Medieval Soldier Being Knighted

Medieval Soldier Being Knighted


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What It Was Really Like To Be A Medieval Knight

We modern people like to sit in our climate-controlled homes with our big screen TVs and microwave popcorn and watch movies about medieval knights, and for some reason we think being a medieval knight would be cool. But we are wrong, oh so very wrong. Never mind the total absence of climate-controlled houses (newsflash: castles were drafty) and big screen TVs and microwave popcorn during the Middle Ages, because even if knights did have all those things it wouldn't change the fact that their lives sucked. Sure, there was a perk or two but for the most part it was grueling work, mortal peril, mortal peril, mortal peril, death. And the closest a medieval knight ever got to microwave popcorn was a pie made out of eels, so there's that.

You might be thinking the court ladies and the shiny armor and the giant horse still sounds pretty cool, though, and if you are then you may want to hold off on teleporting back through time to claim your title as Sir Whatever until after you've read about what it was really like to be a medieval knight.


Contents

De re militari Edit

Vegetius, De re militari, preface to book 3. [1]

Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus wrote De re militari (Concerning Military Matters) possibly in the late 4th century. [2] Described by historian Walter Goffart as "the bible of warfare throughout the Middle Ages", De re militari was widely distributed through the Latin West. While Western Europe relied on a single text for the basis of its military knowledge, the Byzantine Empire in Southeastern Europe had a succession of military writers. [3] Though Vegetius had no military experience and De re militari was derived from the works of Cato and Frontinus, his books were the standard for military discourse in Western Europe from their production until the 16th century. [4]

De re militari was divided into five books: who should be a soldier and the skills they needed to learn, the composition and structure of an army, field tactics, how to conduct and withstand sieges, and the role of the navy. According to Vegetius, infantry was the most important element of an army because it was cheap compared to cavalry and could be deployed on any terrain. [5] One of the tenets he put forward was that a general should only engage in battle when he was sure of victory or had no other choice. [6] As archaeologist Robert Liddiard explains, "Pitched battles, particularly in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, were rare." [7]

Although his work was widely reproduced, and over 200 copies, translations, and extracts survive today, the extent to which Vegetius affected the actual practice of warfare as opposed to its concept is unclear because of his habit of stating the obvious. [5] Historian Michael Clanchy noted "the medieval axiom that laymen are illiterate and its converse that clergy are literate", [8] so it may be the case that few soldiers read Vegetius' work. While their Roman predecessors were well-educated and had been experienced in warfare, the European nobility of the early Medieval period were not renowned for their education, but from the 12th century, it became more common for them to read. [9]

Some soldiers regarded the experience of warfare as more valuable than reading about it for example, Geoffroi de Charny, a 14th century knight who wrote about warfare, recommended that his audience should learn by observing and asking advice from their superiors. Vegetius remained prominent in medieval literature on warfare, although it is uncertain to what extent his work was read by the warrior class as opposed to the clergy. [9] In 1489, King Henry VII of England commissioned the translation of De re militari into English, "so every gentleman born to arms and all manner of men of war, captains, soldiers, victuallers and all others would know how they ought to behave in the feats of wars and battles". [10]

In Europe, breakdowns in centralized power led to the rise of several groups that turned to large-scale pillage as a source of income. Most notably the Vikings, Arabs, Mongols, Huns, Cumans, Tartars, and Magyars raided significantly. [11] As these groups were generally small and needed to move quickly, building fortifications was a good way to provide refuge and protection for the people and the wealth in the region.

These fortifications evolved throughout the Middle Ages, the most important form being the castle, a structure which has become almost synonymous with the Medieval era in the popular eye. The castle served as a protected place for the local elites. Inside a castle they were protected from bands of raiders and could send mounted warriors to drive the enemy from the area, or to disrupt the efforts of larger armies to supply themselves in the region by gaining local superiority over foraging parties that would be impossible against the whole enemy host. [12]

Fortifications were a very important part of warfare because they provided safety to the lord, his family, and his servants. They provided refuge from armies too large to face in open battle. The ability of the heavy cavalry to dominate a battle on an open field was useless against fortifications. Building siege engines was a time-consuming process, and could seldom be effectively done without preparations before the campaign. Many sieges could take months, if not years, to weaken or demoralize the defenders sufficiently. Fortifications were an excellent means of ensuring that the elite could not be easily dislodged from their lands – as Count Baldwin of Hainaut commented in 1184 on seeing enemy troops ravage his lands from the safety of his castle, "they can't take the land with them". [13] [ verification needed ] [14]

Siege warfare Edit

In the Medieval period besieging armies used a wide variety of siege engines including: scaling ladders battering rams siege towers and various types of catapults such as the mangonel, onager, ballista, and trebuchet. Siege techniques also included mining in which tunnels were dug under a section of the wall and then rapidly collapsed to destabilize the wall's foundation. Another technique was to bore into the enemy walls, however, this was not nearly as effective as other methods due to the thickness of castle walls.

Advances in the prosecution of sieges encouraged the development of a variety of defensive counter-measures. In particular, Medieval fortifications became progressively stronger – for example, the advent of the concentric castle from the period of the Crusades – and more dangerous to attackers – witness the increasing use of machicolations, as well the preparation of hot or incendiary substances. Arrow slits, concealed doors for sallies, and deep water wells were also integral to resisting siege at this time. Designers of castles paid particular attention to defending entrances, protecting gates with drawbridges, portcullises and barbicans. Wet animal skins were often draped over gates to repel fire. Moats and other water defences, whether natural or augmented, were also vital to defenders.

In the Middle Ages, virtually all large cities had city walls – Dubrovnik in Dalmatia is an impressive and well-preserved example – and more important cities had citadels, forts or castles. Great effort was expended to ensure a good water supply inside the city in case of siege. In some cases, long tunnels were constructed to carry water into the city. In other cases, such as the Ottoman siege of Shkodra, Venetian engineers had designed and installed cisterns that were fed by rain water channeled by a system of conduits in the walls and buildings. [15] Complex systems of tunnels were used for storage and communications in medieval cities like Tábor in Bohemia. Against these would be matched the mining skills of teams of trained sappers, who were sometimes employed by besieging armies.

Until the invention of gunpowder-based weapons (and the resulting higher-velocity projectiles), the balance of power and logistics favoured the defender. With the invention of gunpowder, the traditional methods of defence became less and less effective against a determined siege.

The medieval knight was usually a mounted and armoured soldier, often connected with nobility or royalty, although (especially in north-eastern Europe) knights could also come from the lower classes, and could even be enslaved persons. The cost of their armour, horses, and weapons was great this, among other things, helped gradually transform the knight, at least in western Europe, into a distinct social class separate from other warriors. During the crusades, holy orders of Knights fought in the Holy Land (see Knights Templar, the Hospitallers, etc.). [16]

The light cavalry consisted usually of lighter armed and armoured men, who could have lances, javelins or missile weapons, such as bows or crossbows. In much of the Middle Ages, light cavalry usually consisted of wealthy commoners. Later in the Middle Ages, light cavalry would also include sergeants who were men who had trained as knights but could not afford the costs associated with the title. Light cavalry was used as scouts, skirmishers or outflankers. Many countries developed their styles of light cavalries, such as Hungarian mounted archers, Spanish jinetes, Italian and German mounted crossbowmen and English currours.

The infantry was recruited and trained in a wide variety of manners in different regions of Europe all through the Middle Ages, and probably always formed the most numerous part of a medieval field army. Many infantrymen in prolonged wars would be mercenaries. Most armies contained significant numbers of spearmen, archers and other unmounted soldiers.

Recruiting Edit

In the earliest Middle Ages, it was the obligation of every noble to respond to the call to battle with his equipment, archers, and infantry. This decentralized system was necessary due to the social order of the time but could lead to motley forces with variable training, equipment and abilities. The more resources the noble had access to, the better his troops would typically be.

Typically the feudal armies consisted of a core of highly skilled knights and their household troops, mercenaries hired for the time of the campaign and feudal levies fulfilling their feudal obligations, who usually were little more than rabble. They could, however, be efficient in disadvantageous terrain. Towns and cities could also field militias.

As central governments grew in power, a return to the citizen and mercenary armies of the classical period also began, as central levies of the peasantry began to be the central recruiting tool. It was estimated that the best infantrymen came from the younger sons of free land-owning yeomen, such as the English archers and Swiss pikemen. England was one of the most centralized states in the Late Middle Ages, and the armies that fought the Hundred Years' War were mostly paid professionals.

In theory, every Englishman had an obligation to serve for forty days. Forty days was not long enough for a campaign, especially one on the continent. Thus the scutage was introduced, whereby most Englishmen paid to escape their service and this money was used to create a permanent army. However, almost all high medieval armies in Europe were composed of a great deal of paid core troops, and there was a large mercenary market in Europe from at least the early 12th century. [17]

As the Middle Ages progressed in Italy, Italian cities began to rely mostly on mercenaries to do their fighting rather than the militias that had dominated the early and high medieval period in this region. These would be groups of career soldiers who would be paid a set rate. Mercenaries tended to be effective soldiers, especially in combination with standing forces, but in Italy, they came to dominate the armies of the city-states. This made them problematic while at war they were considerably more reliable than a standing army, at peacetime they proved a risk to the state itself like the Praetorian Guard had once been.

Mercenary-on-mercenary warfare in Italy led to relatively bloodless campaigns which relied as much on manoeuvre as on battles, since the condottieri recognized it was more efficient to attack the enemy's ability to wage war rather than his battle forces, discovering the concept of indirect warfare 500 years before Sir Basil Liddell Hart, and attempting to attack the enemy supply lines, his economy and his ability to wage war rather than risking an open battle, and manoeuvre him into a position where risking a battle would have been suicidal. Machiavelli understood this indirect approach as cowardice. [18]

Weapons Medieval weapons consisted of many different types of ranged and hand-held objects:

Artillery and Siege engine

The practice of carrying relics into battle is a feature that distinguishes medieval warfare from its predecessors or early modern warfare and possibly inspired by biblical references. [19] The presence of relics was believed to be an important source of supernatural power that served both as a spiritual weapon and a form of defence the relics of martyrs were considered by Saint John Chrysostom much more powerful than "walls, trenches, weapons and hosts of soldiers" [20]

In Italy, the carroccio or carro della guerra, the "war wagon", was an elaboration of this practice that developed during the 13th century. The carro della guerra of Milan was described in detail in 1288 by Bonvesin de la Riva in his book on the "Marvels of Milan". Wrapped in scarlet cloth and drawn by three yoke of oxen that were caparisoned in white with the red cross of Saint Ambrose, the city's patron, it carried a crucifix so massive it took four men to step it in place, like a ship's mast. [21]

Medieval warfare largely predated the use of supply trains, which meant that armies had to acquire food supplies from the territory they were passing through. This meant that large-scale looting by soldiers was unavoidable, and was actively encouraged in the 14th century with its emphasis on chevauchée tactics, where mounted troops would burn and pillage enemy territory in order to distract and demoralize the enemy while denying them their supplies.

Through the medieval period, soldiers were responsible for supplying themselves, either through foraging, looting, or purchases. Even so, military commanders often provided their troops with food and supplies, but this would be provided instead of the soldiers' wages, or soldiers would be expected to pay for it from their wages, either at cost or even with a profit. [22]

In 1294, the same year John II de Balliol of Scotland refused to support Edward I of England's planned invasion of France, Edward I implemented a system in Wales and Scotland where sheriffs would acquire foodstuffs, horses and carts from merchants with compulsory sales at prices fixed below typical market prices under the Crown's rights of prise and purveyance. These goods would then be transported to Royal Magazines in southern Scotland and along the Scottish border where English conscripts under his command could purchase them. This continued during the First War of Scottish Independence which began in 1296, though the system was unpopular and was ended with Edward I's death in 1307. [22]

Starting under the rule of Edward II in 1307 and ending under the rule of Edward III in 1337, the English instead used a system where merchants would be asked to meet armies with supplies for the soldiers to purchase. This led to discontent as the merchants saw an opportunity to profiteer, forcing the troops to pay well above normal market prices for food. [22]

As Edward III went to war with France in the Hundred Years' War (starting in 1337), the English returned to a practice of foraging and raiding to meet their logistical needs. This practice lasted throughout the war, extending through the remainder of Edward III's reign into the reign of Henry VI. [22]

The waters surrounding Europe can be grouped into two types which affected the design of craft that traveled and therefore the warfare. The Mediterranean and Black Seas were free of large tides, generally calm, and had predictable weather. The seas around the north and west of Europe experienced stronger and less predictable weather. The weather gauge, the advantage of having a following wind, was an important factor in naval battles, particularly to the attackers. Typically westerlies (winds blowing from west to east) dominated Europe, giving naval powers to the west an advantage. [23] Medieval sources on the conduct of medieval naval warfare are less common than those about land-based war. Most medieval chroniclers had no experience of life on the sea and generally were not well informed. Maritime archaeology has helped provide information. [24]

Early in the medieval period, ships in the context of warfare were used primarily for transporting troops. [25] In the Mediterranean, naval warfare in the Middle Ages was similar to that under late Roman Empire: fleets of galleys would exchange missile fire and then try to board bow first to allow marines to fight on deck. This mode of naval warfare remained the same into the early modern period, as, for example, at the Battle of Lepanto. Famous admirals included Roger of Lauria, Andrea Doria and Hayreddin Barbarossa.

Galleys were not suitable for the colder and more turbulent North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, although they saw occasional use. Bulkier ships were developed which were primarily sail-driven, although the long lowboard Viking-style rowed longship saw use well into the 15th century. Their main purpose in the north remained the transportation of soldiers to fight on the decks of the opposing ship (as, for example, at the Battle of Svolder or the Battle of Sluys).

Late medieval sailing warships resembled floating fortresses, with towers in the bows and at the stern (respectively, the forecastle and aftcastle). The large superstructure made these warships quite unstable, but the decisive defeats that the more mobile but considerably lower boarded longships suffered at the hands of high-boarded cogs in the 15th century ended the issue of which ship type would dominate northern European warfare.

Introduction of guns Edit

The introduction of guns was the first steps towards major changes in naval warfare, but it only slowly changed the dynamics of ship-to-ship combat. The first guns on ships were introduced in the 14th century and consisted of small wrought-iron pieces placed on the open decks and in the fighting tops, often requiring only one or two men to handle them. They were designed to injure, kill or simply stun, shock and frighten the enemy before boarding. [26]

As guns were made more durable to withstand stronger gunpowder charges, they increased their potential to inflict critical damage to the vessel rather than just their crews. Since these guns were much heavier than the earlier anti-personnel weapons, they had to be placed lower in the ships, and fire from gunports, to avoid ships becoming unstable. In Northern Europe the technique of building ships with clinker planking made it difficult to cut ports in the hull clinker-built (or clench-built) ships had much of their structural strength in the outer hull. The solution was the gradual adoption of carvel-built ships that relied on an internal skeleton structure to bear the weight of the ship. [27]

The first ships to actually mount heavy cannon capable of sinking ships were galleys, with large wrought-iron pieces mounted directly on the timbers in the bow. The first example is known from a woodcut of a Venetian galley from 1486. [28] Heavy artillery on galleys was mounted in the bow which fit conveniently with the long-standing tactical tradition of attacking head-on and bow-first. The ordnance on galleys was quite heavy from its introduction in the 1480s, and capable of quickly demolishing medieval-style stone walls that still prevailed until the 16th century. [29]

This temporarily upended the strength of older seaside fortresses, which had to be rebuilt to cope with gunpowder weapons. The addition of guns also improved the amphibious abilities of galleys as they could assault supported with heavy firepower, and could be even more effectively defended when beached stern-first. [29] Galleys and similar oared vessels remained uncontested as the most effective gun-armed warships in theory until the 1560s, and in practice for a few decades more, and were considered a grave risk to sailing warships. [30]

In the Medieval period, the mounted cavalry long held sway on the battlefield. Heavily armoured mounted knights represented a formidable foe for reluctant peasant draftees and lightly armoured freemen. To defeat mounted cavalry, infantry used swarms of missiles or a tightly packed phalanx of men, techniques honed in antiquity by the Greeks.

Swiss pikemen Edit

The use of long pikes and densely packed foot troops was not uncommon in the Middle Ages. The Flemish footmen at the Battle of the Golden Spurs met and overcame French knights in 1302, as the Lombards did in Legnano in 1176 and the Scots held their own against heavily armoured English cavalry. During the St. Louis crusade, dismounted French knights formed a tight lance-and-shield phalanx to repel Egyptian cavalry. The Swiss used pike tactics in the late medieval period. While pikemen usually grouped and awaited a mounted attack, the Swiss developed flexible formations and aggressive manoeuvring, forcing their opponents to respond. The Swiss won at Morgarten, Laupen, Sempach, Grandson and Murten, and between 1450 and 1550 every leading prince in Europe (except the English and Scottish) hired Swiss pikemen, or emulated their tactics and weapons (e.g., the German Landsknechte).

Welsh and English longbowmen Edit

The Welsh & English longbowman used a single-piece longbow (but some bows later developed a composite design) to deliver arrows that could penetrate contemporary mail and damage/dent plate armour. The longbow was a difficult weapon to master, requiring long years of use and constant practice. A skilled longbowman could shoot about 12 shots per minute. This rate of fire was far superior to competing weapons like the crossbow or early gunpowder weapons. The nearest competitor to the longbow was the much more expensive crossbow, used often by urban militias and mercenary forces. The crossbow had greater penetrating power and did not require the extended years of training. However, it lacked the rate of fire of the longbow. [31]

At Crécy and Agincourt bowmen unleashed clouds of arrows into the ranks of knights. At Crécy, even 5,000 Genoese crossbowmen could not dislodge them from their hill. At Agincourt, thousands of French knights were brought down by armour-piercing bodkin point arrows and horse-maiming broadheads. Longbowmen decimated an entire generation of the French nobility.

In 1326 the earliest known European picture of a gun appeared in a manuscript by Walter de Milemete. [32] In 1350, Petrarch wrote that the presence of cannons on the battlefield was 'as common and familiar as other kinds of arms'. [33]

Early artillery played a limited role in the Hundred Years' War, and it became indispensable in the Italian Wars of 1494–1559, marking the beginning of early modern warfare. Charles VIII, during his invasion of Italy, brought with him the first truly mobile siege train: culverins and bombards mounted on wheeled carriages, which could be deployed against an enemy stronghold immediately after arrival.

Arabs Edit

The initial Muslim conquests began in the 7th century after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and were marked by a century of rapid Arab expansion beyond the Arabian Peninsula under the Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates. Under the Rashidun, the Arabs conquered the Persian Empire, along with Roman Syria and Roman Egypt during the Byzantine-Arab Wars, all within just seven years from 633 to 640. Under the Umayyads, the Arabs annexed North Africa and southern Italy from the Romans and the Arab Empire soon stretched from parts of the Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Italy, to the Iberian Peninsula and the Pyrenees.

The early Arab army mainly consisted of camel-mounted infantry, alongside a few Bedouin cavalry. Constantly outnumbered by their opponent, they did, however, possess the advantage of strategic mobility, their camel-borne nature allowing them to constantly outmanoeuvre larger Byzantine and Sassanid armies to take prime defensive positions. The Rashidun cavalry, while lacking the number and mounted archery skill of their Roman and Persian counterparts was for the most part skillfully employed, and played a decisive role in many crucial battles such as Battle of Yarmouk.

In contrast, the Roman army and Persian army at the time both had large numbers of heavy infantry and heavy cavalry (cataphracts and clibanarii) that were better equipped, heavily protected, and more experienced and disciplined. The Arab invasions came at a time when both ancient powers were exhausted from the protracted Byzantine–Sassanid Wars, particularly the bitterly fought Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628 which had brought both empires close to collapse. Also, the typically multi-ethnic Byzantine force was always racked by dissension and lack of command unity, a similar situation also being encountered among the Sassanids who had been embroiled in a bitter civil war for a decade before the coming of the Arabs. In contrast, the Ridda Wars had forged the Caliphate's army into a united and loyal fighting force.

Hungarians Edit

Vikings Edit

The Vikings were a feared force in Europe because of their savagery and speed of their attacks. Whilst seaborne raids were nothing new at the time, the Vikings refined the practice to a science through their shipbuilding, tactics and training. [34] Unlike other raiders, the Vikings made a lasting impact on the face of Europe. During the Viking age, their expeditions, frequently combining raiding and trading, penetrated most of the old Frankish Empire, the British Isles, the Baltic region, Russia, and both Muslim and Christian Iberia. Many served as mercenaries, and the famed Varangian Guard, serving the Emperor of Constantinople, was drawn principally of Scandinavian warriors.

Viking longships were swift and easily manoeuvered they could navigate deep seas or shallow rivers, [34] and could carry warriors that could be rapidly deployed directly onto land due to the longships being able to land directly. The longship was the enabler of the Viking style of warfare that was fast and mobile, relying heavily on the element of surprise, [35] and they tended to capture horses for mobility rather than carry them on their ships. The usual method was to approach a target stealthily, strike with surprise and then retire swiftly. The tactics used were difficult to stop, for the Vikings, like guerrilla-style raiders elsewhere, deployed at a time and place of their choosing. The fully armoured Viking raider would wear an iron helmet and a mail hauberk, and fight with a combination of axe, sword, shield, spear or great "Danish" two-handed axe, although the typical raider would be unarmoured, carrying only a bow and arrows, a knife "seax", a shield and spear the swords and the axes were much less common. [ citation needed ]

Almost by definition, opponents of the Vikings were ill-prepared to fight a force that struck at will, with no warning. European countries with a weak system of government would be unable to organize a suitable response and would naturally suffer the most to Viking raiders. Viking raiders always had the option to fall back in the face of a superior force or stubborn defence and then reappear to attack other locations or retreat to their bases in what is now Sweden, Denmark, Norway and their Atlantic colonies. As time went on, Viking raids became more sophisticated, with coordinated strikes involving multiple forces and large armies, as the "Great Heathen Army" that ravaged Anglo-Saxon England in the 9th century. In time, the Vikings began to hold on to the areas they raided, first wintering and then consolidating footholds for further expansion later.

With the growth of centralized authority in the Scandinavian region, Viking raids, always an expression of "private enterprise", ceased and the raids became pure voyages of conquest. In 1066, King Harald Hardråde of Norway invaded England, only to be defeated by Harold Godwinson, who in turn was defeated by William of Normandy, descendant of the Viking Rollo, who had accepted Normandy as a fief from the Frankish king. The three rulers had their claims to the English crown (Harald probably primarily on the overlord-ship of Northumbria) and it was this that motivated the battles rather than the lure of plunder.

At that point, the Scandinavians had entered their medieval period and consolidated their kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This period marks the end of significant raider activity both for plunder or conquest. The resurgence of centralized authority throughout Europe limited opportunities for traditional raiding expeditions in the West, whilst the Christianisation of the Scandinavian kingdoms themselves encouraged them to direct their attacks against the still predominantly pagan regions of the eastern Baltic. The Scandinavians started adapting more continental European ways, whilst retaining an emphasis on naval power – the "Viking" clinker-built warship was used in the war until the 14th century at least. However, developments in shipbuilding elsewhere removed the advantage the Scandinavian countries had previously enjoyed at sea, whilst castle building throughout frustrated and eventually ended Viking raids. [36] [ clarification needed ] Natural trading and diplomatic links between Scandinavia and Continental Europe ensured that the Scandinavians kept up to date with continental developments in warfare.

The Scandinavian armies of the High Middle Ages followed the usual pattern of the Northern European armies, but with a stronger emphasis on infantry. The terrain of Scandinavia favoured heavy infantry, and whilst the nobles fought mounted in the continental fashion, the Scandinavian peasants formed a well-armed and well-armoured infantry, of which approximately 30% to 50% would be archers or crossbowmen. The crossbow, the flatbow and the longbow were especially popular in Sweden and Finland. The chainmail, the lamellar armour and the coat of plates were the usual Scandinavian infantry armour before the era of plate armour. [ citation needed ]

Mongols Edit

By 1241, having conquered large parts of Russia, the Mongols continued the invasion of Europe with a massive three-pronged advance, following the fleeing Cumans, who had established an uncertain alliance with King Bela IV of Hungary. They first invaded Poland, and finally, Hungary, culminating in the crushing defeat of the Hungarians in the Battle of Mohi. The Mongol aim seems to have consistently been to defeat the Hungarian-Cuman alliance. The Mongols raided across the borders to Austria and Bohemia in the summer when the Great Khan died, and the Mongol princes returned home to elect a new Great Khan.

The Golden Horde would frequently clash with Hungarians, Lithuanians and Poles in the thirteenth century, with two large raids in the 1260s and 1280s respectively. In 1284 the Hungarians repelled the last major raid into Hungary, and in 1287 the Poles repelled a raid against them. The instability in the Golden Horde seems to have quieted the western front of the Horde. Also, the large scale invasions and raiding that had previously characterized the expansion of the Mongols was cut short probably in some part due to the death of the last great Mongol leader, Tamerlane.

The Hungarians and Poles had responded to the mobile threat by extensive fortification-building, army reform in the form of better-armoured cavalry, and refusing battle unless they could control the site of the battlefield to deny the Mongols local superiority. The Lithuanians relied on their forested homelands for defence and used their cavalry for raiding into Mongol-dominated Russia. When attacking fortresses they would launch dead or diseased animals into fortresses to help spread disease.

Turks Edit

An early Turkic group, the Seljuks, were known for their cavalry archers. These fierce nomads were often raiding empires, such as the Byzantine Empire, and they scored several victories using mobility and timing to defeat the heavy cataphracts of the Byzantines.

One notable victory was at Manzikert, where conflict among the generals of the Byzantines gave the Turks the perfect opportunity to strike. They hit the cataphracts with arrows, and outmanoeuvred them, then rode down their less mobile infantry with light cavalry that used scimitars. When gunpowder was introduced, the Ottoman Turks of the Ottoman Empire hired the mercenaries that used the gunpowder weapons and obtained their instruction for the Janissaries. Out of these Ottoman soldiers rose the Janissaries (yeni ceri "new soldier"), from which they also recruited many of their heavy infantry. Along with the use of cavalry and early grenades, the Ottomans mounted an offensive in the early Renaissance period and attacked Europe, taking Constantinople by massed infantry assaults.

Like many other nomadic peoples, the Turks featured a core of heavy cavalry from the upper classes. These evolved into the Sipahis (feudal landholders similar to western knights and Byzantine pronoiai) and Qapukulu (door slaves, taken from youth like Janissaries and trained to be royal servants and elite soldiers, mainly cataphracts).


Medieval English Knights: 10 Things You Should Know

Illustration by dmavromatis (DeviantArt)

Posted By: Alok Bannerjee October 16, 2017

Our popular notion associates the medieval knight with the imagery of the heavily armored horseman fighting with flair and dominating his ‘lesser’ foes. And while part of this conception is true (in the 11th and 12th centuries), the martial aspect of knights, especially in England, morphed in the later medieval centuries. In other words, the English knights of the late Middle Ages perceived themselves more as a social class (with its own hierarchy) of a burgeoning kingdom rather than a band of elite warriors serving the realm. So without further ado, let us take a gander at ten things one should know about the English knights of the 13th century.

1. The Familia –

Illustration from Winchester Bible, c. 1175 AD. Source: Pinterest

The Germanic tribal warlords and ‘kings’ had their chosen followers who were offered the high-ranks of hearthweru (or heath-guard) warriors. The Frankish battle-hardened scarae followed this tradition and so did the lordly class of 13th century England. In the latter’s case, these household warriors were known as the familia, and as such consisted of a core body of troops (both knights and squires) who were close to their lord or king. In essence, this elite retinue of mounted-warriors contributed to a logistically advantageous situation, especially in marches and areas that saw frequent skirmishes.

Suffice it to say, in most cases, the familia was very well armed and armored, with the king’s very own familia forming the nucleus of his royal army. A muster list from circa 1225 AD showed how Henry III himself could only raise a force of around 100 household knights, and they were accompanied by the royal squires, sergeants and their own personal squires – thus possibly amounting to a king’s elite retinue of around 300-350 men. And it should be noted that this number rather increased with the passing of the decades.

Now like their predecessors, the familia were given their fair share of remuneration and rations (as opposed to a consistent salary), with bannerets (high-ranking English knights who fought under their own banner) receiving 4 shillings and ordinary English knights receiving 2 shillings (which was increased to 3 on active duty). On occasions, the lord even passed down his heirlooms to his closest household knights, thus suggesting the two-way nature of oaths of fealty.

2. The Mercenary Side of Affairs –

Illustration by Graham Turner, for Osprey Publishing.

A unique military arrangement in 13th century England led to the employment and formation of mercenary companies that were counted among the ‘complementary’ units that formed the royal detachments. And while Magna Carta sought to expel most of these foreign warriors, the English kings continued to actively recruit mercenaries for their foreign campaigns. For example, in 1230 AD, Henry III himself may have hired over 1,500 mercenaries (with 500 of them being knights) in Poitou, west-central France. Similarly, in 1282 AD, his successor Edward I (also known as Edward Longshanks) employed some 1,500 crossbowmen from Gascony, and they vastly outnumbered his paltry 245 mounted household warriors (comprising both royal English knights and squires).

On the other hand, the royal household warriors along with their attachments of mercenaries often formed the majority of the familia warriors on the battlefield. For example, the dwindling nature of the forces mustered by the English feudal lords was mirrored by their scant numbers at the famous Battle of Falkirk in 1298 AD. To that end, Edward I brought forth 800 of his own men comprising his familia troops and mercenaries, and they were accompanied by only 564 household warriors fielded by the other nobles of England. These 1300-1400 elite troops formed the core of the army that possibly comprised around 15,000 total men.

3. The ‘Shield’ Of Scutage –

The feudal system brought to England by the Normans essentially alluded to a simple enough scope where magnates and lords received lands from the king in return for military service. In fact, it was this very same societal mechanism that fueled the rise of the European knights in 11th century AD. Now theoretically these magnates were expected to appear in person with their full quota of knights and retinue when called upon by the king. But as always, the practicality of the evolving hierarchy of society (sometimes defined by economic means) impeded what was seemingly a fair-enough system for the nobles. Simply put, due to a combination of economic situations and lack of martial interests, many of these nobles and bannerets didn’t prefer to answer their king’s call to arms.

And their solution came forth in the form of the scutage or ‘shield money’, which basically entailed a tax or fine paid by the magnate in lieu of offering military service. Rather than outfitting their retinue with expensive equipment and then personally leading them into service, many of the English lords favored this less-intrusive (and sometimes less costly) alternative of paying scutage for obvious reasons. To that end, it is estimated that by the early 13th century, around 80 percent of the total 5,000 English knights preferred to pay scutage instead of offering direct military service.

This incredible scope partly explains the 13th century English monarchs’ penchant for employing mercenaries, who could be paid through funds derived from the substantial scutage money. In fact, after the first Welsh War in 1277 AD, King Edward I ordered his sheriffs to collect scutage money of 40 shillings per knight fee. And while the ‘shield money’ could sometimes get in the way of gathering the required manpower for battles, feudal troops under their magnates (tenants-in-chief) were often directly pressed into service for the king (or paid by the end of the century) to overcome such periodic shortages.

4. The Different ‘Knightly’ Roles –

We mentioned in one of our previous articles about the medieval knight –

The very term ‘medieval knight’ is a pretty generic one, and their roles across the realms and fiefs of Europe differed considerably, especially when it came to the administrative and land-holding side of affairs. In essence, the role of a knight extended far beyond the battlefield and ranged into seemingly mundane avenues like petty judges, political advisers to even glorified farmers (at least in the initial years of 11th century).

The same held true for the English knights of the 13th century. Some of these knights, obligated by the feudal structure, had to unceremoniously serve as castle guards, instead of ideally winning their martial renown on actual battlefields. On other occasions, knights of the shire were expected to preside over judgments entailing prosaic land settlements and on-site inspections. In a few cases, the knights even acted as local police when they took up the responsibility of apprehending and guarding suspected felons.

5. English Knights and The Magna Carta Effect –

King John signing the Magna Carta. Credit: North Wind Picture Archives, Alamy

As we discussed earlier, the shift in the feudal paradigm of medieval England mirrored the reluctance of the majority of nobles and magnates to be associated with strenuous military affairs, especially related to the campaigns conducted outside the homeland. In the years leading up to the Magna Carta, many a lord simply didn’t provide his quota of mounted warriors (including English knights and squires) on the pretext of rising costs of equipment and armor – which in some cases were true. And the charter of Magna Carta in 1215 AD rather momentously magnified the ‘rights’ of such high-ranking nobles, who could now bargain their way into furnishing reduced quotas or at least inflated quotas (that even included countesses).

The Magna Carta also heralded the end of what was considered (by the majority of the magnates) as the ‘obsolete’ feudal notion of leading ones’ retinue in person. This combined with their hesitation to provide their required number of warriors resulted in a paltry number of English knights being called to arms, with the total figure equating to only around 600 in 1229 AD.

However, ironically, in many ways, such limitations were beneficial for the English crown in the long run. The first reason being that the greater number of knights a noble could muster directly alluded to his increasing political influence, which in turn could prove to be a detriment to the centralized royal power base. Secondly, the lack of quota fulfillment from the nobles provided the crown with the leverage to demand scutage, which as we mentioned earlier was diverted to raise professional mercenary armies whose loyalty laid with the royal treasury (as opposed to personal preferences and aversions).

6. The Paid Lords and Knights –

The panoply of a mid-13th century English Knight. Illustration by Graham Turner, for Osprey Publishing.

The healthy finances governed by the English crown in the late 13th century brought on by increased taxes, duties, and Italian mercantile credits also allowed the kings to directly pay some lords and their knights, even after their customary 40-day feudal service was over. In essence, these paid English knights (not to be confused with the remunerated household knights) bridged the gap between feudal warriors and outright mercenaries. It should be noted however that the latter tag was often perceived as a derogatory term by most native magnates, who still believed in or at least kept up the pretense of their noble lineage and heraldry.

In any case, this practice of military service in exchange for direct salary (or pay) was particularly evident during the last decades of the 13th century, under the reign of Edward I. Circumventing the muddled nature of feudal obligations and personal vendettas, the king essentially managed to create a significant part of a standing army that could be deployed for foreign campaigns on moment’s notice. To that end, it is estimated that almost one-third of the English army (of the 1290s) comprised such paid retinues, with the horsemen being provided with their own armor, weapons, and horses – all equipped by the crown. All in all, at the turn of the century, Edward I could probably muster about 4,000 mounted-warriors, comprising knights, sergeants and squires – and a good percentage of them fell under the ‘paid’ category.

7. The Unsung Squire –

Medieval squires serving food at a banquet. Source: Medieval Chronicles

Till now, we have talked about the political aspect surrounding the English knights of the 13th century. But when it comes to the martial ambit, much like the Spartan agoge, there was a process to becoming a medieval knight. By the 13th century, such a procedure became more-or-less uniform throughout Europe, with the 10-year old boy (or sometimes even 7-year old) usually of noble lineage being sent away to the household of the lord. Here he became a page, thus basically taking up the role of a servant boy who ran errands. At the same time, he was given lessons in writing, music, and handling of basic weapons. The latter part was adopted through various games and competitions that encouraged the boy to take up arms and maneuver them.

By the age of 14, the boy was expected to become a sturdily built teenager with a propensity for loyalty and martial discipline. During this period, his rank was upgraded to a squire, which made him responsible for looking after the arms, armor, and equipment of his superior knight (two squires were usually allotted to an English knight). Suffice it to say, the squire’s training also became more rigorous, with more focus on rules of tactics for horse-mounted combat and as a result, even injuries became commonplace. Furthermore, some squires were also expected to hold their own in actual battlefields – which made their training dangerous while keeping up the spirit of ‘adventure’.

Pertaining to the last part, during the phase of an ongoing battle, one of the squires performed the duty of passing the lance and shield to his master, while the other held down the horses. Even during charges, some of the squires were expected to follow their lords in spare horses, if not to take part in the brutal clash, but to at least aid their masters in case the English knights were dismounted from their warhorses. Such real-time experiences, combined with rigorous training, forged the temperament and martial ability of many a squire – who were soon to become knights themselves.

8. The Ceremony –

Source: Pinterest

Between the age of 18 to 21, the successful squire was ‘dubbed’ as a knight. The honor could be theoretically bestowed by any fellow knight, but the ceremony was usually reserved for the lord of the squire’s household (and rarely even the king himself, if the squire was brought up in the royal court). Now on practical occasions, some squires were inducted into the knightly ranks on just the eve of battle, as means to bolster their morale, while few others were dubbed so after the battle as rewards for their courageous actions.

Initially (before the 12th century), these dubbing scenarios entailed humble affairs with the lord slapping the newly assigned knight on his neck and then uttering a few quick words. However, by the later middle ages, circa 13th century, the achievement of knighthood took a more ceremonious turn, with the church indulging in various emblematic and crowd-friendly festivities. For example, the young man himself was draped in specific attires and accouterments, each with their symbolic undertone – like a white tunic and belt indicating purity, a red cloak symbolizing the blood (of enemies) he will spill, and brown stockings that embodied the earth he will ultimately return to.

Interestingly enough, the very shape of the sword also carried forth an allegorical scope – as must have been identified by the church. That is because it resembled the cruciform with the crossguard cutting a right angle across the grip which extends into the blade. Such imagery must have played its psychological role in bolstering many a spiritual medieval knight.

However, beyond such symbolic affairs and rituals, the newly dubbed knight (and his family) was also expected to give a feast, and on occasions (when it came to richer nobles) even arrange a tournament. But over time, the cost of accommodating such ‘festivities’ became too expensive to bear for many of the ordinary knights – so much so that the impending ceremony forced some candidates to even forego their knighthood. And once again reverting to Magna Carta, there was a particular clause that gave many of the nobles the right to ask their tenants to pay for the ceremony when it came to the knighting of their eldest sons.

9. The Forcible Call –

Source: Pinterest

As we can gather from the earlier entries, there was a reluctance from the majority of 13th century English nobles and knights to join the military cause (due to several reasons). And again treading the route of practicality, this did cause the crown some logistical predicaments on occasions when there was the need for armored and experienced warriors (or at least scutage money). During such scenarios, the king could, in fact, invoke what is known as the distraint of knighthood.

Simply put, the crown, on rare situations, did forcibly call upon landholders to join the ranks of knighthood. Such demands were expected to be met within a particular timeframe, often entailing a few months. For example, in 1241 AD, one such crown-sanctioned order called upon men with lands worth more than £20. Similarly, in 1282 AD, the order instructed men with properties worth more than £30 to equip themselves with armor and horses, regardless of their knightly status. And interestingly, by 1292 AD, all free men who had over £40 worth of property, were ordered to be knighted, thus suggesting how wealth, as opposed to lineage, was the deciding factor when it came to the societal evolution of English knights.

10. The Paradoxical Notion of Medieval Knightly Ideals –

An early 13th century English Knight. Illustration by Graham Turner, for Osprey Publishing.

Now the concept of the medieval knight fighting for spoils and renown held true for many of the early free landholders of 11th century Europe. But this notion was considered somewhat anachronistic in 13th century England. And while the martial tradition of English knights declined, their penchant for being recognized as an elite class within the society rather increased, perhaps out of desperation. In essence, their value as military assets was gradually replaced by a more professional standing army, and thus it heralded the transition of English knights to an economic class with more wealth than the commoners. This seemingly unflattering scope (as perceived in those times) paradoxically fueled the need for such English nobles and knights to flaunt their status as a still-relevant feudal power base.

Such ‘flaunting’ measures were mirrored by the various customs adopted by the English knights and lords. For example, they looked down upon the consumption of green vegetables, while preferring their meat and fish-based protein-rich diets. Some of the rich magnates made use of personal seals that usually depicted them as warriors sitting astride warhorses, thus alluding to an embellished scenario which was a far cry from the realpolitik workings of the contemporary period.

The ideas of chivalry (a word derived from French cheval – meaning ‘horse’) rather reinforced such ‘pretentious’ attitudes, by overcompensating for the depreciating martial capacity of many such lords and knights. Other knightly traditions went beyond battlefields to include positive social customs, like never giving evil counsel to a lady and treating her with respect.

But such codes of conduct necessarily didn’t mean that every medieval knight followed them to stringent levels. In many cases, it was found that English knights largely instigated plundering and looting after battles – actions that were against chivalric traditions. But they did it for practical (and profitable) reasons rather than willfully going against codes of conduct encompassing chivalry. And lastly, the church also played an important role in ‘modifying’ many chivalry codes that obviously suited its purposes, like upholding Christian values and duties that would have inspired some English knights to participate in crusades.

Honorable Mention – Brotherhood in Arms

Source: Pinterest

Epitomizing the contemporary perception of English knights who saw themselves as a separate social entity within the kingdom, the brotherhood in arms pertains to a pretty common agreement that usually involved two high-ranking members of the knightly class. Designed as a mutual agreement, it called upon the knights to support each other in all occasions except for duties owed to the English crown. In other words, the agreement encompassed a chivalry-bound partnership of sorts where each knight had the right to share the gains and also the burdens of the other party.

Book References: English Medieval Knight 1200-1300 (By Christopher Gravett) / Nobles, Knights and Men-at-Arms in the Middle Ages (By Maurice Keen) / Knight the Warrior and World of Chivalry (By Robert Jones)

Featured Image Illustration by dmavromatis (DeviantArt)

And in case we have not attributed or misattributed any image, artwork or photograph, we apologize in advance. Please let us know via the ‘Contact Us’ link, provided both above the top bar and at the bottom bar of the page.


Comparison

My theory is that this is pretty much the same type of bed gear you would have at home. When looking at wills (written by civilians) from Sweden, Germany and England the picture is similar:

  • A bed
  • Three feather pillows
  • Two pair of sheets
  • A head pillow
  • A cover

(Lüneburg, Germany, 1406 – the will of a burgher)

  • A mattress
  • A coverlet
  • 2 blankets
  • A pair of linnen sheets
  • A linnen pillowcase

(York, England, 1425 – the will of a peasant)

(York, England, 1454 – the will of a burgher)

(Lödöse, Sweden, 1362 – the will of a burgher)

  • Two mattresses
  • Linnen sheets
  • Pillows
  • Two bolster pillows
  • Blankets

(Skänninge, Sweden, 1358 – the will of a nun)

How can I use this?

I am reenacting a soldier of common birth. I would probably not have the possibility to bring my Heerbedde on campaign contrary to the Minesterialis, knights or wealthy merchants, I wouldn’t have the means to transport it all.

If we take a look at the comparison directly above however, it’s obvious that even a peasant had a reasonably comfy bed at home (which differs little from the bed used by someone sailing on a merchant ship). When looking at the wills of nobles, there is not much that differs in terms of actual parts of the bed – nobles too have a mattress, a cover, pillows, bolster pillow and sheets – even when sleeping in their homes.

What differs is the materials used. A nobleman would have used silk and fine linnen, beautifully embroidered covers and pillows stuffed with down, whereas a person of lower means perhaps would have used a coarser linnen for sheets, some simpler, unadorned blankets and a mattress and a pillow stuffed with straw or raw wool.

What I am getting at, is that these objects were considered ”normal” for a bed, and everything else was counted as an anomaly. This means that everyone strived to sleep as they were used to, and if they were stationary at the same place for any length of time, I find it probable that they tried to put together the best bed they could get their hands on – even if the result was rather a makeshift bed than a bed fit for a prince.

In other words, my theory is that it isn’t wrong for someone reenacting soldier or people of lesser means to have something similar to a Heerbedde.


Contents

The word knight, from Old English cniht ("boy" or "servant"), [8] is a cognate of the German word Knecht ("servant, bondsman, vassal"). [9] This meaning, of unknown origin, is common among West Germanic languages (cf Old Frisian kniucht, Dutch knecht, Danish knægt, Swedish knekt, Norwegian knekt, Middle High German kneht, all meaning "boy, youth, lad"). [8] Middle High German had the phrase guoter kneht, which also meant knight but this meaning was in decline by about 1200. [10]

The meaning of cniht changed over time from its original meaning of "boy" to "household retainer". Ælfric's homily of St. Swithun describes a mounted retainer as a cniht. While cnihtas might have fought alongside their lords, their role as household servants features more prominently in the Anglo-Saxon texts. In several Anglo-Saxon wills cnihtas are left either money or lands. In his will, King Æthelstan leaves his cniht, Aelfmar, eight hides of land. [11]

A rādcniht, "riding-servant", was a servant on horseback. [12]

A narrowing of the generic meaning "servant" to "military follower of a king or other superior" is visible by 1100. The specific military sense of a knight as a mounted warrior in the heavy cavalry emerges only in the Hundred Years' War. The verb "to knight" (to make someone a knight) appears around 1300 and, from the same time, the word "knighthood" shifted from "adolescence" to "rank or dignity of a knight".

An Equestrian (Latin, from eques "horseman", from equus "horse") [13] was a member of the second highest social class in the Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. This class is often translated as "knight" the medieval knight, however, was called miles in Latin (which in classical Latin meant "soldier", normally infantry). [14] [15] [16]

In the later Roman Empire, the classical Latin word for horse, equus, was replaced in common parlance by the vulgar Latin caballus, sometimes thought to derive from Gaulish caballos. [17] From caballus arose terms in the various Romance languages cognate with the (French-derived) English cavalier: Italian cavaliere, Spanish caballero, French chevalier (whence chivalry), Portuguese cavaleiro, and Romanian cavaler. [18] The Germanic languages have terms cognate with the English rider: German Ritter, and Dutch and Scandinavian ridder. These words are derived from Germanic rīdan, "to ride", in turn derived from the Proto-Indo-European root reidh-. [19]

Pre-Carolingian legacies Edit

In ancient Rome there was a knightly class Ordo Equestris (order of mounted nobles). Some portions of the armies of Germanic peoples who occupied Europe from the 3rd century AD onward had been mounted, and some armies, such as those of the Ostrogoths, were mainly cavalry. [20] However, it was the Franks who generally fielded armies composed of large masses of infantry, with an infantry elite, the comitatus, which often rode to battle on horseback rather than marching on foot. When the armies of the Frankish ruler Charles Martel defeated the Umayyad Arab invasion at the Battle of Tours in 732, the Frankish forces were still largely infantry armies, with elites riding to battle but dismounting to fight.

Carolingian age Edit

In the Early Medieval period any well-equipped horseman could be described as a knight, or miles in Latin. [21] The first knights appeared during the reign of Charlemagne in the 8th century. [22] [23] [24] As the Carolingian Age progressed, the Franks were generally on the attack, and larger numbers of warriors took to their horses to ride with the Emperor in his wide-ranging campaigns of conquest. At about this time the Franks increasingly remained on horseback to fight on the battlefield as true cavalry rather than mounted infantry, with the discovery of the stirrup, and would continue to do so for centuries afterwards. [25] Although in some nations the knight returned to foot combat in the 14th century, the association of the knight with mounted combat with a spear, and later a lance, remained a strong one. The older Carolingian ceremony of presenting a young man with weapons influenced the emergence of knighthood ceremonies, in which a noble would be ritually given weapons and declared to be a knight, usually amid some festivities. [26]

These mobile mounted warriors made Charlemagne's far-flung conquests possible, and to secure their service he rewarded them with grants of land called benefices. [22] These were given to the captains directly by the Emperor to reward their efforts in the conquests, and they in turn were to grant benefices to their warrior contingents, who were a mix of free and unfree men. In the century or so following Charlemagne's death, his newly empowered warrior class grew stronger still, and Charles the Bald declared their fiefs to be hereditary, and also issued the Edict of Pîtres in 864, largely moving away from the infantry-based traditional armies and calling upon all men who could afford it to answer calls to arms on horseback to quickly repel the constant and wide-ranging Viking attacks, which is considered the beginnings of the period of knights that were to become so famous and spread throughout Europe in the following centuries. The period of chaos in the 9th and 10th centuries, between the fall of the Carolingian central authority and the rise of separate Western and Eastern Frankish kingdoms (later to become France and Germany respectively) only entrenched this newly landed warrior class. This was because governing power and defense against Viking, Magyar and Saracen attack became an essentially local affair which revolved around these new hereditary local lords and their demesnes. [23]

Multiple Crusades Edit

Clerics and the Church often opposed the practices of the Knights because of their abuses against women and civilians, and many such as St. Bernard, were convinced that the Knights served the devil and not God and needed reforming. [27] In the course of the 12th century knighthood became a social rank, with a distinction being made between milites gregarii (non-noble cavalrymen) and milites nobiles (true knights). [28] As the term "knight" became increasingly confined to denoting a social rank, the military role of fully armoured cavalryman gained a separate term, "man-at-arms". Although any medieval knight going to war would automatically serve as a man-at-arms, not all men-at-arms were knights. The first military orders of knighthood were the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and the Knights Hospitaller, both founded shortly after the First Crusade of 1099, followed by the Order of Saint Lazarus (1100), Knights Templars (1118) and the Teutonic Knights (1190). At the time of their foundation, these were intended as monastic orders, whose members would act as simple soldiers protecting pilgrims. It was only over the following century, with the successful conquest of the Holy Land and the rise of the crusader states, that these orders became powerful and prestigious.

The great European legends of warriors such as the paladins, the Matter of France and the Matter of Britain popularized the notion of chivalry among the warrior class. [29] [30] The ideal of chivalry as the ethos of the Christian warrior, and the transmutation of the term "knight" from the meaning "servant, soldier", and of chevalier "mounted soldier", to refer to a member of this ideal class, is significantly influenced by the Crusades, on one hand inspired by the military orders of monastic warriors, and on the other hand also cross-influenced by Islamic (Saracen) ideals of furusiyya. [30] [31]

Training Edit

The institution of knights was already well-established by the 10th century. [32] While the knight was essentially a title denoting a military office, the term could also be used for positions of higher nobility such as landholders. The higher nobles grant the vassals their portions of land (fiefs) in return for their loyalty, protection, and service. The nobles also provided their knights with necessities, such as lodging, food, armour, weapons, horses, and money. [33] The knight generally held his lands by military tenure which was measured through military service that usually lasted 40 days a year. The military service was the quid pro quo for each knight's fief. Vassals and lords could maintain any number of knights, although knights with more military experience were those most sought after. Thus, all petty nobles intending to become prosperous knights needed a great deal of military experience. [32] A knight fighting under another's banner was called a knight bachelor while a knight fighting under his own banner was a knight banneret.

Page Edit

A knight had to be born of nobility – typically sons of knights or lords. [33] In some cases commoners could also be knighted as a reward for extraordinary military service. Children of the nobility were cared for by noble foster-mothers in castles until they reached age seven.

The seven-year-old boys were given the title of page and turned over to the care of the castle's lords. They were placed on an early training regime of hunting with huntsmen and falconers, and academic studies with priests or chaplains. Pages then become assistants to older knights in battle, carrying and cleaning armour, taking care of the horses, and packing the baggage. They would accompany the knights on expeditions, even into foreign lands. Older pages were instructed by knights in swordsmanship, equestrianism, chivalry, warfare, and combat (but using wooden swords and spears).

Squire Edit

When the boy turned 15, he became a squire. In a religious ceremony, the new squire swore on a sword consecrated by a bishop or priest, and attended to assigned duties in his lord's household. During this time the squires continued training in combat and were allowed to own armour (rather than borrowing it).

Squires were required to master the “seven points of agilities” – riding, swimming and diving, shooting different types of weapons, climbing, participation in tournaments, wrestling, fencing, long jumping, and dancing – the prerequisite skills for knighthood. All of these were even performed while wearing armour. [34]

Upon turning 21, the squire was eligible to be knighted.

Accolade Edit

The accolade or knighting ceremony was usually held during one of the great feasts or holidays, like Christmas or Easter, and sometimes at the wedding of a noble or royal. The knighting ceremony usually involved a ritual bath on the eve of the ceremony and a prayer vigil during the night. On the day of the ceremony, the would-be knight would swear an oath and the master of the ceremony would dub the new knight on the shoulders with a sword. [32] [33] Squires, and even soldiers, could also be conferred direct knighthood early if they showed valor and efficiency for their service such acts may include deploying for an important quest or mission, or protecting a high diplomat or a royal relative in battle.

Chivalric code Edit

Knights were expected, above all, to fight bravely and to display military professionalism and courtesy. When knights were taken as prisoners of war, they were customarily held for ransom in somewhat comfortable surroundings. This same standard of conduct did not apply to non-knights (archers, peasants, foot-soldiers, etc.) who were often slaughtered after capture, and who were viewed during battle as mere impediments to knights' getting to other knights to fight them. [35]

Chivalry developed as an early standard of professional ethics for knights, who were relatively affluent horse owners and were expected to provide military services in exchange for landed property. Early notions of chivalry entailed loyalty to one's liege lord and bravery in battle, similar to the values of the Heroic Age. During the Middle Ages, this grew from simple military professionalism into a social code including the values of gentility, nobility and treating others reasonably. [36] In The Song of Roland (c. 1100), Roland is portrayed as the ideal knight, demonstrating unwavering loyalty, military prowess and social fellowship. In Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (c. 1205), chivalry had become a blend of religious duties, love and military service. Ramon Llull's Book of the Order of Chivalry (1275) demonstrates that by the end of the 13th century, chivalry entailed a litany of very specific duties, including riding warhorses, jousting, attending tournaments, holding Round Tables and hunting, as well as aspiring to the more æthereal virtues of "faith, hope, charity, justice, strength, moderation and loyalty." [37]

Knights of the late medieval era were expected by society to maintain all these skills and many more, as outlined in Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, though the book's protagonist, Count Ludovico, states the "first and true profession" of the ideal courtier "must be that of arms." [38] Chivalry, derived from the French word chevalier ('cavalier'), simultaneously denoted skilled horsemanship and military service, and these remained the primary occupations of knighthood throughout the Middle Ages.

Chivalry and religion were mutually influenced during the period of the Crusades. The early Crusades helped to clarify the moral code of chivalry as it related to religion. As a result, Christian armies began to devote their efforts to sacred purposes. As time passed, clergy instituted religious vows which required knights to use their weapons chiefly for the protection of the weak and defenseless, especially women and orphans, and of churches. [39]

Tournaments Edit

In peacetime, knights often demonstrated their martial skills in tournaments, which usually took place on the grounds of a castle. [40] [41] Knights can parade their armour and banner to the whole court as the tournament commenced. Medieval tournaments were made up of martial sports called hastiludes, and were not only a major spectator sport but also played as a real combat simulation. It usually ended with many knights either injured or even killed. One contest was a free-for-all battle called a melee, where large groups of knights numbering hundreds assembled and fought one another, and the last knight standing was the winner. The most popular and romanticized contest for knights was the joust. In this competition, two knights charge each other with blunt wooden lances in an effort to break their lance on the opponent's head or body or unhorse them completely. The loser in these tournaments had to turn his armour and horse over to the victor. The last day was filled with feasting, dancing and minstrel singing.

Besides formal tournaments, they were also unformalized judicial duels done by knights and squires to end various disputes. [42] [43] Countries like Germany, Britain and Ireland practiced this tradition. Judicial combat was of two forms in medieval society, the feat of arms and chivalric combat. [42] The feat of arms were done to settle hostilities between two large parties and supervised by a judge. The chivalric combat was fought when one party's honor was disrespected or challenged and the conflict could not be resolved in court. Weapons were standardized and must be of the same caliber. The duel lasted until the other party was too weak to fight back and in early cases, the defeated party were then subsequently executed. Examples of these brutal duels were the judicial combat known as the Combat of the Thirty in 1351, and the trial by combat fought by Jean de Carrouges in 1386. A far more chivalric duel which became popular in the Late Middle Ages was the pas d'armes or "passage of arms". In this hastilude, a knight or a group of knights would claim a bridge, lane or city gate, and challenge other passing knights to fight or be disgraced. [44] If a lady passed unescorted, she would leave behind a glove or scarf, to be rescued and returned to her by a future knight who passed that way.

Heraldry Edit

One of the greatest distinguishing marks of the knightly class was the flying of coloured banners, to display power and to distinguish knights in battle and in tournaments. [45] Knights are generally armigerous (bearing a coat of arms), and indeed they played an essential role in the development of heraldry. [46] [47] As heavier armour, including enlarged shields and enclosed helmets, developed in the Middle Ages, the need for marks of identification arose, and with coloured shields and surcoats, coat armoury was born. Armorial rolls were created to record the knights of various regions or those who participated in various tournaments.

Equipments Edit

Knights used a variety of weapons, including maces, axes and swords. Elements of the knightly armour included helmet, cuirass, gauntlet and shield.

The sword was a weapon designed to be used solely in combat and was useless in hunting and impractical as a tool. Therefore, a sword was a status symbol among the knightly class. Swords were effective against lightly armoured enemies meanwhile maces and warhammers were more effective against heavily armoured ones. [48] : 85–86

One of the primary elements of the armour of a knight was a shield. They used shields to block strikes and stop the missile attacks. Oval shields were used during the Dark Ages which were made of wooden boards and they were roughly half an inch thick. Quite short before the 11th century, oval shield was lengthened to cover the left knee of the mounted warrior. They used triangular shield during the 13th and the first half of the 14th century. Around 1350, square like shields appeared which had a hatch to place the couched lance. [48] : 15

Early knights mostly wore mail armor. Mail was flexible and provided good protection against sword cuts, but weak against crushing blows. Padded undergarment known as aketon was worn to absorb shock damage and prevent chafing caused by mail. In hotter climates metal rings became too hot, so sleeveless surcoat was worn as a protection against the sun. Later, they started to wear plate armour which offered better protection against arrows and especially bolts than mail armour did. [48] : 15–17 Their horses also wore armor, called barding.

Knights and the ideals of knighthood featured largely in medieval and Renaissance literature, and have secured a permanent place in literary romance. [49] While chivalric romances abound, particularly notable literary portrayals of knighthood include The Song of Roland, Cantar de Mio Cid, The Twelve of England, Geoffrey Chaucer's The Knight's Tale, Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, and Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, as well as Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and other Arthurian tales (Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, the Pearl Poet's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc.).

Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), written in the 1130s, introduced the legend of King Arthur, which was to be important to the development of chivalric ideals in literature. Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur), written in 1469, was important in defining the ideal of chivalry, which is essential to the modern concept of the knight, as an elite warrior sworn to uphold the values of faith, loyalty, courage, and honour.

Instructional literature was also created. Geoffroi de Charny's "Book of Chivalry" expounded upon the importance of Christian faith in every area of a knight's life, though still laying stress on the primarily military focus of knighthood.

In the early Renaissance greater emphasis was laid upon courtliness. The ideal courtier—the chivalrous knight—of Baldassarre Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier became a model of the ideal virtues of nobility. [50] Castiglione's tale took the form of a discussion among the nobility of the court of the Duke of Urbino, in which the characters determine that the ideal knight should be renowned not only for his bravery and prowess in battle, but also as a skilled dancer, athlete, singer and orator, and he should also be well-read in the humanities and classical Greek and Latin literature. [51]

Later Renaissance literature, such as Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote, rejected the code of chivalry as unrealistic idealism. [52] The rise of Christian humanism in Renaissance literature demonstrated a marked departure from the chivalric romance of late medieval literature, and the chivalric ideal ceased to influence literature over successive centuries until it saw some pockets of revival in post-Victorian literature.

By the end of the 16th century, knights were becoming obsolete as countries started creating their own professional armies that were quicker to train, cheaper, and easier to mobilize. [53] [54] The advancement of high-powered firearms contributed greatly to the decline in use of plate armour, as the time it took to train soldiers with guns was much less compared to that of the knight. The cost of equipment was also significantly lower, and guns had a reasonable chance to easily penetrate a knight's armour. In the 14th century the use of infantrymen armed with pikes and fighting in close formation also proved effective against heavy cavalry, such as during the Battle of Nancy, when Charles the Bold and his armoured cavalry were decimated by Swiss pikemen. [55] As the feudal system came to an end, lords saw no further use of knights. Many landowners found the duties of knighthood too expensive and so contented themselves with the use of squires. Mercenaries also became an economic alternative to knights when conflicts arose.

Armies of the time started adopting a more realistic approach to warfare than the honor-bound code of chivalry. Soon, the remaining knights were absorbed into professional armies. Although they had a higher rank than most soldiers because of their valuable lineage, they lost their distinctive identity that previously set them apart from common soldiers. [53] Some knightly orders survived into modern times. They adopted newer technology while still retaining their age-old chivalric traditions. Examples include the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, Knights Hospitaller and Teutonic Knights. [56]

When chivalry had long since declined, the cavalry of the early modern era clung to the old ideals. Even the first fighter pilots of the First World War, even in the 20th century, still resorted to knightly ideas in their duels in the sky, aimed at fairness and honesty. At least such chivalry was spread in the media. This idea was then completely lost in later wars or was perverted by Nazi Germany, which awarded a "Knight's Cross" as an award. [57] [58] Conversely, the Austrian priest and resistance fighter Heinrich Maier is referred to as Miles Christi, a Christian knight against Nazi Germany. [59]

While on the one hand attempts are made again and again to revive or restore old knightly orders in order to gain prestige, awards and financial advantages, on the other hand old orders continue to exist or are activated. This especially in the environment of ruling or formerly ruling noble houses. For example, the British Queen Elizabeth II regularly appoints new members to the Order of the British Empire, which also includes members such as Steven Spielberg, Nelson Mandela and Bill Gates, in the 21st century. [60] [61] [62] In Central Europe, for example, the Order of St. George, whose roots go back to the so-called "last knight" Emperor Maximilian I, was reactivated by the House of Habsburg after its dissolution by Nazi Germany and the fall of the Iron Curtain. [63] [64] And in republican France, deserved personalities are highlighted to this day by the award of the Knight of Honor (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur - Legion of Honour). [65] [66] [67] In contrast, the knights of the ecclesiastical knightly orders like the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Order of Saint John mainly devote themselves to social tasks and care. [68]

The journalist Alexander von Schönburg dealt with nature and the possible necessity of chivalry. In view of the complete social disorientation of the people he diagnosed, he calls for a return to virtues such as modesty, wisdom and, above all, loyalty. For, according to him, the common creed today is roughness, ignorance and egocentrism. [69] Vinzenz Stimpfl-Abele, Procurator of the Habsburg Order of St. George, goes back to Bernhard von Clairvaux to consider the importance of knights in the 21st century. Accordingly, knights must take an active part in the fight against misery in society, especially today. [70] The current activities of the Knights of the Order of Malta and the Order of St. John, who since the beginning of the 20th century have increasingly provided extensive medical and charitable services during wars and peacetime, have also developed in this direction. [68]

Hereditary knighthoods Edit

Continental Europe Edit

In continental Europe different systems of hereditary knighthood have existed or do exist. Ridder, Dutch for "knight", is a hereditary noble title in the Netherlands. It is the lowest title within the nobility system and ranks below that of "Baron" but above "Jonkheer" (the latter is not a title, but a Dutch honorific to show that someone belongs to the untitled nobility). The collective term for its holders in a certain locality is the Ridderschap (e.g. Ridderschap van Holland, Ridderschap van Friesland, etc.). In the Netherlands no female equivalent exists. Before 1814, the history of nobility is separate for each of the eleven provinces that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In each of these, there were in the early Middle Ages a number of feudal lords who often were just as powerful, and sometimes more so than the rulers themselves. In old times, no other title existed but that of knight. In the Netherlands only 10 knightly families are still extant, a number which steadily decreases because in that country ennoblement or incorporation into the nobility is not possible anymore.

Likewise Ridder, Dutch for "knight", or the equivalent French Chevalier is a hereditary noble title in Belgium. It is the second lowest title within the nobility system above Écuyer or Jonkheer/Jonkvrouw and below Baron. Like in the Netherlands, no female equivalent to the title exists. Belgium still does have about 232 registered knightly families.

The German and Austrian equivalent of an hereditary knight is a Ritter. This designation is used as a title of nobility in all German-speaking areas. Traditionally it denotes the second lowest rank within the nobility, standing above "Edler" (noble) and below "Freiherr" (baron). For its historical association with warfare and the landed gentry in the Middle Ages, it can be considered roughly equal to the titles of "Knight" or "Baronet".

In the Kingdom of Spain, the Royal House of Spain grants titles of knighthood to the successor of the throne. This knighthood title known as Order of the Golden Fleece is among the most prestigious and exclusive Chivalric Orders. This Order can also be granted to persons not belonging to the Spanish Crown, as the former Emperor of Japan Akihito, the current Queen of United Kingdom Elizabeth II or the important Spanish politician of the Spanish democratic transition Adolfo Suárez, among others.

The Royal House of Portugal historically bestowed hereditary knighthoods to holders of the highest ranks in the Royal Orders. Today, the head of the Royal House of Portugal Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, bestows hereditary knighthoods for extraordinary acts of sacrifice and service to the Royal House. There are very few hereditary knights and they are entitled to wear a breast star with the crest of the House of Braganza.

In France, the hereditary knighthood existed similarly throughout as a title of nobility, as well as in regions formerly under Holy Roman Empire control. One family ennobled with a title in such a manner is the house of Hauteclocque (by letters patents of 1752), even if its most recent members used a pontifical title of count. In some other regions such as Normandy, a specific type of fief was granted to the lower ranked knights (fr: chevaliers) called the fief de haubert, referring to the hauberk, or chain mail shirt worn almost daily by knights, as they would not only fight for their liege lords, but enforce and carry out their orders on a routine basis as well. [71] Later the term came to officially designate the higher rank of the nobility in the Ancien Régime (the lower rank being Squire), as the romanticism and prestige associated with the term grew in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Italy and Poland also had the hereditary knighthood that existed within their respective systems of nobility.

Ireland Edit

There are traces of the Continental system of hereditary knighthood in Ireland. Notably all three of the following belong to the Hiberno-Norman FitzGerald dynasty, created by the Earls of Desmond, acting as Earls Palatine, for their kinsmen.

    or Green Knight (FitzGerald of Kerry) — the current holder is Sir Adrian FitzGerald, 6th Baronet of Valencia, 24th Knight of Kerry. He is also a Knight of Malta, and has served as President of the Irish Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. or Black Knight (FitzGerald of Limerick) — now dormant. (see Edmund Fitzgibbon) — now dormant.

Another Irish family were the O'Shaughnessys, who were created knights in 1553 under the policy of surrender and regrant [72] (first established by Henry VIII of England). They were attainted in 1697 for participation on the Jacobite side in the Williamite wars. [73]

British baronetcies Edit

Since 1611, the British Crown has awarded a hereditary title in the form of the baronetcy. [74] Like knights, baronets are accorded the title Sir. Baronets are not peers of the Realm, and have never been entitled to sit in the House of Lords, therefore like knights they remain commoners in the view of the British legal system. However, unlike knights, the title is hereditary and the recipient does not receive an accolade. The position is therefore more comparable with hereditary knighthoods in continental European orders of nobility, such as ritter, than with knighthoods under the British orders of chivalry. However, unlike the continental orders, the British baronetcy system was a modern invention, designed specifically to raise money for the Crown with the purchase of the title.


Medieval Soldier Being Knighted - History

Our database contains the names of soldiers serving the English crown between 1369 and 1453. Most were fighting the French. In this second phase of the Hundred Years War major invasions of France were launched, including that of 1415 which culminated in Henry V’s victory at Agincourt 1415. We have also included soldiers serving in other theatres (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Calais etc), and in all types of service (expeditions on land and sea, garrisons, escorts, standing forces).

Why do we know so many names? The simple explanation is that soldiers received pay and this had to be audited. The financial officials of the crown were keen to check the soldiers were present and correct. The main way of doing this was by checking off their names at a muster, at the beginning of a campaign or during it, or every few months for troops in garrison. Thousands of muster rolls survive in archive collections in England, France and beyond. We also have the evidence of letters of protection which soldiers bought from the Chancery to prevent legal actions whilst they were absent from home.


Medieval soldier found with sword and knives at the bottom of a Lithuanian lake

The submerged remains were discovered with weapons nearby.

More than 500 years ago, a medieval soldier's dead body settled at the bottom of a Lithuanian lake, and for centuries it lay hidden beneath the mud. Now, those submerged remains have finally been found.

The skeleton was discovered during an underwater inspection of the old Dubingiai bridge in eastern Lithuania's Lake Asveja. Though the skeleton lay under a layer of sand and silt, the scene was not a burial, said archaeologist Elena Pranckėnaitė, a researcher with Klaipėda University in Klaipėda, Lithuania, according to the Baltic News Service (BNS). Rather, water currents likely deposited sediments that covered the remains over time.

Scientists with the Faculty of Medicine at Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania, examined the body and reported that the person was male and that he died in the 16th century, though they don't yet know why he died, according to BNS. Weapons and other items recovered from the lake bottom near the body hinted at the dead man's military status, Pranckėnaitė told Live Science in an email.

Human burials linked to warfare have previously been excavated across the region, but this is the first time that a medieval soldier has been discovered underwater in Lithuania, Pranckėnaitė said.

Dubingiai Bridge, one of the longest wooden bridges still in use in Lithuania, was built in 1934, and its deteriorating beams are currently being replaced with metal poles, representatives of TEC Infrastructure, the company supervising the repair project under the Lithuanian Ministry of Transport and Communications, said in a statement. Archaeologists collaborated with amateur divers to perform the survey, and divers located the remains at a depth of 30 feet (9 meters) while inspecting the wooden bridge's support system, according to the statement.

A previous survey in 1998 had revealed that another bridge once stood in the same place, dating to the 16th or 17th century &mdash around the time that the medieval soldier died, Pranckėnaitė added.

"For now, we assume that those discovered human remains could be linked with the former bridge leading to Dubingiai castle, which was situated on the hilltop on the shore of Asveja Lake," she said.

Finding the soldier's remains was a big surprise, but equally astonishing was the remarkable preservation of the skeleton and artifacts. The divers recovered a pair of leather boots with spurs a leather belt with a buckle an iron sword "and two knives with wooden handles," Pranckėnaitė wrote in the email. A team of archaeologists, anthropologists and historians at the National Museum of Lithuania are now working to conserve and interpret the objects.

This discovery and data "are really 'fresh' and still need to be carefully analyzed," Pranckėnaitė said. "We hope to 'tell the story' of this soldier at least in a year."


4. Women Couldn’t Become Knights, but Were Expected to Do the Job of Their Dead Husbands

Like so many of the coolest jobs in history, being a knight was exclusively reserved for owners of a penis. Their wives were expected to sit at home, not learning to kill people with a broadsword, their bloodlust going offensively unsated. Unless their husband died like a moron, that is. In that case, women were expected to fulfil all of their husband’s knightly duties. This included protecting their lord and making sure his land didn’t fall into disrepair. Only women didn’t get any of the cool stuff that came with it, like respect or acknowledgement by history.

Unsurprisingly, the wives seldom waited for their husbands to get gored by a lance before getting all up in the business of running the show. This resulted in them being significantly more skilled and diplomatically inclined than their husbands. The duties generally expected of a knight’s wife included everything from organizing the defenses of their estate, to arranging marriages for their servants. This was on top of being at the beck and call of their husband 24 hours a day. Which probably explains why…


Ashor the King Killer and Priest Savior

The origin of Black Knights is closely linked to the legend of Ashor, a knight who had remained skilled and strong, despite his advanced age, and who specialized in the killing of kings and other nobles. Sometime around the 13th or 14th century there was a king with a powerful enemy – a king of another land who oppressed his people.

Desperate to defeat his opponent, the good king sent a message calling Ashor to his court. One night, the king woke up to find Ashor near his bed. The assassin had entered his castle without detection – proving his skill.

Ashor asked the king who he needed to kill and the king gave his order. Ashor accepted the task, but said that he would first check the king’s claims that his enemy was an evil oppressor. Ashor entered the fortress city of the king’s enemy, and witnessed for himself the cruelty of the ruler his task to assassinate the king would proceed as planned.

Ashor discovered that an old priest who had once risen up against the cruelty of the evil king was being held prisoner in the dungeon. After fulfilling his order to kill the king, Ashor, who was moved by the priest’s story, decided to free him from the prison. He entered the dungeon and found the man in a very bad state.

The imprisoned priest was very weak and could barely stand. Unfortunately, the priest proved to be a burden, making it difficult for Ashor to escape. While carrying the old man out of the dungeon, the knight was injured. Nevertheless, the two got up on a horse, escaped the city, and made for the woods.

The black knight had freed the city from its evil king and he had escaped. However, with people in pursuit, Ashor understood that he could not tend to his wounds in time and he descended from the horse, telling the priest that he would not slow him down and he must continue. The priest thanked him, gave him his blessing and left as instructed.


Knights in the Medieval Age

Page: A boy who acted as a knight's attendant as the first stage of training for chivalric knighthood.

Squire: A young nobleman attendant upon a knight and ranked next below a knight in feudal hierarchy.

Knights were medieval gentleman-soldiers, usually high-born, raised by a sovereign to privileged military status after training as a page and squire. Originally knights were attendants or specialized foot-soldiers, but the status of knights was elevated around 800 A.D.

Kings or lords would raise a soldier to a knight by lightly striking (dubbing) the knight's shoulder with the flat of his sword. The knight was given a sword, a pay raise and, frequently, a plot of land. Most knights were required to be at least 21 years old.

Knights were considered elite soldiers in battles, wars and crusades, but when not in such situations, they usually acted as law enforcement officers of the local lord's court or that of the queen.

Our knights at Medieval Times train tirelessly to get their choreographed fights looking as authentic as the epic battles of the middle ages were.

Knights began fighting while riding large and powerful horses called warhorses. This radically changed how conflicts were waged at that time. Since these horses were expensive, only wealthier men could afford to become knights.

Medieval Vocabulary

Page: A boy who acted as a knight's attendant as the first stage of training for chivalric knighthood.

Squire: A young nobleman attendant upon a knight and ranked next below a knight in feudal hierarchy.

Chivalry: The medieval system, principles and customs of knighthood. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor and gallantry toward women.

Dame: A woman holding a nonhereditary title conferred by a sovereign in recognition of personal merit or service to the country. The wife or widow of a knight.

Knights required attendants to handle the knight's several horses, maintain and hand him his heavy weapons and shield, assist him in mounting and dismounting the horse and guard his prisoners. Squires assisted the knight in battle training and exercises, and often became knights themselves.

Knights typically wore better than average clothing, but wore chain mail, helmets and partial suits of armor only in battle. Swords, daggers and sometimes lances were the weapons of choice. Full suits of armor made of plate steel came into use around 1400.

Each knight had his own flag or banner that identified him on and off the battlefield, called a coat of arms. The pattern and colors on the flag were often repeated on his shield and on other items belonging to the knight.

The principles and customs of the medieval knight were categorized as chivalry. The word was taken from the French version of the Latin word for horse (cheval). (In France, knights are often called chevaliers.) Knights were known for their masterful skills with horses. A knight's code of conduct included: mercy, humility, honor, sacrifice, faithfulness, courage, utmost graciousness and courtesy toward women.

The insignia on the Medieval Times knights' clothing is based on authentic coats of arms from the middle ages.

Coat of Arms

During The Middle Ages, knights used a coat of arms to identify themselves, which was especially useful in battle. In a society where few people could read and write, pictures were very important.

Traditional Colors: Black, Royal Purple, Emerald Green, Royal Blue or Sky Blue, Bright Red

Metals: Gold (yellow) and Silver (white)

The basic rule is "metal on color or color on metal, but not metal on metal or color on color." This means that the field (the background) on the shield can be either a metal or a color.

Animals were frequently used as a main charge. They were not drawn to look three dimensional, but were shown as if they were flat. The pictures were to represent the animal as a symbol: Lion, Bear, Boar, Eagle, Horse, Dragon, and Griffin.


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