You think you know everything there is to know about knights and the medieval period? Think again! Even though it was over 700 years ago, there are still some suprising things to learn, so don’t be shocked if you learn something new about how knights lived, what they did and how they were trained.
Knighthood became an increasingly lucrative profession as time went on and new trade routes opened up in Europe. Nobles began to see themselves as having more in common with one another than with their peasants who they now regarded as inferior.
Those who could afford it usually passed down knighthood through their families so that inheritance became more important than merit. The best way to become a knight was still through being granted land by the king which created problems when people contested who should inherit after the original owner died.
Most knights came from noble families, and they were mostly sons of wealthy landowners. The eldest son inherited the land and title, so other sons often turned to knightly careers to support themselves.
Some knights became mercenaries and fought for pay in foreign lands; others became knights-errant and looked for adventure while roaming the countryside.
A knight had to be brave, strong, and have good fighting skills. They were expected to protect the king and queen of the land or city they served. Medieval knights also protected merchants and travelers who were on their way to a destination. Knights would go on long journeys, risking their lives for others on the road.
A knight’s armor weighed around 50 pounds. It was so heavy that it took a squire to help the knight strap on his armor. The armor was made up of many pieces and included a helmet, a breastplate, arms plates, leg plates and sometimes even shin guards. There was no shortage of materials for the armor either.
A knight’s sword was very heavy and could weigh up to 5 pounds. It was worn on the left side of the body, so that it would be easily accessible for a right-handed knight.
Some swords had an elaborately decorated hilt and pommel, while others were plainer in appearance. The blades were made from iron, steel, or bronze. Knights also carried other weapons with them, such as a Lance, Polearm Weapons and a shield called a Heater shield.
A knight’s horse was also very important and could cost up to $1000. As well as being a status symbol, the horse was an integral part of battle strategy. It helped knights get to the battlefield faster and provide cover for their infantry.
A knight’s shield was used to protect him from enemy attacks. The shield was usually made of wood and covered in leather or metal. It had a handle to carry it on the back, while the knight carried his weapon in his hand to fight with. They were also used to deflect blows as well as provide shelter for the knight and his troops behind them.
The Knight’s Shield was often called a ‘knightly defense’ because it was a medieval warrior’s main line of defense against an opponent.
Early medieval knights such as the Normans wore basic open helmets of spangenhelm construction, later crusader knights wore totally enclosed great helm helmets.
Later Visors were added to many popular medieval helmets such as the bascinet, this offered the knight better breathability and visibility when required and but gave him the option of better protection (like the Great Helm) as and when required.
A knight would often carry a dagger as a backup weapon. A dagger might be considered a knight’s last resort weapon if their sword was broken or lost in battle.
Medieval knights would often wear short swords on the opposite side of their body from the main weapon to guard against surprise attacks. The blade of a dagger was thin, which made it easier to pierce through armor and flesh, while the handle may have offered some protection against blows.
As the medieval period progressed heraldry became more popular and organised, this was used to identify a knight on the battlefield and in tournaments, to his colleagues, piers and family members.