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Medieval Knights

Doers of good, protectors of the innocent, defenders of the church, rescuers of damsels in distress, participants in tournaments - these all come to mind when Medieval knights are mentioned.

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And these same knights are usually pictured wearing shiny armour and riding a magnificent steed.

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How true is this depiction?

The Route towards Knighthood


The road to being a Medieval knight started early in a young man's life.

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By the age of seven, he would have departed his own home and begun his life as a page to a local knight.

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During this training, at establishments such as Broughton Castle the courtesies expected of a gentleman would be learned.

Fine manners would be cultivated while serving at Medieval banquets or while caring for hounored guests.

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A general education would have been offered under the guidance of the lady of the house.


At the age of fourteen, a page could then become a squire.

Now the knight-in-training would be under the total leadership of the knight of the household.

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It would be his responsibility to see to the care of the knight's accoutrements: the chainmail or plate armour, the helmet, the jousting lance, the shield.

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He would also learn how to handle the Medieval knight's tools; how to wield the sword effectively, how to defend himself with a shield, how to handle a war horse.

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During battle, or tournaments, the squire would be on-hand to offer help, run errands, and assist in every way possible.

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Becoming a Medieval Knight

For exceptional bravery on a field of battle, it was not uncommon for a squire to find himself knighted.

With little or no fanfare, a "Squire Edward" could suddenly find himself "Sir Edward".

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For others, once the training was completed the route to potential knighthood was one of ritual.

The knight-to-be would keep a solemn and silent vigil in the castle's chapel, praying for guidance.

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At dawn, after a cleansing bath, white garments would be donned.

During the subsequent ceremony, the squire would kneel in front of a Lord, or perhaps the monarch himself, and with a soft touch of a sword on his shoulder arise to find himself a knight of the realm.

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The Pros and Cons of Being a Medieval Knight

The advantages of being a knight were enormous.

Serving under a Lord or other noble, a knight was often given a piece of land to govern.

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It would be his responsibility to collect the taxes, see that the land was handled properly and report directly to his superior. Often, his word was law.

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Some knights wished to only offer their services to a member of the nobility. For example, Raby Castle offered excellent accommodation while serving under the powerful Neville family.

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Advantageous marriage to a rich heiress, collecting not only her wealth but the possible inheritance of vast land, was a prospect many knights aspired to.

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There were many costs involved in upholding the duties and expectations expected of medieval knights, not least of which was to have the latest weapons and armour on hand.

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The down side, however, was the daily knowledge that death could be just around the corner. If needed, his superior would call upon the knight's services at a moment's notice.

Death didn't just haunt the battlefield; tournaments were just as likely to deal a mortal wound.

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The Code of Chivalry

There was a code of ethics which, it was hoped, the Medieval knight would follow.

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It is this notion of chivalry which informs the image of knights being the rescuers of damsels and protectors of the innocent.

Noble as this ideal is, the reality was very different.

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It was not unknown for some knights to plunder and loot the countryside, regardless of fair ladies and poor individuals.

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Article by "Tudor Rose"

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