Knights in Medieval Europe: morals and symbolism of knights, social classes, training, equipment, expectations, duties.

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Knights in Medieval Europe

Knights were the most advanced fighting unit of the Middle Ages. Developed mainly by Charles Martel, they were horsemen, armored and carrying swords. By definition, a Knight was a mounted warrior in the service of his liege-lord (Snell, "Defining the Knight", Knight Life, Internet). He they would generally receive a fief in exchange for their services. But Knights also became important as a symbol of honor, nobility (in the moral sense of the word), and loyalty towards the sovereign.

Who could become a Knight? They were often sons of nobles, but could also be mercenaries. The traditional Knights, those who fought for their Lord and for pride and King and Country etc. often despised the mercenary knights (MacDonald, 7), who would easily switch allegiances to whoever would pay the most.

These noble sons would be sent to another Knight's court for a long period of time, usually when they were 6 or 7 years old. Before that, they would have been playing war games with other boys, which was important to induce a fighting spirit (MacDonald, 11). They would then become a page there until they reached puberty. A page's duties included all of the most menial tasks: running messages around the castle, helping the servants wash the dishes and clean clothes, and other such things. Once the boy reached puberty, he would become a squire.

As a squire, his duties would include maintaining his master Knight's armor, and accompanying him on horseback (one of the first skills the young squire would learn) everywhere he went. He would carry the baggage, and maintain the armor and weapons when on campaign, or at tournaments. During this time he would also be taught the arts of swordsmanship, archery, horseback riding, and other knightly skills (Encarta, "Chevalerie"). He would also learn how to put on and wear armor, and to be comfortable with it. Most knights even had to learn to do handstands in their armor, because they needed to learn to be...
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