Knights were not necessarily chivalric

Cleric, Knight, & Workman

Here’s a historic tidbit from my research:

The conferring of knighthood had nothing to do with the chivalric conduct of the man (so you can pretty much ignore the second sentence in the Wikipedia article concerning knights and chivalry). It was based solely on the man’s success on the battlefield. Many mercenaries were knights and, although knights, had no qualms about stealing from and butchering peasants. As can be seen by this fact, the most unsavory man could earn the title “Sir.”

(Caferro Hawkwood 9)

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Suiting up for battle

© David Ball

Ever wonder how or in what order a knight donned his armor before battle? This video gives us a good idea. I suppose imbibing before a battle was customary. I’d want a drink knowing that physicians were of little use if I needed one (subject of a future blog post).

Arming a Medieval Knight 

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The Medieval Knight: a thumbnail sketch

The Knight’s Armor

©Katherine Pyle. Dragon rearing up to reach medieval knight on ledge, 1932 Published in Charlemagne & His Knights by Katharine Pyle, J.B. Lippincott Co., 1932, p. 80 PB:US

We are still, in the twenty-first century, fascinated with the knight. We read about them,

Sir Walter Scott Ivanhoe; J. Cooper, Sr., illus.

Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe

watch movies where they are the main characters,

Kingdom of Heaven poster

© 20th Century Fox

and draw them.

Knight by SakuraMitsukai

Even video games use them as main characters (usually referred to as “tanks” or “meat shield”)

Human Death Knight of World of Warcraft © Blizzard

But what is it that he (and rarely, she) is wearing? For one thing, the body armor weighed nearly 60 pounds (20-25 kilos) of metal and leather, whereas the helmet weighed around 5 pounds (2 kilos).

Contrary to Hollywood depiction of the knight being stiff and clumsy while suited-up, he was actually quite nimble. The purpose of the armor was to protect him but not restrain him. Consequently, armor was fitted and articulated so he could fight well on horseback or on foot.

All this protection did not come cheap, however. In the mid-thirteenth century, he had to pay the equivalent of more than a foot archer’s pay of ten plus years. And that was not counting his war horse (which will be the subject of a future post).

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