When we think of knights, we may think of the saying “knights in shining armor” imagining them rescuing attractive damsels in distress from harm’s way. But in reality, knights were much more than that. Being a knight represented much more than we could even comprehend. Knights were one of the principal characters of the medieval times. They were soldiers who had an obligation to serve the king during military combat. In exchange for this service to the king, the knight would receive a position in the king’s Court.
They existed during the period of the 12th through the 17th centuries in the European area, but later went on to other areas such as Japan and India. The knight of Europe therefore had his origins in military and economic need. His role was of a warrior, and in some cases he was little more than a thug rewarded for his aggression. But if in order to be successful, he had to take his role in the military seriously. As time went on, success required more than dedication: it required loyalty to his king in society as well as strategy and ingenuity on the battlefield.
Medieval knights did not just turn into knights by any apparent reason. There were many certain factors that determined whether men could become future knights. The first factor was to be born into a high noble class family and the other factor was by proving he was worthy of the title by showing his strength and courage through battle combat. In the first case, the boy from an early age of eight years old began his process of training by taking a series of classes and instructions like chivalry, music and weapons in order to form his intellectual and physical self. He practiced his battle skills on a wooden dummy called a quintain.
Later on they would only make emphasis on combat because they were more bodily developed. This would be by the ages of fifteen or sixteen, becoming a squire or a servant of another knight where he helped the knight get ready in the morning, serve all of his meals, care for the knight’s horse and clean his armor and weapons. He also assisted his knight on the battlefield and on what concerned his personal training he began to learn how to handle a sword and a lance while riding his horse with all of the required armor on. It wasn’t until the age of twenty that the squire would be able to become a knight by proving he was worthy of this title.
Once they became knights, they were granted special suits of armor. They first consisted of pieces of metal covering the entire body but then evolved to a more flexible material, Plate. This type of armor offered better protection and gave more flexibility than the metal material. Additionally to this armor, knights were also given a long spear or better known as a Lance and also a two-handed sword called a Mace. The sword was the knight’s main weapon, accompanied by a metal Shield to cover himself from the enemy’s attacks. Other weapons that were given to knights include the crossbows and longbows.
Inside the training of knights there was something very important that was taught to them called The Code of Conduct and Chivalry. Inside it, many of its points included “the knight was bound to defend his lord or liege, care for his lands and his people and in the later centuries this code of chivalry was expanded to include conduct in courts and public functions. A knight was expected to protect those less of lesser rank than himself and to hold himself to the highest standards of combat and knowledge in religion and writing, music and leadership. ” (www.
knight-medieval. com) Even though this code was formed with the rules that it was, ironically it was not applied for everything, for example the peasants. They were often aggressive to common folk. They could sometimes rape young peasant women without fear of being scolded just because they were part of the upper class. Knights participated in rigorous Tournaments every once in a while. These Tournaments were made for the knights to practice their skills, develop more strength and practice warfare. “Tournaments were essentially mock battles with audiences.
The audience was usually made up of “fair damsels”. This was another way in which a knight was expected to act chivalrous. The tournaments had different rules that had to be followed. They were judged by umpires that watched for dishonest play. Tournaments were usually fought between either two people or two teams. If two people fought a tournament, it was usually by jousting. ” (www. thinkquest. org) Also the tournament was a way for warriors to practice working together and at the same time use their other mounted combat skills. It was also a proving-ground for knights looking for service.
Combatants wore the armor they always wore in battle and used the same weapons they used to kill their enemies. It didn’t matter to them that the men they fought were their fellow colleagues; in the tournaments, they were the enemy too. “In the early tournament, Chivalry did not apply. No one held back or tried to avoid killing their opponents. There were even knights who practiced what was known as a “Count of Flanders” technique, which involved waiting until late in the combat, then joining the fray and attacking tired and worn-out fighters and thus easily winning their belongings. ” (Snell, www. historymedren.
com) Over time, the tournament became a great event. It was organized by heralds and announced to the public weeks in advance. Processions took place, and evening banquets were given. Ladies in finery looked on from the gallery, giving chosen knights a favor, such as a scarf, to display as they contested. Prizes were also held out. The life of a knight in a majority of aspects was determined by his king. The king had the control of his knight’s life, career and future and in extreme cases, the King even had a say in whom his knight should marry and to whom he should leave his property or properties after his death.
Even though the knight was in charge of his property, ultimately it was his king’s decision to take this or these lands away and even give them to anyone else he pleased. The main property a knight could own was his Castle. The castle was a private fortress where his family and servants resided. “It was a community unto itself; everything necessary for daily living was made within its massive walls or grown (or hunted) in the surrounding land. ” (Snell, www. historymedren. com) Not only did knights have their effects on society inside the timeframe they existed, but in today’s society we are still living the effects they created.
“The days of the steel armored knight have all but passed; though some true knights do indeed seek to strengthen their character and their arms through the practice of arms, today the knight must rather rely on the armor of his soul to defend himself, seeking to ennoble himself in the same way as his ancestors-by his deeds. ” (Price, On Knighthood) Just as they did back then, knights still seek to obtain their honor through demonstrating their strength in battle but also defend what they believe in through mouth and word.
Some knights today pursue this goal through the tournament or martial art; some through confraternal organizations that defend charity and support their cause as well as advance the causes of right. Like in history, none of these groups, even less the nobles within them, will attain the ideal that drives them. Bitter divisions sometimes are the best companies of knights, quietly ushering them further from the basic ideals that empower them, starting them on the journey to vainglory that defeats humility, overcomes charity, makes a mockery of courtesy, and in short blackens the heart against chivalry.
Today there are many paths that lead to knighthood. You can seek membership in a knightly order; you can use a martial art or the tournament. But these are all external, not worth very much unless the spark of knighthood is ignited within them. The spark of nobility that has been recognized since the earliest age within certain men and women of character and spirit is the one that truly defines what a knight can really be, especially in today’s society.
• Knights, Castles, Chivalry, siege engines and everything Medieval 2007-2008 Kalif Publishing http://www. knight-medieval. com/ • The Medieval Knight 1997 Thinkquest 10949 Team http://library. thinkquest. org/10949/fief/medknight. html • Price, Brian R. On Knighthood July 29,1996 http://www. chronique. com/Library/Knights/knitessy. htm • Snell, Melissa. Knightlife #5 A Castle in the Background 1998-2000 http://historymedren. about. com/library/weekly/aa062698. htm
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