Knight and Knighthood in Great Britain
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The origin of the word “knight”
Training of knightsThe 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].
The code of chivalry
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.
THE LIST OF LITERATURE
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