In the history of Europe, the medieval era also known as the middle ages lasted from the 5th to 15th century. It commenced with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and ended with the beginning of the Renaissance period.
The medieval ages were considered to be one of the most transformative and unstable periods in history. During this period, there was a lack of cultural and scientific development and feudalism was the presiding political system.
In medieval times, the soldiers were of three main types; foot soldiers, archers, and knights. Knights were typically heavily armored and rode on horseback. Being a knight was not an easy job and only affluent nobles could usuallly afford the weapons, expensive armor, and war horse.
In the feudal system, knights were observed to be very important and were highly regarded in medieval society. Knights fought in the wars and earned glory, prestige, court positions and wealth.
The legendary king of Camelot, Arthur is believed to be an authentic historic figure of the medieval ages. He is also regarded as the classic example of a knight in shining armor. In fact, the knightly ideals of chivalry and bravery are believed to have been descended directly from him.
Arthur’s actual life is surrounded by legends and myths. Some historians say that in the 5th and 6th centuries, Arthur fought the Saxon invaders and was thought to be a unifying force. He was an emblem of chivalry, order, and justice.
Also known as Richard I of England, Richard the Lion-heart was one of the famous knights of the medieval period. He had spent most of the time of his reign abroad. As his name depicts, he was a brave knight and was also a reputed military commander. He famously fought against Saladin in the Crusades.
When returning from the Crusades, Richard was taken hostage by the Roman emperor but was later released. His valiant nature did not allow him to stay in England for long. He participated in the English wars against France. While attacking the Challis-Chabrol castle in France, Richard died of a poisoned arrow wound in 1199.
Also known as the ‘maid of Orleans’, Joan of arc was one of the few eminent female knights of medieval Europe. Born in 1412, she played a key role in the final phase of the Siege of Orleans in 1429. Her bravery boosted the morale of the French army and led it to victory.
Due to her bravery, she was hailed as a national heroine of France. However, she received little support or recognition from the French monarch. A dissident French faction later captured Joan of Arc and handed her over to the English. She was sentenced by the English and burned at the stake in 1431. Later, Joan of Arc was elevated to the status of a saint and martyr.
Born in 1220, Alexander Nevsky was the most honorable knight in Russian medieval history. He was the Prince of Novgorod and the Grand Prince of Vladimir. In 1240, he successfully defeated the Swedes on the Neva River and repelled the threat of an intrusion from the north.
Another event that enhanced his heroic image was defeating the Teutonic Knights in the ‘Battle of Ice’. Alexander was not only a great military leader and knight but also a significant political leader. He successfully negotiated with the Mongols who invaded Russia from the east. He died in 1263 and retains legendary status in Russian history.
William Wallace was an important figure in the Scottish Independence Wars. At the age of 27, Wallace started his efforts for freedom and performed a major role in leading the Scottish against Edward I. He famously won the Battle of Stirling Bridge against an English army.
In the wake of his victory, he was named the Guardian of Scotland. However, he was later defeated in the Battle of Falkirk. Subsequently, he was captured and brutally executed for treason in 1305. Wallace remains an icon of Scottish history and nationalism.
Born in 1330, Edward was also known as the ‘Black Prince‘. He never became a king as he died before his father, yet he had a major impact on the 100-year war against France. This renowned and brave knight had achieved various victories at a very young age. He died at a young age in 1376, but his valiant image and heroism are still remembered and he is still very famous.
William Marshall, regarded as the greatest medieval knight, was born in 1146. Although he worked under five English kings, he remained loyal and was trusted so much that king Henry II appointed him as a guardian of his eldest son. During the revolt of Henry’s son, William remained loyal to the father and helped him in putting down the rebellion. He died in 1219 and is still famous due to his loyal and heroic career as a knight.
John Hawkwood was one of the well-known English knights of the 14th century. He fought under Edward III and was a longbowman. John performed a major role in the renowned battles of Poitiers and Crecy. After joining the Great White Company, John Hawkwood crossed into Italy and fought for several armies such as Milan, Florence, and Pope. His career as a knight ended in Florence and he died in 1394.
Born in 1320, Bertrand is considered to be one of the most famed medieval knights of French history. His bravery and strategic planning enabled him to get an important position at the French court. In 1364, the successful defense of Rennes was one of his famous achievements. Bertrand died in 1380 while on a campaign in Languedoc.
The Spanish knight El Cid was born in 1043 and fought against the Arab moors for most of his life. His real name was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and El Cid was the name given to him by Arab moors due to his bravery and military might. In 1094, he conquered the city of Valencia and created a friendly environment for both Muslims and Christians. El Cid died in 1099 and is still known and regarded as being an outstanding knight of his time.