Knights were first spoke of in the 10th Century in . They were known simply as fighting men. They were not the Knights we remember today. They were often very poor, actually as poor as the peasant class. Over time though, they came to inherit land, they became more prominent fighters, and were wealthy. This is also the time when we first find them fighting on horseback. In the 12th Century Knights were Roman fighters who also rode on horseback dressed in heavy armor. They continued to be rich and this is when the title came to be very respected. Knights would become most popular in though. This is where the Knights we know from the movies come from.
Becoming a Knight
When a child was very young he was taught to be respectful, courteous, and to have the proper manners. At the age of seven the boy would leave his home to live in a wealthy household. There he would become a page. As a page he would basically be a servant. Doing whatever the household required of him: serving meals, performing for their entertainment, etc. This household was usually a lord’s household and the page was still cared for by the women of the household who continued to teach him religion, cleanliness, etc. It was very important for a knight to learn these things. A Knight was supposed to be chivalrous. Chivalry was not only vowing loyalty to protect ones lord and rid the land of those who weren’t religious and protect Christianity, no it was much more. Chivalry meant that a Knight should honor, serve, and basically do nothing to upset ladies and maidens. He was to treat ladies and maidens graciously and be gentle with them. Being chivalrous also meant being respectful, humble, and courteous towards fellow Christians and countrymen.
At the age of 14, the boy would become a squire. At which time a Knight would pick the boy to help him with his journeys. A squire was basically the personal aid to the Knight. While being a personal aid the squire could learn many things about Knighthood. He would learn how to battle, continue to learn the knight’s code (chivalry), and just learn what it meant to be a Knight. The squire would take care of the Knight’s horses, were expected to follow their master’s into battle, and care for his master if he should be injured during battle. Sometimes, if the squire performing and outstanding act he could be “dubbed” a Knight right on the battlefield, but this was very rare.
At the ages of 18 to 21, the squire would become a Knight. During the night before the ceremony the squire would pray to God all night after taking a cleansing bath, fasting, and confessing. This was time taken to ready himself for being a Knight. The next day, the Knighting ceremony would begin. The Knight would be dressed in a white shirt, gold tunic and purple cloak. The king or lord would then “dub” the squire a Knight. Dubbing was done by taking a blunt sword and tapping the squires’ shoulders. The new Knight had to swear to uphold the code of the Knights by being chivalrous, honoring God, be loyal to his lord, being honest, honorable, and be upholding other virtues that described Knights.
When Knights weren’t in battle they were fighting in tournaments. These battles weren’t as nice as movies have made them out to be. Jousting often ended in death as did other battles. There were not only individual fights, but also group fights. The Knights won prizes such as money, some Knights made quite a fortune competing in tournaments.
Rewards of Being a Knight
Knights started out being as poor as peasants, but made their way up to being upstanding citizens. They married rich wives, inherited land, and served as high officials. They were only expected to serve their lords, 40 days a year as a castle guard. The benefits were great, but being a Knight wasn’t easy. You could spend you time building great castles from your fortunes or be killed in battle.
The Knight’s time came to an end though. With the invention of gun powder, hand to hand combat was no longer required. So by the 16th Century Knights were almost completely gone. People are still Knighted in but it is simply a title. Some examples as Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Elton John, and Sir John Lennon.
Knights. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights. Accessed on 20, March 2006.
Available at http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castle35.htm. Accessed on 20, March 2006.
Medieval Knights and Warfare. Express.
Available at http://www.britainexpress.com/History/Knights_and_Fights.htm. Accessed on 20, March 2006.
Medieval Chivalry. Medieval-life.net.
Available at http://www.medieval-life.net/chivalry.htm. Accessed on 20, March 2006.