Knight and Knighthood in Great Britain

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 The origin of the word “knight” 

The word knight comes from the Old English word cnight, which means a household retainer. English people used the word to describe French mounted soldiers who first came to England after the Norman conquest of 1066. These knights were merely warriors equipped and trained to fight on horseback. Knighthood carried no social distinction, and any man could be a knight. Many lords had knights, who performed household duties in peacetime and fought in time of war. The lord provided armour and horses for his knights [3:23-24]. Between 1100 and 1300, most knights became vassals (ser¬vants to lords) and received some land. As the cost of armour and a war horse increased, only wealthy men could equip themselves to fight as knights. Thus the knights became a class divided from the rest of the community. Entry to their ranks became a mark of honour and distinction. Any man could be made a knight, but most new knights had fathers who were knights or who belonged to the nobility. The age of knights and knighthood is often called the age of chivalry. The word chivalry comes from the Old French word chevalerie, mean¬ing horse soldiery. But the term came to mean the code of behaviour and ethics that knights were to follow [1:345-346]. Knighthood grew up as part of the feudal system of the Middle Ages. It lasted as long as wars were based on heavy cavalry and combat between individuals. Knights became less important in warfare by the 1400's because of changing military tactics and the introduction of gunpowder. In Great Britain, knighthood is now an honour bestowed on indi¬viduals by the king or queen in recognition for outstanding merit or service. It no longer has any military meaning.

Training of knights 

The right connections A Knight was recognised by Middle Ages society as a man who possessed great combat skills and who adhered to the Code of Chivalry. During the Middle Ages, it was technically possible for any free man to become a knight. However, the process of training and equipping a knight with a horse and appropriate weapons was very expensive. Knights would therefore generally come from a noble, or wealthy, family - a would-be knight had to have the right connections. The origin of the term ' Knight' derives from Anglo-Saxon word "Cniht" meaning "boy" or "page boy". The Knighthood started as a boy. The honor of being a knight eventually passed from a knight to his sons. Upbringing His future role as a Knight would be recognised at the birth of a son. His early upbringing would therefore be governed by this ambition. Up to the age of 7 years old a young boy would be brought up in the home of his parents. During this time he would be expected to learn basic good manners and to understand the role of the knight, chivalry and loyalty to his liege lord. Games would be played mimicking the role of a knight. Toys would include a wooden sword and shield. A boy's aspirations to becoming a knight would be fuelled by attending tournaments and hearing stories of brave knightly deeds and combats [3:67-68]. 
At the tender age of just seven years a young boy would be sent to commence his education at the home or castle of a noble. His role would be as a page, the third step towards becoming a knight. A page was also referred to as a 'varlet' meaning 'little vassal'. It was the duty of a Page to wait at table, care for the Lord's clothes and assist them in dressing. The page was also expected to acts as servants to the ladies of the court or castle her served in. The Page was provided with a uniform of the colours and livery of the Lord. There were many pages, the number depending on the wealth of the noble. There was a 'pecking order' amongst the pages which was dependent on age. The ages of the pages would range from seven years old up to fourteen years old when they would take the next step to becoming a knight by serving in the position of a Squire. The young page would receive an education being taught religion, manners, riding, hunting, hawking and strategic games such as backgammon and chess. A Page would soon start to acquire the skills required of a Knight by practising the skills of tilting a lance and watching the prowess and training of their seniors. The use of the lance would be practised together with the skills of horsemanship. A target was erected and the Page would mount a wooden 'horse' on wheels holding a lance. The wooden horse would be pulled along by two other pages towards the target and the page would aim the lance. Sword play was practised using wooden swords and shields. Fighting on piggyback introduced the young knights to the balance and skills required in mounted combat. The page would attend their superiors at Tournaments which were always seen as great occasions in the life of pages from the Middle Ages [3:73-74]. The Squire The Medieval Squire was a servant to a knight during the Medieval times and era. This was the fourth step of becoming a Knight. The role to a squire was one of the most important Knighthood and started when a page reached the age of fourteen years old. The duties of a Squire were to learn about Chivalry, the rules of Heraldry, horsemanship and practise the use of weapons and the skills required of a Knight. It was also their duty to enter into the social life of the castle and learn courtly etiquette, jousting, music and dancing. The Squire served in this role for seven years and became a Knight at the age of twenty-one. Sometimes knighthood was conferred on a squire at an earlier age as the reward for bravery on the battlefield. In time of war Squires accompanied Knights on the battlefield, leading and tending the horses and dressing them in the Medieval Knights Armor. They came under fire from arrows and many squires were killed doing their duty [2:455]. Medieval Squires were described as follows by Ramon Lull (1235 – 1315) who was a Medieval writer and philosopher: "A noble man who loves the order of chivalry and will be a knight to have first a master who is a knight, for thus it is a discovenable thing that a squire should learn the order and nobility from any other man than a knight. So very high and honored is the order of chivalry that a squire should suffer himself not only to learn to keep horse and learn to serve a knight, that he go with him to tourneys and battles; but it is necessary that he beholds the school of the order of knighthood." [2:456-457]. Knighting Any knight could bestow knighthood on an¬other. Sometimes men were knighted on the field of bat¬tle, but the ceremony usually took place during times of peace. The earliest knighting ceremonies were simple. A knight buckled on the armour of the squire and proclaimed him a knight. Later ceremonies became more complicat¬ed. One man buckled on the sword, and another fastened the spurs. The squire knelt before the man who was knight¬ing him. The knight struck the squire on the back of the neck with the palm of his hand. Later a tap with a sword replaced the blow with the hand. This tap was called the accolade, from the French word col, meaning neck. The tap was followed by the words, "dub you knight"[4:341-342]. Religious ceremonies became part of the knighting ceremony when the ideals of Christianity became more closely linked with knighthood. Before a squire was knight¬ed, he kept a vigil in church. He confessed, fasted, prayed, and pledged to use his weapons for sacred causes and ideals. Before the ceremony, he bathed and put on special clothing. The pageantry made the ceremonies expensive. Feudal custom allowed an overlord to levy money from his vassals when his eldest son was knighted.

The code of chivalry 

Chivalry was the knight's code of behaviour. The code of chivalry grew with the songs of the minstrels in the 1000's and 1100's. Their poems show that a true knight had faith and a deep love of the Christian religion. He defended the church and was ready to die for it. He loved the land of his birth, and gave generously to all. His strength served to protect women and the feeble. A knight cham¬pioned right against injustice and evil, and never surren¬dered or flinched in the face of the enemy[1:234-235]. Prowess. To do the best one can do in all things in accordance with one’s ability. It matters not what the task may be. For anything that knights set themselves to doing, must be accomplished with the utmost attention to detail, concern for timeliness, and completed with a high regard for excellence. A knight is not expected to be an expert in all things. However to do less than one is capable of demeans not only one’s self, but also the task at hand. No task is too menial for a knight, for are we not servants? It is not our place to be treated with reverence and deference. Ours is a humble station and we must never forget that once we kneel and accept the accolade of knighthood, we spend the rest of our lives in humility. The knight is ever the first to step forward and accept the task, and ever is he or she the last to withdraw once the task is accomplished. Justice. The knight must ever be upon the side which is right. The pathway of Right is not always the pathway of that which is popular or easy. In fact it is ever the difficult rock strewn path that causes many to stumble upon its course. A knight must consider, what is right? Most small children know instinctively what is right and wrong. Search your feelings, do not fall prey to convenience, know that which must be done and do it. Justice is often a matter of perspective. I once saw several crows chase a fox. Who was right and who was wrong? Was it the crows defending their nests, or the fox providing a meal for her kits? Mercy must go hand in hand with Justice. Justice can be cold and cruel with no regard for those she judges. Mercy is the warmth and heart that must bring balance to the knight’s duty of defending Right [7]. Loyalty. The word of a knight must be given wisely, sparingly and unwavering. Fealty and oath are the knight’s stock and trade. Ever must the knight stand before and beside those he or she has sworn allegiance to. The knight that switches sides for the increase of his or her own renown is a knight that cannot be trusted by either friend or foe. Defense. A knight will ever be the shield of the defenseless, the oppressed and of those in need. For a knight is seen as a beacon of light in the darkness of threat, prejudice, and malice. A knight should give only minor concern to his or her pride or welfare. The safety and well being of their charges takes all priority [6]. Courage. The knight that says, “I fear nothing” is a knight to be feared. For this knight cares nothing for others and is deceiving not only those he or she serves, but themselves as well. The breadth of a hair separates the ranks of the brave and the foolish. The brave have discovered the secret of Courage. By allowing one’s self to fail, then one shall surely succeed. Many knights feel they are unworthy of the rank of knight because they have made mistakes or failed in their tasks. No one is perfect. It is only when we surrender, that failure and defeat are complete. Faith. This is the foundation of the knight, the castle walls that defend the knight from despair and disappointment in their fellow man. For as much as we that follow this Way espouse the virtues of the Code. There are those who disdain and revile it as weakness and foolishness. It does not matter what Faith the knight reveres, as long as it is in keeping with the values of the Code. For in the Code can be found the similarities of these Faiths that bind us together as Brothers and Sisters [8]. Courtesy. A knight must be courteous and use good manners to all. This sets an example for others to emulate.
A knight should be fearless in the face of their adversary; however there is no need for one’s manner to be crude. Likewise with women and children be kind and gentle. Show respect and therein shall respect be returned unto you, but be not so foolish to think that respect is your due [6]. Humility. So often the loud ones, the flashy ones, the braggers and boasters are hailed as Hero, Champion, and Victor! These are the ones the masses throng to, venerate and adore. A knight true in the Way cares not for such foolishness. The actions and deeds of the knight speak for themselves. The real knight is the one behind the scenes, seen yet not seen. Doing that which needs doing and then fades away as if mist. The knight does not seek riches in rewards, unless the relief of a burden or the laughter of children can be considered gold [8]. Dignity. A knight seeks calmness and composure in word and deed, the self-assurance and confidence that gives one grace. Not arrogance or the false pride of self-importance. The manner of carrying one’s self will often be the difference between conflict and resolution. To be sure, a knight’s conduct and appearance will reassure either their friends or their foes. Compassion. A knight should not be cold or callous to those in need. Nor should a foe be treated unkindly once defeated. All should be treated as one would wish to be treated in similar circumstances. Not all are as fortunate as others and we must think of the needs and situations of those we serve before our own. Generosity. A knight should be giving, of one’s wealth, of one’s talents and most of all, of one’s self. There is no need to pauper one’s self. In fact being over generous to some people creates over dependency. While we should all need and rely on one another, we should maintain our self-reliance. Be generous with your funds and talents; yet balance this with taking care of your own needs and responsibilities to family. Through our service to others we serve that which we revere as Divine. There is no greater gift [7]. Duty. A knight must do these things each and every day until the end of days. There is no separation between our lives as a knight and our more mundane existence. The virtues of the Code are not chosen at the time of their convenience and then ignored when they no longer suit us. The Code is a way of life. It becomes The Way of Life at the very moment we take up this path. Not when we are knighted, but the day we say “I will strive to become a knight”. To be a knight is to take up a most difficult lifestyle. Many have tried, many have failed, and the choice is yours alone. Yet do not despair for you are not alone. There are others who struggle in Valour and swear their Loyalty to you, the Brethren of the Code [8]. A Code of Chivalry was documented in 'The Song of Roland' in the early 11th Century Medieval period of William the Conqueror. The 'Song of Roland' describes the 8th Century Knights and battles of the Emperor Charlemagne and has been described as Charlemagne's Code of Chivalry. The duties of a Knight were described as follows: To fear God and maintain His Church To serve the liege lord in valour and faith To protect the weak and defenceless To give succour to widows and orphans To refrain from the wanton giving of offence To live by honour and for glory To despise pecuniary reward To fight for the welfare of all To obey those placed in authority To guard the honour of fellow knights To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit To keep faith At all times to speak the truth To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun To respect the honour of women Never to refuse a challenge from an equal Never to turn the back upon a foe. In real life, a knight did not always resemble the ideal knight of the minstrels. His code of honour and loyalty was sometimes applied only to members of his own class, and he often acted brutally toward people of low birth. The violent life of the Middle Ages made it difficult to prevent violations of the code. Even dedicated knights were also soldiers interested in conquest and plunder. A knight who was proved guilty of cowardice or other seri¬ous misconduct was disgraced by having his sword and his spurs broken. However, "serious misconduct" usually meant violations against other knights and their families.

 A lady’s role in chivalry 

The Knight in shining armour was expected to ride about the land doing good deeds, upholding the law and championing the weak and defenseless. In order to make the Code of Chivalry work, his Lady played an important and active part in it as well. The Lady of the Knight’s job was to acknowledge the good and virtuous works which were being done by the Knight, to praise him for being brave, just and courteous. By doing these things she guided him along the Path of Chivalry rather than allowing him to stray into the realm of pride, vanity and selfishness [3:278].

When the turmoil of the early Crusades had diminished and knights began to spend less time upon the battlefield, women increasingly provided the focus for their attentions. A state of relative military calm coupled with the rise of the troubadours, poets that sang of the virtues of Chivalry, dictated that the feminine graces were no longer overlooked. Soon women exerted a power over the knight as powerful as his religion. The highest glory that any knight could attain was to be worthy of the love of the Lady he desired. To this end the most impressive acts of valour were performed in her honour.  In his Lady’s name a knight waged war or participated in tournaments to win her favour.

1. A Lady is the intellectual custodian of Knightly Virtues. She is responsible for maintaining and promoting the ideals of Chivalry. She is also the balance, the fulcrum between the woman and the warrior. A Lady is first and foremost a woman and as such she is the keeper of the hearth flame that provides a safe nurturing environment for her family. She is the teacher of her children and Lady for her Lord. The Lady has the courage to do those daily tasks that while they are unglamorous, they are also so vital to the well being of her family, and she does them graciously. She is an example to her family and the keeper of peace. She is generous to others while also being generous to herself. She keeps her word no matter the difficulty in fulfilling her vow, and she stands fast in her beliefs. She selflessly serves her Lord, her family and those she believes worthy [3:286].

<u</u>2. The Lady of the Knight is the guiding light of Chivalry.As the home evolved it became the center of social interaction, promoting the civilizing arts of music, poetry, painting and sculpture. To please their Lady the Knight will labor to master these arts as intensely as he labors to master the art of warfare. Writing poetry, singing love songs and playing musical instruments then are as important as his skill with sword, lance and bow [3:290].

3. The Lady has other duties as well.

For example she is in charge of the Castle kitchens and oversees the preparation of meals. She commands an army of her own. At her disposal are the staff and stewards that keep a Castle in order. Also she is in charge of the entertainments for visitors and guests that arrive throughout the year. In the absence of her Lord she takes care of managing the jobs normally done by the Knight and his men, to include defending the Keep against siege or leading the army on the field of battle. As a warrior the Lady has to have the strength and determination to make her way in a man’s world. She is willing to get her hands dirty and make sacrifices when needed. Sometimes she has to bide her time when conditions are less than favorable until the time to take action is at hand. Then she does so without hesitation or fear. She must be hard when necessary and merciful when she is able, but she is always and forevermore a Lady.


Clothing and armour

In the 1100's, a knight wore a sleeved undertunic of linen or wool reaching below the knees. Over this was a sleeveless tunic, open at the sides and fastened with a belt. He had a cloak fastened at the shoulders, and wore long stockings and leather shoes. In the 1200's, the undertunic reached to the ankles, and the knight also wore a fur-lined surcoat, which had long sleeves and a hood that covered his head [2:580]. Clothes in the 1300's became more colourful and elab¬orate. The undertunic covered only the torso, and but¬toned down the front. The sleeves buttoned tightly from wrist to elbow. The trousers also fit tightly. Jeweled felt hats and decorated capes became popular. Fashions in the 1400's went to extremes of decoration and display. The surcoat was pleated, edged with fur, and fastened at the waist with a belt. Shoulder padding and stiffening over the chest created an exaggerated waistline. The sleeves were long, full, and stiff. Shoes became so pointed that the front was often curled up and fastened to the knee with a small chain. From the 1200's to the 1400's, knights dressed colourfully and carefully followed changes in fashion. The early knight wore a conical helmet with a projec¬tion to cover his nose. He also wore a long garment of padded fabric or leather covered with interlaced metal rings, called mail. In the 1300's, a stronger helmet covering the entire head of the wearer replaced the conical helmet. Patch¬es of plate armour were added to protect places the mail did not adequately defend. Strips of plate were designed to protect the elbow, the arm, the knee, and the part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. Plates of metal, called caul¬-drons covered the opening in the armour at the junction between the arm and the body. The shield became much smaller and could be shifted to protect the face and head. The lance was the knight's principal weapon, but he also used a sword, mace, and battle-ax. His sword hung on his left side, and a dagger on his right [3:305-306]. In the 1400's, plate armour covered the knight's body completely. A mail collar covered the gap between the helmet and the top of the body armour. A visor, fitted to the helmet, protected the face. The knight wore metal gloves, called gauntlets, as well as iron shoes. Strips of mail covered the arms and legs. Swords became lighter and less cumbersome. Gunpowder appeared on the battlefield in the early 1300's. The new armour, designed to protect against gun¬fire, was so heavy that the knight had to be lifted on his horse by a crane. If he fell off during battle, he could not get up without help, and often lay at his enemy's mercy. The coat of arms provided the only recognisable fea¬ture of a knight when his face was covered. It was painted on his shield and on the surcoat that he wore over his armour [4:233-234]. The fierce Warhorse was used by Knights in Medieval Times. The most common type of warhorse was called a Destrier. The Destrier was brought to England by William the Conqueror following his victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A horse played an extremely important part in the life of a knight. A knight would own several horses which were built for different duties. These knights horses ranged in various sizes starting with a palfrey, or an ambler for general travelling purposes. Bigger and stronger horses were required as warhorses. The Courser was the most sought after and expensive warhorse, owned by the most wealthy knights. The more common warhorses were like modern hunters, known in Medieval Times as a Destrier [4:250-251]. The Medieval Warhorse had a dense rounded body with a broad back, strong loins, powerful hind-quarters, and long legs with dense bones. The colors of a Medieval Warhorse ranged from black, brown, bay, or gray. It sometimes had long silky hair (often white) on the lower parts of its legs. It was a massive animal measuring in excess of 24 hands tall. The Medieval Warhorse was specially trained for use in battle or individual combat at jousting tournaments. A Medieval Warhorse needed the strength and stamina to carry both a knight and his heavy armor into battle during the Medieval times and era. The Medieval Warhorse was also trained to become a battle horse - able to inflict injury on the enemy. A Medieval Warhorse had to undergo significant training. It was trained to:  Carry a knight and respond to a Knight's commands from leg pressure rather than reins. A knight needed his hands to weald his weapons and hold his shield.  A warhorse was trained to trample the bodies of fallen enemies  The massive warhorse was trained to bite and kick on command  Medieval Warhorse Armor - Barding The Medieval Warhorse was protected by rigid pieces of plate armor made of both of leather and steel. Horse armor was called 'barding'. A full dressed Warhorse would be armored on the head, neck, body and chest. The rear of the warhorse would be covered with a padded cloth. Stirrups were added later. The head armor was often highly decorated and spike horns were added to the mask armor thus resembling the look of a legendary unicorn. An ornamented cloth covering for a warhorse was called a trapper [2:199]. The original Medieval Warhorse breed is now extinct, but recently horses have been bred from Clydesdales and Quarter horses to reproduce a type similar to the Medieval Warhorse. They are the largest breed of horse, standing from 20 to 24 hands tall, with a thicker build than Clydesdales with less fur.


Tournaments developed in the 1100’s, probably in northern France. Large numbers of knights gathered and split into two sides to fight each other. These fights were much like real battles, and they provided valuable military training. The defeated knights often had to pay ransoms to the winners to recover their freedom and possessions. A tournament could last for several days and range over the countryside. Kings opposed tournaments because such large gath¬erings of armed men could lead to rebellion, and because they were bloody and wasteful. As a result, they could be held only with royal permission. Those who broke this rule suffered imprisonment and loss of property. The church supported the ban on tournaments. It refused Christian burial to anyone who died in a tournament [3:567]. Knights would fight as individuals in tournaments but there would also be team events. There were many different types of Tournaments during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages which each had a different type of combat method. The events of the tournament were: 1. The Joust – an individual tournament event 2. The Melee – a Team event at the tournament Melee a pied Tournament – Teams of knights fighting on foot 3. Melee a cheval Tournament – Teams of knights fighting on horseback A joust is defined as a fight between mounted knights wearing armor and using lances. Watching Medieval Knights Jousting was a favorite form of entertainment during the Medieval times and era. Medieval Knights Jousting contests took place at Medieval tournaments which provided a venue for Knights to practise various forma of combat to the delight, and for the amusement, of crowds of onlookers. The tournaments kept the knight in excellent condition for the role he would need to play during medieval warfare – skill with weapons and supreme strength and fitness were necessary to knights of the Middle Ages. Tournaments were exciting and colorful pageants which displayed different forms of combat. Medieval Knights Jousting was one of the events shown at a tournament. Medieval Knights Jousting was an individual event whereas the Melee was a team event where teams of knights fought on fought or on horseback. The Medieval Jousting Knights represented their liege lord or were entering the tournament in order to win the purse, or prize money. In early tournaments the losing knight would forfeit his armor and his horse which would be claimed by the victor. Fame and Glory were also good reasons for the Medieval Knights Jousting knights to enter a tournament [3: 380]. There were two types of Medieval Knights Jousting events during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages the ‘Joust a plaisance’ and the ‘Pas d’armes’ 1. Joust a plaisance – A series of elimination Medieval Knights Jousting contests which were held over over several days. An overall Medieval Knights Jousting winner would be determined 2. Pas d’armes or passage of arms Medieval Knights Jousting event – A Knight would send out a proclamation that he would take on all Medieval Knights Jousting challengers at a specific time and place. The origins of Medieval Knights Jousting can be traced to any war time in early history was dependent upon equestrian skills – for instance, the horsemanship of the Mongols was legendary. The Gladiatorial contests fought in the arena’s built across Europe were banned in 404AD. But the battles fought in the arenas were remembered and changed into games to enable soldiers to practise skills which did not culminate in the death or injury of participants. Old games were revived where the battles of antiquity were replayed in those such as the ‘Game of Troy’. The tournaments of the Middle Ages replaced the gladiatorial games of the Roman arena but with far less fatalities and bloodshed and far more finesse

Knighthood in literature 

Knighthood and chivalry were favourite themes in medieval literature. Poets and minstrels of Western Eu¬rope created stories of kings, heroes, and their ladies. The stories centred on life in the castle, chivalry, and tournaments and jousts. In the 1100's, French poet-musi¬cians called troubadours began composing songs known as chansons de geste. These songs idealised love and de-scribed the knights' heroic adventures. Some troubadours were knights and wrote exaggerated accounts of their own adventures. Bertrand de Born was an outstanding knight¬ly troubadour. Many European kings, such as Richard the Lion-Hearted of England and Alfonso X of Castile, also composed chansons [1:345]. One group of stories made up the Arthurian legend. Arthur was a shadowy historical figure who probably lived about 500 AD. Storytellers passed on the earliest tales about Arthur by word of mouth. These storytellers may have based the tales on an actual British leader who won minor victories over German invaders in the early AD 500's. The real King Arthur was a legendary king of medieval Britain. He became the main character in some of the most popular stories in world literature. For almost 1,000 years, writers have told of Arthur's brave deeds and the adventures of his knights of the Round Table. His knights, including Lancelot and Galahad, were Christian warriors who faced perils and searched for the Holy Grail. They protected the weak and were guided by the love of a lady, (Holy Grail, in its earliest form in medieval legend, was a mysterious food-producing vessel. It was usually depicted as a dish or cup, or sometimes a magical stone. The Grail later became identified with the vessel of the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea used it to catch the blood of Jesus as He hung from the cross). The Round Table was first mentioned by the French poet, Wace, in 1155 and in that account was made round so that all the knights seated around it would have the same stature - a table with no head to sqabble over. In Arthurian legend it wasn't just an actual table but represented the highest Order of Chivalry at King Arthur's court. The Knights of the Round Table were the cream of British nobility, who followed a strict code of honour and service [5:123]. There is a big Round Table hanging on the wall of Winchester Castle, which names 25 shields. Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d'Arthur identifies Camelot as the English town of Winchester (disputed by William Caxton, Malory's own publisher, who asserts that Camelot was in Wales) and there has been a long and popular association between King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the actual Winchester Round Table, but its origin has been dated to around 1270, the start of the reign of King Edward I - like the knights, well after Arthur's time. In literature, the Round Table varies in size according to which author is decribing it. The consensus is that it seated 150, with one chair - the Siège Perilous ('danger-seat') - which no-one could occupy safely except for the true Grail-Knight: the knight destined to achieve the Holy Grail, or Sangreal, a symbolism sometimes linked to the Last Supper, which had one place for Judas of ill-omen. The Grail-Knight - it was said that the Siège Perilous was reserved for Sir Perceval, then later, Sir Galahad - was required to be a hero with the purest heart, who was chaste and a virgin without sins (which disqualified Sir Lancelot from the start) [3:370]. The breakdown of the seating arrangements is this: King Laudegraunce brought 100 when he gave the table to King Arthur, Merlin filled up 28 of the vacant seats, and King Arthur elected Sir Gawain and Sir Tor - the remaining 20 seats, including the danger-seat, were left for those who might prove worthy. Arthurian legend also contains reference to lesser Orders: the Queen's Knights, the Knights of the Watch, the Table of Errant Companions, and the Table of Less-Valued Knights, which could explain, in a literary sense, why the Round Table would be so large, though it must have been ring-shaped rather than a round normal table, otherwise most of its surface would have been unreachable [4:366]. This work was the inspiration of Chretien de Troyes, who wrote verse romances between 1165 and 1181. Chretien was the first to mention the Holy Grail. The Arthurian themes inspired Marie de France, author of the play "Lanval", written about 1189. Sir Thomas Malory published his version of the Arthurian legends, "Le Morte d'Arthur", in 1485. Other accounts include Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queene", William Moms' "The Defence of Guenevere ", Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Idylls of the King", and T.H.White's "Once"and "Future King". In medieval literature, knights considered member¬ship at the Round Table a great honour. Brave men came to Arthur's court from many countries hoping to be cho¬sen a member. Many romances describe the career of various knights of the Round Table. Several tell of the adventures of Sir Tristram. These stories describe his skill as a hunter and harp player and his bravery in killing a dragon and a giant. The best-known tale concerns his love affair with Isolt, the wife of his uncle, King Mark. Sir Gawain was another famous knight of the Round Table. The great English romance "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" describes Gawain's bravery and sense of honour as he faces possible death from the gigantic Green Knight. Gawain also shows his moral purity by refusing to be seduced by the Green Knight's beautiful but deceit¬ful wife. Other Round Table heroes included Ban, Bede-vere, Ector, Gareth, Kay, Lancelot, Launfal, Palomides, Sagramore, and Ywain [1:222]. For several reasons, the fellowship of the Round Table declined and in time was destroyed. The greatest adven¬ture of the Round Table was the search for the Holy Grail. However, only three knights — Bors, Galahad, and Per¬ceval — were morally perfect and thus able to find the Grail. The fact that so many of Arthur's knights proved themselves morally imperfect damaged the reputation of the Round Table. A scandal also developed over the love affair between Queen Guenevere and Sir Lancelot, per¬haps the greatest of the Round Table knights. The scandal destroyed the bonds of respect and friendship that had united all the knights [3:382]. The villainous actions of Sir Modred, a knight who was either Arthur's nephew or his son, led to the final destruction of the fellowship of the Round Table. Modred seized Arthur's throne while the king was in France. Arthur quickly returned to Britain after learning of Modred's treachery, and war broke out between the forc¬es of the two men. Arthur killed Modred in battle but received wounds that led to his death. The brotherhood of the Round Table dissolved following the death of Arthur.


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