A knight was a warrior in the medieval ages that fought to defend. Only men could be knights and all knights were born as a noble. These nobles were third on the social pyramid and received land from the lord or king in return for protection. All knights owed loyalty to people above them on the social pyra
mid. Just being a warrior and defending people didn’t mean that one was a knight. Knights had to act and think in certain ways and had to
have certain attitudes. What made a knight a knight was that they always had to seek justice and what was right to gain honor through their actions. To defend and do good deeds as a respected noble was what knights needed to desire most.
To develop these characteristics and fighting skills, knights had to go through the steps of knighthood. First, a 6-7 year old boy from a noble family was taken to a castle where he started out as a page. A page rarely learned to read and write. His main job was to practice fetching, carrying, running errands, and helping the lady whenever he was demanded to. It was his duty to be with the lady and the lord at all times. As a page grew older, he received more work and responsibilities. He had to start taking care of horses, learn instruments, hunt, learn how to use arm weaponry (sword, ax, lance, etc.), practice running, leaping, wrestling, cleaning armor, and vaulting onto a horse saddle in full armor. Squires would sometimes train pages and Chaplains gave religious lessons to them. With all these daily training, a page would be expected to be quick, graceful, and flexible.
Around the age of 14, the page would become a squire. The squire became the knight’s personal assistant. He had to take care of the knight by dressing and undressing him, combing his hair, preparing his bed, and keeping his armor and weapons clean. During battles, the Squire would supply the knight with all the weapons and tools he needed. He was taught how to use real weapons and ride on a war horse with the weapon hand free. At meal times, he had to know how to cut bread, pour wine, and serve food properly. The lady taught him to sing and how to act properly in the King’s court. All squires needed to respect and help ladies the most. They were to defend ladies at all times and swore to protect women. The ladies would then teach the squires to be gentle, kind, and affectionate. All these practicing was because if the squire was to become a knight, he had to learn how to develop the correct attitude, manners, and personality towards others.
When a squire proved himself worthy and honest, he was knighted or “dubbed”. As preparation, the soon-to-be-knight prayed all night without eating or sleeping and took a warm bath in the morning. Then, he would put on his armor and a white tunic over it. The knight would proudly kneel before the lord and the lord would tap his shoulders with the blade of the sword and say “I dub thee, Sir Knight”. The knight then received his weapons as a gift, a sword, lance, and golden spurs. After the congratulating ceremony, the knight would roam around freely to quests of adventure. A knight usually lived by entering different tournaments and battles endlessly since tournaments were such a popular sport and career of a young man.
Chivalry in general was a type of philosophy. Because following Chivalry was almost like a religious order to all knights, almost every knight swore to live by his chivalric virtues. These rules of Chivalry formed the basic characteristics and goals that all knights were required to have. A knight was to practice and develop most of the attitudes and habits that Chivalry taught during the steps of knighthood. Chivalry just meant rules and ways of becoming a good, open-minded role model. Knights would have to defend the weak, respect all others, live to serve everyone above them, obey laws, be faithful, loyal, fair, seek justice and what was right, and have good manners.
These were the actual codes and rules of Chivalry that knights had to follow:
The Ten Commandments of the Code of Chivalry
From Chivalry by Leon Gautier
1. Thou shall believe all that the Church teaches, and shall observe all its directions.
2. Thou shall defend the Church.
3. Thou shall respect all weaknesses, and shall constitute thyself the defender of them.
4. Thou shall love the country in the which thou was born.
5. Thou shall not recoil before thy enemy.
6. Thou shall make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
7. Thou shall perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
8. Thou shall never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
9. Thou shall be generous, and give largess to everyone.
10. Thou shall be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.
The Code of Chivalry
From the Rifts: England Supplement
1. Live to serve King and Country.
2. Live to defend Crown and Country and all it holds dear.
3. Live one's life so that it is worthy of respect and honor.
4. Live for freedom, justice and all that is good.
5. Never attack an unarmed foe.
6. Never use a weapon on an opponent not equal to the attack.
7. Never attack from behind.
8. Avoid lying to your fellow man.
9. Avoid cheating.
10. Avoid torture.
11. Obey the law of king, country, and chivalry.
12. Administer justice.
13. Protect the innocent.
14. Exhibit self control.
15. Show respect to authority.
16. Respect women.
17. Exhibit Courage in word and deed.
18. Defend the weak and innocent.
19. Destroy evil in all of its monstrous forms.
20. Crush the monsters that steal our land and rob our people.
21. Fight with honor.
22. Avenge the wronged.
23. Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause.
24. Fight for the ideals of king, country, and chivalry.
25. Die with valor.
26. Always keep one's word of honor.
27. Always maintain one's principles.
28. Never betray a confidence or comrade.
29. Avoid deception.
30. Respect life and freedom.
31. Die with honor.
32. Exhibit manners.
33. Be polite and attentive.
34. Be respectful of host, women, and honor.
35. Loyalty to country, King, honor, freedom, and the code of chivalry.
36. Loyalty to one's friends and those who lay their trust in thee.
In the 14th Century, a knight’s protective armor was the chain mail armor. It was made of about 250,000 ring shaped steel sewn onto a leather jacket called a jerkin. After the invention of the longbow, a full plate armor was introduced. It was so complicated that it took 2 men to dress a knight with this armor and only rich knights could afford it. Some people died wearing these armors because it was so heavy and difficult to move in.
The pieces of the armor were these: the helmet was the head covering. The gorget was a collar of metal to protect the throat of the knight. The shoulder covering metal was called the shoulder piece. A cuirass was the breast plate and the arm protector was called the brassard. The elbow piece was the small knee and elbow pieces that acted like joints of the armor so that the knight could bend his legs and arms. The short, skirt-like, overlapping pieces of plates around the hips were called the tasset. Gauntlet were the gloves and sabaten were the foot covering. The cuisse were the metal thigh covering and the greave was the metal from the ankle to the knee.
A knight’s favorite weapon was his sword. Large, two-handed swords swung with both hands were called the Great Swords. Another sword made in the 1460’s, called the shining sword, was made for richer knights. Many kinds of axes were used as well. The Battle Axes, made in the northern Europe, were popular with Vikings and were swung with both hands. The Pole Axes, made to hit the opponent’s head, were popular in battle and foot combat. Since short axes were easier to use on horsebacks, knights used a lot of the small, single handed axes and only sometimes used two-handed axes. One of the smallest weapon a knight would carry would be a dagger. Daggers would be the backup sword when knights’ first swords were knocked out of their hands. Knights also used long, wooden, painted spears called lances, and maces, which were wooden clubs with spikes. Archers would use bows and arrows as their main weapons. There were various kinds of bows and arrows such as crossbows and longbows.
In the 12th century, it was very difficult to distinguish knights apart from one another because of their heavily worn armor that covered almost every inch of their bodies. So, in order to recognize a knight, different symbols of animals representing the knight, were painted on the knight’s shield and on his surcoat, a sleeveless garment that was worn over the armor. This was called the Coat of Arms, a system of personal symbols that represented a knight. Coat of Arms became a popular military status symbol or a mark of noble status by 1400 A.D. It was almost like a personal name that the knights were known by. The earliest coat of arms were fairly simple; it was usually bars, wavy lines, or an animal. When the symbols grew more detailed and complicated by the 15th century, heraldry was formed.
Heraldry is the study and the knowledge of symbols that represented a family, country or a person. Heralds went to school at a young age and attended to Heraldry College where heralds learned and memorized all the symbols and meanings of the Coat of Arms. It was their job to help identify knights in wars. When new knights entered tournaments, it was the herald’s job to explain what the symbols on the knight’s Coat of Arms meant.
Coat of Arms had different parts to it. There were different types of main shield shapes. Colors were chosen as well to go on the shield and each color represented different traits of the knight. For example, gold (meant generous), red (brave and strong), green (joy), blue (loyalty), purple (royalty), and black (steadfastness). There were also symbols drawn onto the shield that told others about the knight or what he like to do. Some medieval symbols are: a sword (meaning honor and justice), an arrowhead (speed), hammer (hard working), a deer (peace and harmony), an eagle (bravery), a flower or tree (life), lighting bolts (power), and dragons (protection). You also had to choose a crest. A crest was a picture that is on top of the shield and has to do with your name. It usually is an animal that says something about your character or an animal that represents your name in any way. At the bottom of the coat of arms would be a Motto, three basic words describing the most significant characteristics of a knight. It might also be a philosophy knights live by.