The classic idea of a knight is a soldier who on horseback fights with the enemies of his feudal lord and king, upholding the principles of chivalry. It is believed that chivalry originates from the Order of the Knights (Horsemen) of the Holy Sepulcher. The current picture of the knight came to us from the Song of Roland and other legends about Charlemagne and his paladins, who came to England from France during the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Historically, only a separate class of people could become a knight, but in the last century several new ways appeared to become a knight.
The emergence of the estate
Even in ancient Rome there was such a layer of society as equites. This translates to riders. The estate has a privileged position. But the main influence on the emergence of chivalry was provided by the invasion of nomadic Huns in the process of the Great Migration of Peoples. It was in the IV-VII centuries. Nomads had heavy weapons and long swords, they became the prototype of the knightly image, which eventually spread throughout medieval Europe.
In Francia, during the time of the Arabs' attack, foot troops from free peasants prevailed, they could not repulse the invaders. Karl Martell began to distribute church and crown lands to free, but landless, people for temporary or unlimited use. In return, they provided him with their equestrian services.
From the VIII century vassal relations began to spread, people in the service of the master had to swear allegiance to him.
In Germany, from the XI century a special estate was formed - the dynstmanns. These people in their position were higher than the townspeople and free villagers, but lower than free knights. Unlike the latter, the dinstmanns could not leave the service of their own accord.
In France, chivalry was one of the hallmarks of a noble birth, although occasionally non-free citizens with a granted allotment of land managed to enter the estate. Such people belonged to the lower nobility.
In medieval England, only the king could knight, but the fact of owning the land was enough to award the title. Origin was of secondary importance.
Passing training in virtues is what you need to become a knight. Raising a warrior from a boy began at the age of 7 and ended at the age of 21. If a young man successfully served as a page, a squire and coped with all the tests offered to him, the overlord knighted him.
A member of the order was to have perfect mastery of fencing and horseback riding, falconry and swimming. The knights also possessed the gift of versification, playing chess and possessed all the rules of etiquette at court.
From an early age, the boy brought up such qualities as courage, valor, gallant attitude to ladies. Young men were also instilled with a love of music, poetry, dance and religion.
Before becoming a knight, the boy had to go through several stages of service to the master. Initially, he became a page. Usually, the child was transferred to the patron saint at the age of 7-8 years, and he remained there until 14.
Noble feudal lords played the role of gentlemen; some nobles even managed to arrange a child with a page to the king. To become practically a servant with a high-born patron, the boys were required to have a good pedigree, where at least 4 generations of the paternal nobility were to be indicated.
The pages lived on the full support of the master, who was also responsible for raising the boy.
The duties of the page included:
- Duty under the lord.
- Accompanying him to various social events.
- Presence next to the lord during military campaigns.
- The provision of various services of special importance, including personal and secret.
After reaching 14 years, the young man left this step of preparation, the action was accompanied by a magnificent ceremony. Then he became a squire. The next stage began.
It's time to grow up. The second step of knightly education was serving as a squire to his master. This period began at 14 and lasted until 21. In the Middle Ages from this age, a young man was considered an adult. The royal harness bearers have been in this position for life.
Only a young man of noble origin could also become a squire. In rare cases, a commoner could devote this title. Citizens of noble family were also squire sergeants under some gentlemen. This position was entrusted to them until the end of his life.
The squire served his overlord in everything. He was with him at court, in tournaments and on the battlefield. The young servant monitored the condition of the weapon, armor and horse of his patron. During the battle, the squire gave weapons to the master, and also fought with him side by side.
The young man was fully supported by his overlord, the latter was obliged to teach him military affairs and all aspects of knightly education.
There was another way to become a knight in the Middle Ages. Not many succeeded. If in battle a young man defeated a knight, then he was ordained to the desired estate right on the battlefield, because in this case he covered his name with glory.
Next in line is the entry into the estate of warriors. The young man himself could knight the young man, another feudal lord or the king. How old could a squire become a knight? Most often, this event occurred when a young man reached the age of 21, but it happened before if he deserved dedication with something outstanding.
For the rite of initiation, preparation was required, and the procedure itself was magnificent and festive.
That is the name of the ceremony of entry of a squire into the knightly order. Initially, the initiation was mystical. Before becoming a knight, a young man had to bathe, put on a white shirt, a scarlet cloak, and golden spurs. He was surrounded with arms by a gentleman or one of the elders of the order, he also gave the initiate a slap along with verbal instructions. In the life of a knight, this palm strike was to be the only one that he would leave unanswered. There was also a variation of initiation, when instead of encircling the master, the young man struck the young man with the flat side of the sword, first on his right shoulder and then on his left.
How did you become knights in the Middle Ages, if there was a war, and there was no time for preparation? The young man who distinguished himself in battle was given a title in the middle of the field after the battle. This was done by his overlord or other noble feudal lord. A squire was struck flat on the shoulders and recited a brief prayer.
Church Rite of Consecration
Later, the initiation rite began to have a religious connotation. A young man, dressed in white, prayed at church all night. The next morning he had to withstand the liturgy, as well as confess and partake of his confessor.
He laid his weapons on the altar, it was also blessed by the clergy. After this procedure, the spiritual mentor handed the sword to the initiate or girded it. The knight took an oath to defend his faith, to help the weak and destitute, to keep honor. When the initiation ceremony was conducted by the church, it was understood that the young man would become a knight of faith and would zealously guard it. Usually they tried to mark the ceremony for a religious holiday or other important event.
What needed to be done to become a knight after the end of church initiation? This was followed by the secular stage of the ceremony. The new knight had to prove his strength, dexterity and accuracy. He jumped into the saddle, not touching the stirrup with his hands, and galloped, hitting a scarecrow with a spear.
When the young man successfully passed all the trials, the overlord arranged a big feast in honor of his convert knight, which lasted several days. Usually, these heavy expenses were reimbursed to the master by his vassal, the father of the initiate of the youth.
Symbols and paraphernalia
After young people became knights, they received their individual emblem if they were the first in their family to join the order. The sign usually depicted various animals and symbols that in some way had an association with the genus of the youth. The most commonly used gold, silver, red, green and black colors. The emblem was left alone for life and was inherited.
Sometimes the patron of the knight allowed to use his coat of arms or add some new symbols there. This was done when the hero was distinguished by a special feat in battle.
Each knight also had his own motto, he was placed on the coat of arms and revealed the essence of the image. In most cases, for soldiers this phrase was also used as a battle cry.
Deprivation of the knighthood
Along with the opportunity to become a knight, there was also the possibility of being expelled from the order, shaming your name and the entire clan. If a person violated the knighthood code or behaved in a manner not appropriate to his title, the reverse procedure was carried out on him.
The ceremony was accompanied by the singing of funeral psalms. Putting his shield with the coat of arms on the scaffold, from the knight himself alternately removed parts of weapons and vestments. After the man was stripped and dressed in a long shirt, the shield was broken into three parts. The former warrior was lowered from the gallows, threading a loop of rope under his armpits, after which, under the taunts, the crowds were taken to church. A funeral service was held there.
If his crime was grave, then the sentence was death. After the mass, the exile was given to the executioner. In a milder case, the knight was stripped of all ranks, awards, lands, and his name and all descendants were covered in shame. In a way, death was a more gentle punishment, because the merciful disgraced knight was forced to live in poverty and contempt until the end of his life.
How did you become knights in the Middle Ages? It was necessary to go a long way of preparation and have a noble rank. But all this did not mean that the man would possess the necessary moral virtues. No matter how ideal chivalry is, often among the members of the estate there are greedy and cruel people who did not disdain robbery and murder.