Becoming a knight was a long and difficult process and was also a very costly endeavour, because of this and traditional customs dictated by the Feudal system commonly only the sons of Nobles could become Medieval Knights!
However, in some situations knighthood could be gained for exceptional military services. It is probable that the legendary knight John Hawkwood who was a tanners son became a knight this way.
Medieval Tanners transformed animal skins or hides into leather!
Young boys who lived in noble families would commonly become pageboys around the age of 7 and this was the first step towards knighthood.
Page Boys would become assistants to established Knights and would learn many skills from them, mastery of horsemanship would be a key lesson for a medieval page boy.
Page boys would be given duties such as maintaining armor and caring for a knight’s horses.
A pageboy would also start to learn how to fight and ride a horse in a castle until they were teenagers and around the age of 14/15 years of age, they would take their next step on their journey to knighthood as a Squire.
A squire was an understudy to an established medieval knight, it was the next stage of his journey to Knighthood.
A pageboy became a squire around the age of 14/15, this transition was usually confirmed in a religious ceremony where the new squire was given a sacred sword. The Squire was now in the service of the Lord’s household in which he lived.
Training now went up a level and Squires were required to add to existing skills and master new ones*
A Squire had to master a variety of weapons whilst being an expert on a horse, the apprenticeship was long and hard and the squire would have to keep his master’s armor and weaponry in top condition.
Squires had to learn fighting techniques and riding skills and would watch their masters closely and follow them into battle.
Medieval knights needed to be extremely strong to be able to carry heavy weapons during long battles whilst wearing heavy armor.
Squires worked on their strength and conditioning on a daily basis and were extremely fit. Squires needed to practice their fighting skills and learn different fighting techniques with different weapons on their way to becoming a knight.
As the medieval period progressed, training methods advanced and specialist equipment such as the Quintain was introduced that helped Knights with Jousting techniques and the use of other weapons such as Flails and Maces.
The quintain was a rotating pole that squires and knights charged on horseback, they would try to hit the shield cleanly with the tip of their lance and if they did not hit the shield at the right place at the correct speed the rotating sandbag could knock them from their horses.
Medieval Squires would practice wrestling and grapple and take part in mock sword fights using wooden, whalebone swords called batons to hone their swordsmanship and improve their fitness.
Small round Buckler-style shields made from wood or metal were used in mock fights to learn how to defend against sword attacks.
Medieval Squires had to learn the code of chivalry that applied to all squires hoping to become a knight.
These were basically rules Knights had to follow and involved morality teachings, codes of acceptable conduct that knights had to display towards people especially women, and strict rules they had to obey.
After years of intensive training under the wing of an established knight, it would finally be time for the medieval squire to make the transition to becoming a fully-fledged knight. This would usually be around 21 years of age.
In preparation for the special dubbing ceremony the following day, squires would spend the night before the ceremony in prayer asking for guidance in their new role as a knight.
The dubbing ceremony was a big event often followed by feasting and dancing, sometimes tournaments took place afterward. A knight or even a king could perform the dubbing ritual but often the squire’s proud father would perform this duty.
The squire dressed in a white robe would kneel down and have both his shoulders tapped with a sword, usually by his father as other nobles watched.
A squire was given a sword and spurs for his achievement and the new status of a knight.
At the end of the dubbing ceremony, a knight’s father would say the following or similar words:
“Go fair son be thou a valiant knight and courageous in the face of your enemy and be true and upright that God may love thee”.
If a battle was about to commence the dubbing ceremony could be brought forward so that a new knight could prove his worth on the battlefield. On rare occasions, a squire would become a knight on the battlefield if they had carried out an act deemed worthy of such accolade.