Knights have been around for centuries and continue to live in as the subject of film, literature, and pop culture. There is a wealth of information on these daring warriors, so here are some lesser known facts about knights to bring illumination to who these guys were and what they did.
Centuries before knights developed their own fellowship and social order, they were men responsible for protecting lords and their peasants. A knight was appointed to serve this function for a lord and their people. From this, the virtues of honor and bravery carried on.
In conjunction with the feudal system, a knight received an estate, known as a fief, in trade for his military service.
The suit of plate armor that a knight wore weighed more than 50 pounds. However, a knight was not bogged down by this weight and still had great mobility because the armor was distributed evenly over the body.
Chivalry, which comes from the French word chevalier meaning “knight”, originated with knights. The virtues of this code of behavior were suggested by the church, who believed knights to be too bloodthirsty and discourteous. Recommended virtues were fear of God, service, mercy, humility, honor, courage, and respect of women.
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Knight tournaments began in the 11th century with the intended purpose of battle training. Losers were often required to surrender their horse and armor to the tournament winners and thus, became profitable for some. As time went on, knight tournaments became a spectator sport.
The church did not support tournaments because of the injuries and deaths involved, which were not in line with their virtues.
Becoming a knight was costly as it required men to own a horse, armor, weapons, and a shield. As a result, knights were made up more so of men from wealthy families and nobility. For some not born into privilege, they could occasionally become a knight by proving their courage and skill on the battlefield, though this was not the normal situation.
In medieval castles, spiral staircases were developed to prevent knights from ascending and descending stairs during a fight. Because a knight in battle usually carried a large sword, it made it more of a fair fight where they couldn’t flee.
The emergence of the arbalest, a crossbow, started the decline of knighthood. Because the weapon required no training to use and because it was powerful enough to penetrate through a knight’s armor, there was a need for fighters and tactics to change with the times.
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In present day, knighthood is still around in Great Britain as a title of honor, rather than a way of life.
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