A Medieval squire was the final rank before a boy became a knight.
He first served as a page for a medieval Lord from around the age of 7. When he reached the age of around 14, he was promoted to the rank of a squire.
A Squire served on his Lord and learned fighting skills, court etiquette, chivalry, and warfare. When the squire reached the age of 21, he was then assessed by the Lord for a possible promotion to knighthood which was dependent on his performance.
In the medieval period, a squire was someone who accompanied a knight as his shield and armour-bearer. Typically, a squire was a teenager and earned the title of Squire at the age of 14. He would then accompany the knight onto the battlefield, to prove his mettle and to show his loyalty to the lord.
Before battles, the squire was also required to perform different tasks as his lord may require, such as readying the horse and preparing weapons.
The early life of a squire typically started as a page boy. Services as a page boy were offered to the lord at a very young age, as early as the 7th year. In the position of a page, the boy was typically assigned to the ladies of the court who put him to different tasks as they saw fit.
Until the age of 14 or 15, the boy was required to continue serving as a page and if he proved loyal and his performance satisfactory, the lord would then promote him to the title and position of a squire.
Medieval squires were required to undergo different forms of education which played a role in their esteem as a squire and their chance of being promoted to a knight one day.
They had to learn the code of chivalry, horsemanship, swordsmanship and marksmanship, the rules of heraldry as well as a number of athletic skills to help them on the battlefield. Moreover, the squire was expected to be well-acquainted with music, dance, jousting as well as various elements of court etiquette.
A squire was trained in many different disciplines in order to accomplish him as a fighter. To that end, he excelled at swordsmanship and was specially trained in horsemanship of different horses and the ability to handle them well.
He also learned the art of defending a castle and siege warfare. The squire was trained diligently at wielding the lance and complementing it with the apt use of the shield. Rigorous training and tournaments provided squires with an opportunity to show off these acquired fighting skills.
Medieval squires usually donned the livery identified by its design and colour as associated with the knight they served. They further wore weapons such as swords and shields, in which they were thoroughly trained. By wielding these weapons well and proving their skill at them on the battlefield, the squires were able to improve their prospects of progressing to knighthood.
In medieval times, knights were required to be not just skillful warriors but also the embodiment of a number of qualities such as honour, courtesy, bravery, and mercy towards the poor.
Knights were further required to be faithful, wage war for the common good, and avoid any unnecessary fights. The code of chivalry also behooved a knight never to turn down an equal challenge and to always respect women. Squires were taught the code of chivalry and epic tales were narrated to them to instill the significance of the code in their hearts.
Medieval squires were promoted to knighthood usually at the age of around 21 years. An earlier promotion also took place in case of an exceptional show of bravery by the squire. The promotion from squire to knighthood took place in a “dubbing ceremony”.
During the early medieval period, this ceremony consisted of the lord giving an open-handed blow at the back of the squire’s neck and telling him to abide by the code of chivalry.
In the later medieval period, the ceremony became more elaborate, with the squire taking a ritualistic bath before standing vigil at the local chapel for the whole night.
A dubbing ceremony in the early medieval period was simple. The lord struck the back of the squire’s neck with an open hand and then instructed him to abide by the code of chivalry. In subsequent centuries, the influence of Christianity grew and the dubbing ceremony became more elaborate.
The squire first had to take a ritualistic bath to cleanse his body and then spend the night prior to the ceremony at the Castle Chapel. In the morning, a sermon took place. Then a sword and a shield placed on the altar were taken by the lord and granted to the squire who was accompanied by two sponsors.
Once this was done, the Lord tapped the new knight with the flat of a hand or the sword, as part of the tradition. The conferring of knighthood was then celebrated with music, dancing, and feast.
Towards the last half of the 14th century, the role of squire had significantly evolved so much so that in that period, a squire could bear his own coat of arms.
Often, the coat of arms borne by the squire resembled that of the lord but was modified sufficiently to depict that it belonged to a subordinate.