks that are plunged and tilted into the ground. They create a barrier or a layer of protection for foot soldiers.
3. Archers – Very irritating and hard to avoid. They cower far away in the trees where it is hard to see and launch many arrows at the knights.
Raids often happen at night when the enemy is unaware or unprepared for battle. The knights and soldiers would sneak into an enemy’s territory such as a small village and begin attacking or burning down buildings and houses. Then, they take as much loot as possible, for example, cows, chickens, money, crates, and clear the area before the enemy has a chance to strike back. The knights usually kills whoever or whatever gets in their way – all except the priests.
With all these wars and raids going on, the high honours would usually hide in the castles. But no matter, the knights and soldiers would raid those too. There are many machines that the knights and soldiers use get into the castle and rage-attack.
A common way of battle is by joining crusades. Crusades are a large group of people, organised by the church, that are against non-Christians. The idea of this companion was to protect the peasant Christians and turn other people into believers but most crusades ended up doing it for loot and glory. Crusades were made up of, not only knights, but thousands and thousands of peasants – including women and children.
Although, some knights fought to the death, tournaments were when knights got together on a battle field for a friendly practice fight. They are also held to find fame from the spectators that love to watch from a distance.
The simplest tournament game. This is basically two teams of knights – Can be on or off the horses. The idea is to capture as many knights as possible from the other team and make them pay a ransom. If the captive cannot pay, then the knight can take their horse and weapons.
The only rule was: No killing. (Even though this rule was often broken by accident).
The main type of tournament. It is very dangerous and violent and only involves two knights. This is the tournament that gains the most viewers and so many famous knights joust.
The game was to have two horse-knights on opposite ends but separated by a wooden barrier so the horses wouldn’t collide. The idea is to break the tip of the lance against an opponent to show that the knight has struck his enemy well and accurately. The knight would use a blunt lance so he wouldn’t pierce his opponent.
Single combat is a battle without the horse. The knight has no horse to run off with and so must face the other head-on. The number of strikes and weapons used would be agreed beforehand.