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.
a knight was part of the feudal agreement. In return for military
service, the knight received a fief. In the late middle 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
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:
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.
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. The outdoor ceremony 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.
young man could also become a knight for valor in combat after
a battle or sometimes before a battle to help him gain courage.
Pads worn under the armor to help ease the weight. They were
A helmet of the type worn by knights during the crusades.
One can see the holes cut in the front. This made it easier
for the knight to breathe.
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.
These are two examples of medieval shields made of either
wood or metal. Normally these would have the knight's emblem
or family seal on them.
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.
knight also needed a shield to hold in front of himself during
battle. Shields were made of either wood or metal. Knights
decorated their shields with their family emblem or crest
and the family motto.
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 right side.
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.
An example of a more ornate piece of armor, used more for
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.