Nothing is more defining of the Middle Ages than a knight. These men in their medieval knight armor, with their noble steeds, inspired many. However, they had to pay their dues to reach this status. Indeed, knights are to be respected, but the respect definitely grows once you get a glimpse of everything they had to undergo.
Knights were highly regarded in medieval society, similar to the way celebrities are elevated in today’s culture. While it was possible for anyone to attain knighthood, certain components had to be in place. It was more than simply having knight armor, proper training, and the best weapons; one also had to have the right connections. Training and equipping a knight cost a pretty penny and as a result, it was not affordable for lower classes to engage in. Thus, knights were mainly comprised of men from wealthy families and nobility. If you were one of the lucky few to be born into a line of knights, you would inherit this honor. Knightly training began at a very young age. Boys were taught the code of chivalry and were required to exemplify the utmost respect. They were also given a wooden sword and shield and could most likely be spotted with at least a few pieces of knight armor.
The process of becoming a knight was demanding and called for a bit of sacrifice. One of the biggest sacrifices was being separated from one’s family. At the age of seven, a boy was sent to the home or castle of a lord where he was given the title of page. A page was essentially a lord’s personal assistant and performed such services as dressing their master, waiting on tables, and other menial tasks. A page’s term lasted from age seven to fourteen and they were ranked according to age. While their responsibilities may not have been the most glamorous, these boys did have some perks. In addition to room and board, they received an education and training to bring them one step closer to their dream of knighthood. They had the opportunity to learn such skills as using a lance, fighting with a sword, and mastering the art of riding on horseback. They also got to experience the exhilaration of tournaments on a regular basis.
After the page phase was complete, the next rite of passage was serving as a squire. This position gave a young man full immersion into the world of knighthood. The squire started at age fourteen and held a seven year term until age twenty one. He was essentially a knight’s right hand man and did everything a knight did, including participation in courtly life, furthering the practice of chivalry and learning heraldry, and accompanying on the battlefield. His skills of using weaponry, horsemanship, and jousting were also perfected during this period. He also adjusted to mobility in medieval knight armor. For those who demonstrated exceptional courage and valor, they could be knighted earlier than the age of twenty one. And going back to the idea of sacrifice, many squires laid down their lives in battle while standing in the line of fire while protecting their knights.
After serving as a page and squire, the dream of becoming a knight was a reality. This was celebrated in a ceremony of knighthood, in which a man was dubbed officially as a knight. It was a long and rigorous road to get there, but well worth it for the honor and notoriety that came with it. Dressed in splendor with medieval knight armor and equipped with powerful weapons, the excitement and adventure for a knight was just beginning.