The Medieval Knight
Becoming a Knight
Armor and Weapons
The knight was one of three types of fighting men during the middle ages: Knights, Foot
Soldiers, and Archers. The medieval knight was the equivalent of the modern tank. He was
covered in multiple layers of armor, and could plow through foot soldiers standing in his way.
No single foot soldier or archer could stand up to any one knight.
Knights were also generally the wealthiest of the three types of soldiers. This was for a good
reason. It was terribly
expensive to be a knight. The war horse alone could cost the equivalent of a small airplane.
Armor, shields, and weapons were also very expensive. Becoming a knight was part of the feudal
agreement. In return for military service, the knight received a fief. In the late
ages, many prospective knights began to pay "shield money" to their lord so that they wouldn't
have to serve
in the king's army. The money was then used to create a professional army that was paid and
supported by the king. These knights often fought more for pillaging than for army wages. When
they captured a city, they were allowed to ransack it, stealing goods and valuables.
Becoming a Knight:
There were only a few ways in which a person could become a knight.
The first way was the normal course of action for the son of a noble:
When a boy was eight years old, he was sent to the neighboring
castle where he
was trained as a page. The boy was usually the son of a knight or of a member of the
aristocracy. He spent most of his time strengthening his body, wrestling and
riding horses. He also learned how to fight with a spear and a sword. He practiced against
a wooden dummie called a quintain. It was
essentially a heavy sack or dummie in the form of
a human. It was hung on a wooden pole along with a shield. The young page had to hit the
shield in its center. When hit, the whole structure would spin around and around. The page
had to maneuver away quickly without getting hit. The young man was also taught more
civilized topics. He would be taught to read and write by a schoolmaster. He could also be
taught some Latin and French. The
lady of the castle taught the page to sing and dance and how to behave in the king’s court.
At the age of fifteen or sixteen, a boy became a squire in service to a knight. His
duties included dressing the knight in the morning, serving all of the knight’s meals, caring
for the knight’s horse, and cleaning the knight’s armor and weapons. He followed the
knight to tournaments and assisted his lord on the battlefield. A squire also prepared
himself by learning how to handle a sword and lance while wearing forty pounds of armor
and riding a horse.
When he was about twenty, a squire could become a knight after proving himself
worthy. A lord would agree to knight him in a dubbing ceremony. The night before the
ceremony, the squire would dress in a white tunic and red robes. He would then fast and
pray all night for the purification of his soul. The
chaplain would bless the future
knight's sword and then lay it on the chapel or church's altar. Before dawn, he took a
bath to show that he was pure, and he dressed in his best clothes. When dawn came,
the priest would hear the young man's confession, a Catholic contrition rite. The squire would
then eat breakfast. Soon the dubbing ceremony began.
took place in front of family, friends, and nobility. The squire knelt in front of the lord,
who tapped the squire lightly on each shoulder with his sword and proclaimed him a
knight. This was symbolic of what occurred in earlier times. In the earlier middle ages, the
person doing the dubbing would actually hit the squire forcefully, knocking him over. After the
dubbing, a great feast followed with music and dancing.
A young man could also become a knight for valor in combat after a battle or sometimes
battle to help him gain courage.
Knights believed in the code of chivalry. They
promised to defend the weak, be courteous to all women, be loyal to their king, and serve
God at all times. Knights were expected to be humble before others, especially their
superiors. They were also expected to not "talk too much". In other words, they
shouldn't boast. The code of chivalry demanded that a knight give mercy to a vanquished
enemy. However, the very fact that knights were trained as men of war belied this code.
Even though they came from rich families, many knights were not their families' firstborn.
They did not receive an inheritance. Thus they were little more than mercenaries. They
plundered villages or cities that they captured, often defiling and destroying churches and
other property. Also the code of chivalry did
not extend to the peasants. The "weak" was widely interpreted as "noble women and children".
They were often brutal to common folk. They could sometimes even rape young peasant women
without fear of reprisal, all because they were part of the upper class.
Armor and Weapons
A knight was armed and armored to the teeth.
He had so much armor and weapons that he depended on his squire to keep
his armor and weapons clean and in good working condition.
At first the armor was made of small metal rings called chain mail. A knight wore
a linen shirt and a pair of pants as well as heavy woolen pads underneath the metal-ringed
tunic. A suit of chain mail could have more than 200,000 rings. However, chain mail was
heavy, uncomfortable, and difficult to move in.
As time passed, knights covered their bodies with plates of metal. Plates covered
their chests, back, arms, and legs. A bucket like helmet protected the knight’s head and
had a hinged metal visor to cover his face. Suits of armor were hot, uncomfortable, and
heavy to wear. A suit of armor weighed between forty and sixty pounds. Some knights
even protected their horses in armor.
A knight also needed a shield to hold in front of himself during battle.
were made of either wood or metal. Knights decorated their shields with their family
emblem or crest and the family motto.
A knight'’s weapon was his sword, which was about thirty-two pounds. It was
worn on his left side in a case fastened around his waist. A knife was worn on the knight’s
Knights used other weapons in combat as well. A lance was a long spear used in
jousts. Metal axes, battle hammers, and maces were also used to defeat the enemy.
Tournaments provided a means for knights to practice warfare and
build their strength in times of peace. 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. The two knights would gallop
across the playing field at each other. They carried long, blunt poles and shields.
The objective was to knock the other person out of his saddle. Team play was
conducted with fierce mock combat between two bands of fighters. They fought with
wooden or blunted weapons so as to reduce the risk of getting hurt. However, this was
often not the case. Many people did get hurt or die by accident.
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