Thursday, 2 June 2011

becoming a knight

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Becoming a Knight

During the middle ages, in order to become a knight one had to go through many years of training.

A knight-to-be spent at least fourteen years of his life learning the proper conduct and etiquette of

knighthood. Once the years of training were completed, often an elaborate ceremony took place when the

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gentleman was knighted. Once knighted, the man had to live by the code of chivalry. This code had the

basic guidelines of a knights behavior. This code was so respected that abiding by it brought honor and

respect from others.

The education of a knight began at the age of seven. This was when a boy was taken from his

home and sent to the castle of a famous noble, perhaps his father’s lord. Here he served the lord and the

lady as a page until he was fourteen years old. One of the many duties of a page was to accompany the lord

and lady at all times. He also waited on them during meals, and went with them on various affairs doing

whatever was asked of him. As a page, he received religious instruction from the chaplain. The squires

taught the page fighting skills, and gave him training in arms. The mistress and her ladies taught the page

to honor and protect all women. He also learned to sing and to play the lute, in order to hunt and hawk.

The most important thing that he learned during the seven years as a page was how to care for and ride a

horse. This was a skill that was essential when becoming a knight, because a horse was his primary mode

of transportation.

At the age of fourteen, the page became a squire, and at the same time, was formally assigned to a

knight. He now learned to handle a sword, lance, and to bear the weight of heavy armor. Along with his

continued duties from when he was a page, he now had to carve at the dinner table, and accompany his

knight to war. He was constantly receiving instructions from the knight, and attended to the knight’s

personal needs. He assisted the knight with putting on his armor, and had to make sure the sword and other

arms of the knight were polished. He also had to care for the knights horse, which entailed grooming,

feeding, and constant attention. The squire stood by in battles to give aid in a conflict should the knight be

overmatched, and to lend his horse should his master lose his own. It was the squire who picked up the

knight when he fell, and took his body away if he was injured or killed. This all lasted for the next seven

years of the squires life. At the end of th!

is period, when he was twenty-one, a squire who had demonstrated his competence and worth, either by

successful completion of his training or on the actual field of battle, was knighted.

The ceremony of the squire becoming knighted was often very elaborate. The squire had to first

take a purification bath that symbolized the purity of his new life. After the bath, he knelt or stood all night

in prayer before the altar on which the armor he would wear later lay. In the morning they had a religious

ritual, with perhaps a sermon on the knight’s duty to protect the weak, make wrongs right, and honor

women. After this, in the courtyard in the presence of the assembled knights and fair ladies, the knights

armor was buckled on. He was presented with a pair of golden spurs, which only a knight could wear, a

shining new suit of armor, a sword, a shield, a lance, and a charger. After putting on the armor piece by

piece, he knelt to receive the accolade. This was a blow upon the neck or shoulder, given by the

officiating lord, or knight with his fist, or with the flat of a sword. As the blows were given, the lord said,

“In the name of God and St. Michael and S!

t. George, I dub thee knight; be brave and loyal.” He was now a full-fledged bachelor knight entitled to all

the honors and privileges of his rank.

Still at other times the ceremonies were not quite as elaborate. Sometimes they were forced to

make it short and simple because of war. It was not uncommon for a page to become knighted in the field

of battle. This shows how dedicated the knight was to his duties. He was willing to sacrifice the most

important moment of his life in order to fight for, and defend his land.

At times during the ceremony of a knighting, the lord whose castle the ceremony took place gave a

tournament for the knights. This was considered one of the high points of the knights chivalric life.

Knights from miles around were invited to come and take part, while other distinguished people also came

to see the event. In the morning, after mass, the knights would go to the tourney, field, or arena for combat.

This was where the jousting between the knights took place. The jousting was often so rough that many

good knights were injured, crippled, or even killed. Sometimes the tournament lasted for several days.

Time was passed feasting, dancing, and hawking, filling the hours not given to fighting.

The ultimate goal of the knight was to attain the higher rank of banneret. To attain this rank, the

knights had to display outstanding accomplishments, and be true to the chivalric code of honor. If the

knight could attain this rank, the tail would be cut from his pennon or banner bearing his arms, making it a

square banner. A banneret was a knight who fought under his own banner, while a bachelor knight served

and fought under the banner of another knight.

Wealth was very important in medieval days. A knight had to have a castle, farm lands and

forests, and peasant vassals to feed, clothe, and arm him, his squires and men. The knight was expected to

fulfill his knightly obligations, which included giving banquets to his peers and their ladies, offering

hospitality to any passing traveler, attending tournaments and sometimes giving them. The obligations of

knighthood were so heavy that sometimes squires with poor estates refused knighthood and remained

squires their entire lives. Some knights without a taste for fighting, were later excused from going to war

with their liege lord by paying for a substitute. This custom was called scutage.

Without much money or an estate, a poor young knight had to either join one of the great military

orders, such as the Knights Templars, or hire out to a richer noble as a member of his private army. As a

man-at-arms, he could always hope to make his fortune by getting his share of the profit, that was

sometimes won in battle. He could also hope to get money by capturing a rich noble in combat and holding

him in for ransom. It is obvious that knighthood was not easy for those who were not secure financially,

and those who did not have a desire to protect the weak, aid the poor, seek justice, or honor pure

womanhood. A knight had to agree to live by this code during his quest in becoming a knight.

The many obligations of knighthood are different forms of chivalry. Chivalry is the code of

behavior expected of a knight. It is the conduct, ideas, and ideals of the knightly class of the Middle Ages.

It became standardized and referred to as chivalry, a term derived from the French word chevalier,

meaning knight. The code urges the knight to be brave, courageous, honorable, true to his word, and loyal

to his feudal overlord, and to defend his Church. A serious violation of these vows could result in a knight

being classed as an undignified knight. This was an ultimate insult, because of all of the hard work that is

put into becoming a knight. It makes it seem as if all of work was done for nothing.

The knights of the middle ages were known for their dedication and devotion in carrying out their

duties. Once a knight is given a task of some sort, they are known for unwillingness to quit until the job is

done. Most knights were willing to devote their entire lives to the job at hand. Most all knights have a

quest in life, and they show an obsession to accomplish their quest. The quest may be self thought of, or

obtained from someone else, but either way the knight took honor and pride in being able to accomplish the


In the book, The Once and Future King, the author, T.H. White, mocked the definition of a knight.

A knight was always known to be powerful, respected, smart, and a gentleman, but T.H. White shows how

this is not always true. He shows that everybody is human, and just because one has the title of knight, it

does not mean that he is perfect. An example of this was when King Pellinore and Sir Grummore had their

duel. Within minutes of meeting each other, they instantly went to battle. With their helms blocking their

vision, and their heavy armor bogging them down, it seemed rather childish. They would exert all of their

energy to hit each other, and they kept missing. They both continued this trend until both had tired out, and

they both called the contest a draw. This was an example of a very foolish waste of time and shows that

knights are not always the brightest men around.

Another example of White mocking knight as a term was during an encounter with King Pellinore.

The King tells Wart of all the time that is wasted in putting on all the armor. When he is wearing the

armor, it is either freezing or very hot inside the huge hunk of metal. Pellinore also tells Wart of the great

hassle of keeping his armor polished. The King says that he is forced to spend hours polishing the armor,

just to keep it from rusting. This shows how knighthood is not always as glamorous as one thinks.

White mocked the idea of a knight being devoted to his duties with King Pellinore. Although

Pellinore had the title of a king, he displayed all of the characteristics of a knight. His quest in life was to

hunt down a certain beast that roamed the forests Pellinore lived in. He spent many years of his life

hunting this beast, just to catch it and let it go. This was rather foolish of Pellinore, but his quest was over

and it was time to move on. The point in which T.H. White is getting across, is that the knight should not

work so hard in his quest, because when he reaches his goal, there is nothing more left to do.

In the book, White portrays Kay as the knight-to-be. As the first son of the king, he grew up

knowing that he would become a knight. Eventually, he goes through all of the training, and steps needed

to become a knight. After becoming a knight, he does not begin to act appropriately until Arthur becomes

king. When they were younger he seemed to act rather cocky because he knew that as a knight he would

be a level above Arthur, but since Arthur becomes king it humbles Kay. Although being a knight is a very

respectable position, it is obviously not looked upon as highly as the king. This shows how knighthood can

be disappointing, because the power of a king overpowers that of a knight.

The character in The Once and Future King whom best supported the fact that the word knight is

just a title, was Sir Lancelot. He was the most powerful and well-known knight of the book. He was the

first knight of Camelot, and he was knighted when he first arrived. He could best be described as Arthur’s

right hand man, and was willing to put his life on the line for Arthur, as well as for Camelot. Sir Lancelot

had all of these credentials, but he was far from the perfect knight. Elaine, a woman from Lancelot’s past,

comes back into his life and ultimately ruins him. She tricks Lancelot into sleeping with her. When

Lancelot’s love, Guenevere, discovers that they slept together, she banishes him from the kingdom.

Lancelot then goes insane and runs away to live an excluded life in the woods. This is a clear example of

how knighthood is not always perfect. It shows how knights are human, and they can make mistakes, and

have feelings just as anyone else can. Even the !

most intense training can not change what one truly feels inside.

It can not be argued that to earn the rank of knighthood, it took hard work, dedication, and

devotion. The time and effort that one had to exert in order to become a knight is truly commendable. The

chivalric code in which they lived by was very respectable in the middle ages, as well as present day. The

qualities of knighthood are still admired, and they remain as applicable in today’s world as they have been

in the past.

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