The History of Knights

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The Accolade, c.1901

The Medieval Knight has a long history and the pinnacle of a mans career in the feudal age was being deemed a knight. It came in a ceremony where the king, queen or lord would tap the mans shoulder with the flat of a sword as shown in the leighton poster here.

What was a Medieval knight? The role of the knight was something that developed slowly over many centuries and the earliest knights could be considered to be the officers of the greek and roman armies. And our picture of a knight typically is one of a highly trained soldier who fought mounted on a horse, wielded weapons like the sword and lance and also held land and maybe a small castle in service of a king or a lord.

It was in the middle ages and starting as early as the 11th century that the Medieval Knight began to take the shape and form that we think of now. These early knights were often foot soldiers with responsibility and skill with the rudimentary weapons and armor available to them. And the role of the Knight evolved and grew throughout the next several centuries right into the 18th.

Why was a knight so esteemed?
One of the most important skills of a knight was his combat ability while mounted on a horse. And this was something that was highly prized because it lent a very big advantage in battle. This skill on a horse took many years to master and a lot of resources, horses, weapons and armor were expensive. The charge of mounted and well armored knights with polearm weapons could effectively break the defensive lines of the normal foot soldier.

What was the eventual downfall of the Knights? As technology advanced and the crossbow and arbalest were developed the knight fell from favor because a relatively untrained foot soldier could kill a knight with a single shot from a high powered arbalest thus cancelling out the lifetime of training that a knight undertook. This use of the arbalest was scorned and pronounced as un-chivalric but it was a weapon who's time had come. This development was enough to bring about the end of knighthood but the final development that forever sealed the knights fate was the development of gunpowder. No knight could match against a fired bullet.

In the 13th Century as the Iron Age developed and weapons and armor became more practical, available and reliable knights became more important in the role or defending their kings and lords.

Around the 15th century was when the art of knighthood reached its pinnacle in several respects. Warcraft and weapons technology had advanced significantly and the knight was at the lead of this advance in the fact that he was a mounted soldier. This mounted attack was a significant advantage in any type of battle.

With this importance of the knights ability in battle came tithing and responsibility. Knights were given lands and serfs to manage and they were called upon to serve their lords and kings in battle.

Throughout the 15th to 17th Centuries the art of being a knight developed from just the art of fighting to a code of conduct and chivalry came to the forefront. A knight became an example of behavior and it was a knights duty to be versed in many arts such as writing, musicianship, the courts, land management, and law.

One of the most interesting aspects of the knights was the alliances and groups they formed outside of the normal king/knight relationship. these organizations were often military and religious and nature; and sometimes very secretive in nature. The most famous example of this kind of order is the Knights Templar. Other knight organizations like this are the Knights of Columbus, the Teutonic Knights and the Order of the Golden Fleece.

How did a boy become a knight?

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