Unveiling the Harsh Truths of Medieval Warfare

Medieval knights have been romanticized as brave and noble warriors, riding into battle on horseback with shining armour and weapons.

knight warfare weapons Copy

However, the realities of medieval combat were often far from glorious. Knights faced brutal and deadly situations, and the toll it took on the knightly class was significant!

Knights Falchion Swords

In this article, we will explore the harsh realities of medieval warfare and how it affected the knights who fought in it.

The Brutality of Medieval Warfare

Medieval warfare was a brutal affair, with battles often resulting in high casualties on both sides. Knights were not immune to the violence and often found themselves facing dangerous situations.

man g44d3aae43 640

Close combat was a common occurrence, and knights were required to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat with swords, axes, and other weapons. Archery was also an essential skill, and knights were expected to be proficient in using a bow and arrow.

The Role of Armour

Armour played a crucial role in medieval combat, providing protection against enemy attacks. However, it was not a guarantee of safety. Armour was heavy and cumbersome, making it difficult for knights to move quickly on the battlefield.


It also did not provide complete protection, and knights were still vulnerable to certain types of attacks. For example, blunt force trauma from a mace or hammer could still cause serious injury or death, even if the knight was wearing armour.


The Toll on the Knightly Class

The realities of medieval combat took a toll on the knightly class. Knights who survived battles often suffered from serious injuries that could impact their ability to fight in the future.

medieval knights armour shields

They were also susceptible to diseases and infections that could spread quickly in the unsanitary conditions of the battlefield.

Many knights suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the traumatic experiences they endured in battle.

The Cost of War

Medieval warfare was not just physically taxing on knights but also financially taxing. Knights were responsible for their own equipment, which was expensive and required constant upkeep.

Medieval Armourers

In addition, knights were often required to pay for their own travel and supplies when called upon to fight. The cost of war could be a significant burden on knights and their families.

Sieges and Castle Warfare

Sieges were a common tactic in medieval warfare, and knights played a crucial role in defending castles and fortresses. Castle warfare was a complex affair, requiring a combination of defensive and offensive strategies.

A Trebuchet Catapult Siege Attack on a Castle

Knights were responsible for defending the castle walls, repelling enemy attacks, and launching their own attacks when necessary. Siege warfare was often a lengthy affair, with both sides enduring long periods of hardship and suffering.

Medieval Castle Staff Military

The End of Medieval Combat

The end of medieval combat was marked by the rise of gunpowder weapons, which changed the nature of warfare significantly. Knights, with their heavy armour and reliance on close combat, were no longer as effective on the battlefield.

“The brutality of medieval warfare is often overlooked in popular culture, but it was a harsh and unforgiving reality for those who lived it.” – Kelly DeVries, Professor of History

English longbowmen Battle of Agincourt
English longbowmen fire a series of arrows on the enemy at the battle of Agincourt

The introduction of gunpowder weapons made armour obsolete, and the cost of warfare increased significantly as a result. The end of medieval combat marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter in military history.

Medieval Gun Powder Medieval Inventions


The realities of medieval combat were far from the romanticized images often portrayed in popular culture. Knights faced brutal and deadly situations on the battlefield, and the toll it took on the knightly class was significant.

From the brutality of close combat to the financial burden of warfare, the realities of medieval combat were harsh. However, despite the challenges they faced, knights continued to fight and protect their countries and their beliefs.

The legacy of medieval combat lives on today, as we continue to learn from the lessons of the past.

Great Books about the Harsh Truths of Medieval Warfare

“The Art of Warfare in the Age of Chivalry” by Charles Oman
“Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England” by Juliet Barker
“The Medieval Way of War: Studies in Medieval Military History in Honor of Bernard S. Bachrach” edited by Gregory I. Halfond