Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Medieval Knight Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Justin Pasternak




Location: West Springfield, Massachusetts
Joined: 17 Sep 2006

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Wed 01 Nov, 2006 1:37 pm    Post subject: Medieval Knight         Reply with quote

When was the knight class/caste first estabished and when did it begin to decline or become abolished?
View user's profile Send private message
Allen G.





Joined: 14 Oct 2006
Reading list: 9 books

Posts: 28

PostPosted: Wed 01 Nov, 2006 1:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm sure somebody else will go more in depth but if you want a general answer, knighthood like the feudal system slowly evolved out of many roman influenced 'barbarian' cultures where a warrior served a lord for both income and a form of insurance upon his death, the true medieval knight as we know it probably came into play around 1100 from what ive read but like i said a very gradual evolution.

Towards the end the knightly caste faded as gradually as it came, by the Tudor period they were beginning to be obsolete and many knights were no longer even involved with military matters, and I personally see that as the death of the idealistic knight. Though their are remnants of knightly orders serving up to the 18th century.

General sweeping medieval books like the medieval soldier by vessey norman help to give you an idea of the rise and decay of what we now call the knightly caste.
View user's profile Send private message
Hisham Gaballa





Joined: 27 Jan 2005
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 508

PostPosted: Wed 01 Nov, 2006 2:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's worth pointing out as well that by the early 15th century only a small proportion of 'men-at-arms', i.e. mounted warriors who wore full plate armour and were armed with lance, sword and pole-axe and in possession of at least 4 horses were actually knights in the sense that they had been 'knighted'. Most were esquires or of even lower rank. For example according to Juliet Barker's "Agincourt: the king, the campaign, the battle" when John Mowbray the earl marshall signed up for what was to become the Agincourt campaign on the 29th of April1415, his retinue consisted of 4 knights, 45 men-at-arms and 150 archers, by the first of July when his accountents paid the wages of those who had signed indentures to serve with him, he had 55 men-at-arms, only 2 of whom were knights and 147 archers.
View user's profile Send private message
Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

Posts: 552

PostPosted: Wed 01 Nov, 2006 4:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hisham Gaballa wrote:
It's worth pointing out as well that by the early 15th century only a small proportion of 'men-at-arms', i.e. mounted warriors who wore full plate armour and were armed with lance, sword and pole-axe and in possession of at least 4 horses were actually knights in the sense that they had been 'knighted'. Most were esquires or of even lower rank. For example according to Juliet Barker's "Agincourt: the king, the campaign, the battle" when John Mowbray the earl marshall signed up for what was to become the Agincourt campaign on the 29th of April1415, his retinue consisted of 4 knights, 45 men-at-arms and 150 archers, by the first of July when his accountents paid the wages of those who had signed indentures to serve with him, he had 55 men-at-arms, only 2 of whom were knights and 147 archers.


Excellent book by the way.

In several places in it she describes how any commoner or merchant who had the funds could equip himself as an armored Man-at-Arms and either outfit his own retainers (other men-at-arms or archers) or sign on with another captain or lord in Henry's army. I also liked how you got the feeling reading the book that Henry was more concerned with money and getting the funds for his campaign rather than any issues of nobility in his army. Kind of the opposite of the French army at Agincourt if you read up on the battle.
View user's profile Send private message
Al Muckart




Location: NZ
Joined: 27 Dec 2005

Posts: 309

PostPosted: Wed 01 Nov, 2006 10:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Medieval Knight         Reply with quote

Justin Pasternak wrote:
When was the knight class/caste first estabished and when did it begin to decline or become abolished?


Some would say it hasn't declined or become abolished, it's focus has changed away from the military rank and become more of a societal rank but many orders of knighthood are still going strong today. Personally I think it is a great shame that my adopted country (New Zealand) has done away with it's native order of knighthood in a fit of (in my opinion) idiotic pandering to a politically correct minority, but I digress.

Have a look for The Chivalrous Society by Georges Duby, translated by Cynthia Postan. It's a bit dry, but has some good information on the origins of knighthood.

--
Al.
http://wherearetheelves.net
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Thu 02 Nov, 2006 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Justin,
The origins and decline of the knight as a mounted noble warrior are subjects that have no clear answer. Roughly, the knight gradually arose in the 11th century from diverse roots, including Carolingian cavalrymen, and gradually declined in the 16th as warfare became a more "professional" venture. It is true that the number of men-at-arms of knightly rank decreased drastically in the 15th century, but the knight still clung on until the 16th, usually considered the "final flowering" or the "twilight of the knight". It is also true that the title survives to this day, but with no real military meaning.

Here are some excerpts regarding the origins of the medieval knight:

David Edge and John Miles Paddock (from Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight) wrote:

The earliest contenders for the title of knight are the Paladins of Charlemagne's Court, who held the Latin title eques. These were mailed horsemen who served the Emperor in the Frankish realm. Under Charlemagne's successors the central authority of the emperor waned, and the defence of the outposts of the empire fell into the hands of the Imperial Counts, their fortresses and their mounted retainers. These retainers were granted land in return for supporting their lord in his quarrels and in war, and it is from this that the feudal system evolved. The first chivalric poems and tales are woven around the lives of these retainers; the Song of Roland and the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have a similar origin. By the thirteenth century the chivalric tradition had become almost as much a part of the knight as his horse. The shedding of blood in battle and the concept of honour and loyalty to one's lord and. latterly, the Church, were its conerstones. However, the concepts were part of Germanic tribal life as early as the first century AD, and among the Celtic and other European tribal traditions a warrior elite was supported by an agrarian society in erturn for its protection. In other words, the traditions of the knight, as well as the form of his equipment and armour, are influenced by, if not descended from, those of Late Antiquity, and these were themselves strongly influenced by the Celts...

Although "knight" in English is derived from the Anglo-Saxon for "household retainer, by the second half of the eleventh century they had become a landed class valuing military prowess, honour and glory above all, with hereditary titles and estates...

William (the Conqueror)'s knights, however, were the essential nucleus of his army; it was this full-time military professionalism that led to the social elevation of the knightly class throughout Europe...

The landed knights under William and his tenants-in-chief were called "barones"; landed free-men who had not yet attained the rank of knight were known as "vavasseurs", and those possessing less than a full knight's fee were known as "sergeants", and were similarly armed and armoured mounted troops who fought alongside the knights in battle, but without possessing the rank or status...

After the Norman era, under the rule of the Angevin kings, the role of the knight was strongly reinforced both socially and militarily; with this confirmation of status came increased power and inevitable wealth...


Here's another:
Richard Barber (from The Knight and Chivalry) wrote:

The knight is an elusive, chameleon-like figure; the moment we try to define him, he appears in a different guise. His forerunners first appear against the background of the anarchy of ninth and tenth century society. They are little more than simple fighting men, skilled in horsemanship and the use of arms, valued for their function as defenders and feared as potential disrupters of the peace. Their role is enigmatic, their purpose determined by chance and circumstance. The identity of the knight has not been made any clearer by historians who have happily used the term to describeany mounted warrior of the post-Carolingian period, translating miles and chevalier as knight, without regard to context...

At the outset, the knight was a warrior who served his lord by fighting for him. The degree by which he was bound by this service varied; the ministeriales in Germany were technically not merely servants, but in some ways more akin to serfs bound by law to their lord's ownership. This was very different from that of their French counterparts who might, in the south at least, be free of all feudal ties...

The earliest systematic lists of fiefs dates from the mid-twelfth century, and are exclusively Norman in origin...Henry II's survey asked "How many knights did you have enfeoffed before 1135?"; given that there is no question of knight-service as such in the Domesday Book in 1087, the concept of such service is likely to have evolved in the first quarter of the twelfth century...

Iit is therefore extremely difficult to know when a distinction between soldiers and knights arise, but this is the crucial moment for historians of knighthood, because we can only say that there was a concept of "knighthood" as such when this distinction can be documented...The point at which we can be reasonably sure that such attitudes are being invoked is when we first encounter the phrase "to make a knight"...If we admit this as the crucial test for knighthood as opposed to soldiering, and given that the earliest traces of "making knights" date from the last quarter of ther elevenvth century, then we must abandon the image of the "Norman knight" at Hastings, and see the tenth and elevenvth century "knights" as mounted warriors and nothing more, earning the right to their land by the use of their swords...


And another from the same author (I believe it's an earlier work):
Richard Barber (from The Reign of Chivalry) wrote:

The cavalry charge proper does not appear until horsemen are matched against horsemen; this occurs during the civil wars that followed the break-up of Charlemagne's empire, and after the general adoption of the stirrup...To counter the effects of the impact of a cavalry charge, armour became heavier and more elaborate, and the horseman turns into a specialist mounted warrior, the knight.

The fully-fledged knight, when he first appears in history around the year 1000, is a well-equipped horseman, a rich man compared with his fellows, who does military service in return for a land-holding-his fief or fee. His political roots lie in the late Carolingian Empire, his technical equipment and skills in new inventions made under Charlemagne and his successors. But for his attitudes and culture we must go back to the barbarian invaders...


So, there is a bit of debate regarding when "knights" arose. It was an evolution from the Carolingian mounted warriors into a noble warrior class, sometime in the eleventh or twelfth centuries. The knight as a noble warrior had certainly taken form by the twelfth century.

I hope this helped a bit! I might find some information about the knight's decline later!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Thu 02 Nov, 2006 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

Before I go on to the "decline of the knight", I thought I would post an excerpt about the rise of the knight from a more basic source, Knights by Andrea Hopkins. This is a decent "popular history" sort of work about knighthood, and it's connections to chivalric literature.
Andrew Hopkins wrote:

The knight of the eleventh century onwards can be distinguished from his early medieval predecessor by the fact that he had been "dubbed" to knighthood in a special ceremony and acknowledged a certain code of behaviour, including specific obligations to defend the weak....
Possession of expensive equipment and training in the use of arms at the court of a lord in the company of his peers and elders, where he would also learn the manners and values of knighthood, set the knight apart from the lower orders of society more than mere wealth could do...
The first ecord of what we would recognize as a proper dubbing ceremony is John of Marmoutier's account of the dubbing of Count Geoffrey the Fair of Anjou. This took place in 1128, when Geoffrey was 15 years old...
The ceremonial associated with knighting had already become a highly sophisticated ritual accompanied by great pomp and expense and obviously intended to confer honour on the participants...


Note that the ceremony is well established by the time that John of Marmoutier wrote his descriptions of Geoffrey of Anjou's dubbing. This implies that the rituals evolved at least at the end of the eleventh century. Knighthood, with all its ritualistic trappings, was well established by the twelfth century.

Here's what the same author says about the decline of knighthood:
Andrea Hopkins wrote:

A curious phenomena may be observed in some parts of medieval Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries; the refusal or reluctance of men who were by birth and fortune eligible for knighthood to take it up. In part this can be accounted for by the sheer expense involved in maintaining the equipment a knight needed if he were called to perform his military obligations...
At the same time as the traditional source of knights was declining the privelege, knights were being made in greater numbers from less illustrious parts of society. Knighthoods began to be given as rewards to successful burghers whose services had been financial rather than military and, at the other end of the scale, to professional soldiers of lowly birth who could be dubbed on the battlefield...
Knights who did serve on campaigns began to be less distinguished from other, lower ranks of soldiers...
The concept of the "Flower of Chivalry", the perfect gentle knight, sans peur et sans reproche, was still valid in the late sixteenth century, when it was applied to those who combined outstanding achievement with knightly virtues, such as England's Sir Philip Sidney...

I know this was rather brief and disjointed, but it gives you an idea about the decline of the knight. However, knightly virtues were still encouraged among some in the upper class, even if the knight ceased to be an effective force on the battlefield. Some of this chivalric ideal holds on to this very day! (At least, I hope it does!)

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 03 Nov, 2006 4:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two points:

First, Richard Barber argued in his book on The Knight and Chivalry that "the ministeriales in Germany were technically not merely servants, but in some ways more akin to serfs bound by law to their lord's ownership." I think we have to be immensely careful regarding this point. Ministeriales were not free men, but as Benjamin Arnold points out, the appellation of "serf knight" to describe them, and by extension, any references comparing them to serfs, can be highly misleading. Among other things, ministeriales did come to be considered members of the nobility, which is obviously in quite stark contrast with serfs. They were also free from being forced to perform certain types of labour, specifically labours associated with peasants and serfs. There are surviving chronicles that lament instances when ministeriales were wrongly forced into doing labour more appropriate to the common classes. Further complicating the issue is the fact that during the 12th and 13th centuries, there were groups of knights in the Holy Roman Empire that were free, but relinquished this status to become ministeriales because of the social advantages that it provided. Clearly then, it makes sense to consider the class of ministeriales as a unique group, rather than trying to compare them to serfs which creates the potential for misunderstanding.

Secondly, I disagree that "[k]nighthood, with all its ritualistic trappings, was well established by the twelfth century." The historical evidence does not support this assertion; rather, it supports the claim that knighthood was in a state of development during this time and still missing certain key features. For one thing, much of the ideas about chivalry had not fully developed by the end of the 11th century. For one thing, the idea of the Christian warrior really only began at the earliest in the latter half of the 11th century, but it became much more widely spread as an ethos during the 12th and 13th centuries. For another, the idea of courtly romance did not begin to develop until the 12th century, and this is unquestionably a signficant development which informed many of the later ideas about chivarly. Similarly, heraldry, which is commonly associated with knighthood, was a development of the late 12th century, and certainly did not exist at the close of the 11th century. Jousting tournaments, with all their associated pageantry, were a 13th century development- the character of tournaments in William Marshal's time, for instance, as melees involving multiple contestants fighting for booty in the form of armour and equipment are certainly quite different from the joust that became more common at a later period. So the claim that knighthood with all its ritualistic trappings was well established by the 12th century is misleading to say the least.
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Fri 03 Nov, 2006 11:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
Craig Peters wrote:

First, Richard Barber argued in his book on The Knight and Chivalry that "the ministeriales in Germany were technically not merely servants, but in some ways more akin to serfs bound by law to their lord's ownership.
Secondly, I disagree that "[k]nighthood, with all its ritualistic trappings, was well established by the twelfth century."

Craig,
I believe that the ministeriales had something in common with serfs, when you consider that they were tied to their lords in a similar way, but they were also noble. However, it was a uniqure relationship. I was just quoting what Barber said. It is really only a side topic, after all. It's hard to present all sides of an argument on a forum, especially when you're trying to get the information from many, many sources. I think we often get hung up with appellations like "serf knight" and forget that people back then had no trouble with the idea of nobles also as servants (to paraphrase Barber). To them ministeriales had it's own unique meaning, but it really is a meaningless term to us "moderns". The idea of service was ingrained in medieval society, unlike in our more selfish (comparatively) culture.

Knighthood was always evolving, maybe I didn't make myself clear on that point. When I said "ritualistic trappings" I meant just that; the rituals surrounding the making of a knight (at least the basics that carried through the medieval period and beyond). To have an elaborate dubbing ceremony by the twelfth century does seem to indicate that the knight as a unique noble class had definitely arrived by then. I was talking about the "ritualistic trappings" of the knighting ceremony only. I believe heraldry is connected to the knight, but doesn't necessarily make the knight a unique class. The same with chivalric literature and the concept of the "Christian warrior" and full, elaborate tournaments (although the concept of both the "Warrior of Christendom" and tournaments can trace their development earlier than the twelfth century).

We are talking about a gradual evolutionary process. Full tournaments with jousting are part of the world of a knight, but not necessary to actual knighthood. William Marshall was a knight, correct? Yes, the tournaments in his day were rough-and-tumble, cross-country frays (the biography of William Marshall by Sidney Painter is a good read, describing how William travelled the tournament circuit on the continent). The early tournaments are still tournaments, just in an early stage.

Does heraldry make a knight? Not really, but it is an aspect of his world. Of course, civic heraldry also developed a bit later, so it could be applied to more than just the knight. It could be argued that heraldry as a hereditary, symbolic design arose in part because of the nobility of the knight. It made them something special, but it wasn't always unique to knights alone. It also had a practical purpose of recognition, since it seems to have developed as the armour came to cover more and more of the knight's face.

Does chivalry make the knight? In its earliest sense, yes; when it meant "horsemanship" (the original meaning of the term, from the French cheval, for a horse), it most certainly did. Did a noble warrior dubbed as a knight in the earlier period need the code of chivalry to be a knight? Not really.

I would argue, like Barber does in a passage I quoted, that "the knight is an elusive, chameleon-like figure; the moment we try to define him, he appears in a different guise". The knight was always evolving. The skill to fight armoured with a lance on horseback is usually considered to be a key ingredient for knighthood (chevalier, cavaliere, caballero, and ritter all derive from words meaning horse or rider), but English knights of the 14th century would just as often fight on foot, at least in the early phases of a battle. Tournaments developed from a real training exercise to an expensive an elaborate pageant, that had little to do with real warfare (Barber's book Tournament, co-authored by Juliet Barker, is a nice, in-depth study of the history and evolution of the tournament).

Sorry if my wording wasn't the best or clearest, but we are talking about the rise of the knight as a unique warrior class. Of course, things were added to the knight's world, but as a unique class, he arose by the twelfth (probably more like the late eleventh) century. I posted a lot of excerpts from various works, including Barber. I think the excerpts make the idea fairly clear. (I post a lot, make sure to read everything!) The twelfth century knight was a knight, with most of the basic ceremony surrounding the "dubbing" already established, but certainly lacking some of the other elements. Elements were added to the knight's world throughout the medieval period.

If you like, I'm more than willing to discuss the evolution of heraldry, chivalry, or the tournament on another thread. I just don't believe they are necessary for the knight to be considered as a unique, noble warrior class. All evolved together with knighthood, but aren't essential to the concept of knighthood.

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Fri 03 Nov, 2006 11:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

I thought I would post this description of the knighting ceremony of Geoffrey of Anjou here. It was already posted in the thread about knighting ceremonies, but I think it might make clear that the earliest knights didn't necessarily have to have a "Chivalric Code" or heraldry (although Geoffrey's shield shown on his tomb effigy might be one of earliest examples of heraldry, or proto-heraldry):
Richard Barber (from The Knight and Chivalry) wrote:

"On the great day, as required by the custom for making knights, baths were prepared for use. The king had learned from his chamberlains that the Angevin and those who came with him had come from the purification ceremony. He commanded that they be summoned before him. After having cleansed his body, and come from the purification of bathing, the noble offspring of the count of Anjou dressed in a linen undershirt, putting on a robe woven with gold and a surcoat of rich purple hue; his stockings were of silk, and on his feet he wore shoes with little gold lions on them. His companions who were to be knighted with him, were all clothed in linen and purple. He left his privy chamber and paraded in public, accompanied by his noble retinue. Their horses were led, arms carried to be distributed to each in turn, according to their need. The Angevin led a wonderfully ornamented Spanish horse, whose speed was said to be so great that birds in flight were far slower. He wore a matching hauberk made of double mail, in which no hole had been pierced by spear or dart. He was shod in iron shoes, also made from double mail. To his ankles were fastened golden spurs. A shield hung from his neck, on which were golden images of lioncels. On his head was placed a helmet, reflecting the lights of many precious gems, tempered in such a way that no sword could break or pierce it. He carried an ash spear with a point of Pointevin iron, and finally a sword from the royal treasure, bearing an ancient inscription over which the superlative Wayland had sweated with much labour and application in the forge of the smiths."

Note that their is a definite mention of Geoffrey being knighted; knighthood and the ceremony surrounding its creation were established by this time. Heraldry, the "Code of Chivalry", and tournaments are only ancillary components to the concept of knighthood.

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Fri 03 Nov, 2006 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

I've got a few excerpts from Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight describing the decline of the knight. They're from the first part of the chapter about the sixteenth century, "The Sixteenth Century: the Final Flowering":
David Edge wrote:

The date at which the European High Middle Ages is said to give way to the Renaissance is somewhat arbitrary. It is rarely the case that contemporaries felt any change of epoch, and the evolution from one phase of social and cultural development to another was usually gradual and fragmentary. Similarly, it is perhaps unrealistic to attempt to pinpoint the culmination of the power, influence and prestige of the knight in Europe, or to say when the medieval knight gave way to the Renaissance man.
Militarily, it has been suggested that 1494 (the commencing date of the Italian wars precipitated by the dynastic rivalry between the Habsburg and Valois ruling houses) marks a feasible starting point for the rise of "modern" warfare and the beginning of the end for the medieval ideals of chivalry and knighthood on the battlefield. In England, the change from Plantagenet to Tudor in 1485 is often regarded as a convenient watershed; alternatively, to take the most simplistic view, the year 1500 (the end of one century and the beginning of another) is as good as any to draw the history and development of the medieval knight to a close. Whatever one's preference, the fact remains that the decline of the feudal order of society, and the obsolescence of the knight's mode of warfare combined to render his military role increasingly anachronistic in the New Age.
This is not to say, however, that the old medieval knightly ideals were not continued and upheld in the Renaissance. The social, political, military, and Romantic importance of the knight to European society did not suddenly cease on 1 January 1500; despite the precepts set out to the benefit of the "modern" ruler in Machiavelli's The Prince (1513), and despite the increasing use of "levelling" weapons of war and tactics, the ideal of knights (including his often hopelessly outmoded code of chivalry) were inevitably carried forward into the next century and beyond...
Although he probably did not realize it, the role of the knight in this changing world was even more confused and uncertain than that of his monarch; at least the latter's divine right of rule was still largely unquestioend. The military status of the knight as a functional unit on the battlefield had, however, been subject to a slow, spasmodic, but nevertheless steady erosion since the middle of the fourteenth century. Since this status was the basis of his ancient superiority over all other types of soldier, and the foundation of his consequential social pre-eminence in feudal society, its undermining was a serious threat to the supremacy of the knightly aristocracy, both on and off the field of battle...
The wars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw the virtual extinction of "chivalry" as a practical code for the knight in battle; this trend was to continue into the sixteenth century, with such horrors as the sack of Rome in 1527 by both the Protestant and Catholic forces of Charles V...
It was gunpowder, of course, that eventually toppled this image of the knight. The first significant victory due to the use of hand firearms was perhaps at the battle of Bicocca in 1522...The defeat of the French at Bicocca was followed by their even more disastrous defeat at Pavia three years later; again, Burgundian handgunners contributed much to the rout which finally led to the capture of Francis himself...By the middle of the century, it was clear that the era of the mounted "knight in armour" was over...

The importance of firearms may be a bit overemphasized, but it gives a good overview of the decline of the knight as a military unit. Note, too, that the "code of chivalry" ceased to be a practical aspect of knights in battle long before the knights themselves ceased to be a force on the battlefield. Henry V ordered the killing of the noble prisoners during the battle of Agincourt, a very unchivalrous act, but I think he would have been offended if you said he wasn't a knight. I believe he was actually knighted by Richard II, in Ireland, perhaps? The "Code of Chivalry" was a noble development for warfare by a noble class, but was not necessary for the mounted warrior class to be considered a distinct part of society.

Knights clung on until the 16th century, until the more modern modes and methods of warfare eventually made them obsolete. Society and warfare both "outgrew" the feudal medieval knight. He transformed into a "gentleman" or "officer".

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Fri 03 Nov, 2006 3:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great posts and comments Richard!

I too have done some studying of the same texts for the purpose of trying to understand the early tournament. Another worth while aspect of this topic (as opposed to decline of knights) would be the rise and height of knighthood. I hope you won't mind if I add some thought as to a possible "Peak" or good time in the era of knighthood.

Some interesting essays and historical commentary can be found stating that much which was first written in documents such as the English Magna Carta were actually well established tradition by the time of their writing. Much of this stems from the Carlingian tradition of a powerful king being the one to select and appoint knights as a way of organizing control of land, manage revenues from land, and administering law. This really was widely adopted and spread between 900 to 1050 A.D. with increasing success. Some later mandates or codes of knightly conduct (German King Barbarossa's at around 1180 ro 1190) are considered to still have had very precise duplication of the structure and content of earlier Carolingian edicts.

At about 1200 A.D., factors affecting decline of knightly cast (lack of new fertile lands, decline of agriculture as a competitive source of income, adoption of professional armies) were not yet acute problems for knighthood even if sons of knights were being displaced. At the same time, knighting ceremonies as you have pointed out, and a great deal of increasingly public literature, songs, and poems emphasised noble deeds of knights as the most popular venue for entertainment. To my way of thinking that was the "golden age" of knights as they were probably idealized to a greater extent than any other period falling 100 years on either side of A.D. 1200, and were still doing very well economically. They were still considered the most prized battle unit throughout most of Europe as well.

Decline of public regard for monarchy and knights is actually evident during the 100 years war close to 1400 A.D. in the form of very wide spread city rebellions, and a major shift in literature (Chaucer and others) that is subtley depicting knightly characters with pitty or irony. Obviously tournaments remained emmensly popular, but as several of the well researched texts on the subject of tournaments point out, tournaments transformed into exhibitions with actual ransom of horses and true use of it as a meaningful training form becomming almost non-existent (as little as 15 minutes action at the end of a three day tournament with fewer than 10 horses actually ransomed) after around 1375 A.D.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Sat 04 Nov, 2006 8:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
Jared Smith wrote:

To my way of thinking that was the "golden age" of knights as they were probably idealized to a greater extent than any other period falling 100 years on either side of A.D. 1200, and were still doing very well economically. They were still considered the most prized battle unit throughout most of Europe as well.


Jared,
I think the mid 12th-mid 13th century, or perhaps most of the 13th century, are good candidates for the "height" of knighthood as a concept and an effective military unit. Some historians agree that the 13th century was a good century in Western Europe. Thomas B. Costain titled his popular history of 13th century England The Magnificent Century. The cavalry charge was an effective military tool; the Battle of Bouvines fought in northern France in 1214 was opened by a large cavalry charge in the classic knightly manner. The next phases of the battle consisted of a mixture of cavalry and infantry, but the cavalry charge was a very important aspect. The Battles of Stirling Bridge (1297) and Falkirk (1298) that presaged the rise of spear-armed infantry and longbowmen, respectively, occurred late in the 13th century. During most of the 13th century, the knightly charge was seen as a highly effective military tactic.

There were climactic reasons why this period in European history was "good", and the following period "bad". I once saw an interesting educational program entitled, in part, The Limestone Legacy. It talked about how the geology of Western Europe aided in agricultural growth. It also talked about how the climate warmed around the 11th and 12th centuries. Grapes grew further north than they had prior to this time. Wine flowed freely, and trade prospered. This corresponds to the time of the "height" of feudalism and knighthood. Then the climate cooled in the early 14th century, and it rained for two consecutive summers. Crops failed, and famine became widespread. This led to a breakdown in the previous social order, with an increase in the threats to the status of the noble knight. Then the Hundred Years War broke out in 1337, and the plague came to Europe in 1347

A Time-Life Book Time Frame AD 1300-1400: The Age of Calamity is appropriately titled. In the section about the plague, it states that the European climate became wetter and cooler from 1250 on. Crops failed and overcrowded communities, grown large during the prosperous times of the previous century, suffered famine and disease.

This period of famine and disease corresponds to the rebirth of the infantry as a truly effective military unit. I already mentioned the battles of Stirling Bridge, where Scottish infantry bested English knights, and Falkirk, where Edward I showed what potential the longbow possessed. A Flemish force of citizen foot soldiers cut down a superior French army consisting mostly of horsemen on marshy ground at Courtrai in Flanders in 1302. Robert the Bruce's schiltrons defeated Edward II's knights at Bannockburn in 1314. The Swiss, armed with polearms and crossbows, defeated Leopold of Austria's knights in an ambush at Mortgarten in 1315. Infantry never completely ceased to be a force on the medieval battlefield, but these battles of the late 13th to the early 14th centuries heralded in a new age of warfare, and shattered the myth of the "invincible knight".

So, yes, 1150-1250 might be seen as the "height" of knighthood, or at least its "good years".

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 06 Nov, 2006 1:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:
Hello all!
Craig Peters wrote:

First, Richard Barber argued in his book on The Knight and Chivalry that "the ministeriales in Germany were technically not merely servants, but in some ways more akin to serfs bound by law to their lord's ownership.
Secondly, I disagree that "[k]nighthood, with all its ritualistic trappings, was well established by the twelfth century."

Craig,
I believe that the ministeriales had something in common with serfs, when you consider that they were tied to their lords in a similar way, but they were also noble. However, it was a uniqure relationship. I was just quoting what Barber said. It is really only a side topic, after all. It's hard to present all sides of an argument on a forum, especially when you're trying to get the information from many, many sources. I think we often get hung up with appellations like "serf knight" and forget that people back then had no trouble with the idea of nobles also as servants (to paraphrase Barber). To them ministeriales had it's own unique meaning, but it really is a meaningless term to us "moderns". The idea of service was ingrained in medieval society, unlike in our more selfish (comparatively) culture.

Knighthood was always evolving, maybe I didn't make myself clear on that point. When I said "ritualistic trappings" I meant just that; the rituals surrounding the making of a knight (at least the basics that carried through the medieval period and beyond). To have an elaborate dubbing ceremony by the twelfth century does seem to indicate that the knight as a unique noble class had definitely arrived by then. I was talking about the "ritualistic trappings" of the knighting ceremony only. I believe heraldry is connected to the knight, but doesn't necessarily make the knight a unique class. The same with chivalric literature and the concept of the "Christian warrior" and full, elaborate tournaments (although the concept of both the "Warrior of Christendom" and tournaments can trace their development earlier than the twelfth century).


Richard,

My first comment was really a response more to what Richard Barber had written than something I was specifically directing against what you wrote. I agree with the assessment that people in the medieval period had no trouble with the idea of the noble as a servant. That having been said, there are good reasons to avoid comparing ministeriales to peasants, (unless we are explicitly comparing and contrasting the two groups, which was not apparent from Barber's text that was quoted), some of which I've brought up, because doing so creates more confusion than understanding.

Secondly, I consider heraldry, jousts, chivalry and the like part of knightly trappings. I hadn't realized that you were specifically referring to the dubbing ceremony, rather than these other components. And yes, I would agree that the knight is like a chameleon, because no matter when we look at knights, there are always aspects of knighthood that were in development. And even in the case of knights later on in the Middle Ages, when things such as heraldry, chivalry, being a Christian warrior and the like had been around and developed for some time, there is the problematic fact that armies were becoming increasingly less feudal, and the equipment and nature of the warfare was not exactly the same as earlier times. In other words, we can't simply view knights of later Middle Ages as the final product of the "knight-in-development" because in some ways, they were less "medieval" than their forebearers. What I would argue, however, (and you may not disagree), is that while none of the trappings I have mentioned were strictly necessary for a warrior to be considered a knight, they nonetheless constituted an isignificant part of how medieval and modern people understood knighthood.
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Mon 06 Nov, 2006 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Craig Peters wrote:

My first comment was really a response more to what Richard Barber had written than something I was specifically directing against what you wrote.

Craig,
Okay, I understand what you're trying to say now!

I suspect that Barber knows the difference between serfs and ministeriales, but I think he used the comparison because more people may be familiar with the fact that serfs were tied to the land. The ministeriales were bound to their lords, but it was a very different relationship than peasant serf and lord. Being bound to a rich and powerful man wasn't always a bad thing, especially for someone with skill and talent! Weren't some of the minnesingers at least descended from ministeriales? I believe Walther von der Vogelwide was one that was descended from ministeriales. Andrea Hopkins also calls them "serf-knights", but points out that, even though they were bound by law to their lords, they served like knights. They served him in his hall, administered his estates, and performed military service as armoured horsemen. They could occupy important positions at court, such as marshal, chamberlain, and seneschal, something peasants working the fields certainly wouldn't be asked to do! The ministeriales evolved, just like knights in general, and by the mid-eleventh century they could own property and acquire their own holdings, wealth, and status. They eventually merged with the lesser nobility to form the Ritterstand, the class of knights.

Yes, calling them "serf-knights" is a bit of a misnomer, but it can be a convenient term, if we realize it's just a modern appellation. Calling them ministeriales is better, but it's a meaningless term to those who have not heard it before.
Craig Peters wrote:

Secondly, I consider heraldry, jousts, chivalry and the like part of knightly trappings.

Absolutely! Again, sorry if I wasn't clear. Sometimes I get carried away and forget to specify what I'm talking about. By 'ritualistic trappings" I meant the knighting rituals, the event that made a knight a member of a distinctive military and social class. Even the knighting rituals evolved, some becoming elaborate events. Tournaments, heraldry, the code of chivalry, chivalric romances all became a part of the knight's life, but they weren't essential for the knight to develop as a separate class. They certainly helped to further define the class, though!

I think the excerpts about the decline of the knight actually addressed pretty well what you said about the later medieval knight becoming "less knightly" than his predecessors. This was certainly true on the battlefield, although not necessarily so when the knight was "at home". Tournaments became elaborate, ritualized events. Heraldry became a complex "science" with all the quarterings and marshallings, far removed from the simplistic designs used for recognition on the battlefield. (Check out some of the coats-of-arms from the "Wars of the Roses" period, and you'll see what I mean! The designs became so complex that they became practically worthless for battlefield recognition!) The knight that might slaughter his peers on a late 15th century battlefield (the Yorkist lords called for the commons to be spared and the nobles to be slain during the rout at Towton) would read chivalric romances. Malory wrote Le Morte D'Arthur in part as a lament for the lost chivalric code. However, these men might still undergo a knighting ceremony (although many refused the burden) to become recognized members of a separate military and social class.

I think you will agree that the study of knighthood is a complex venture. One could spend a lifetime studying the concept of knighthood, and still not learn about every aspect!

Sorry again if some of my previous comments weren't clear. I definitely agree that tournaments, heraldry, and chivalry are important aspects of the knight's life!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Mon 06 Nov, 2006 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Weren't some of the minnesingers at least descended from ministeriales?"

All of my sources are English translations, but I have looked at a lot of them. Minnesigners were quite important in terms of influence, but could just be entertainers who were otherwise peasants and were not necessarily landed or knightly combatants. Some individuals could be both poets/ bards (minnesingers) and knights with official capacity- (ministeriales) such as the legendary Wolfram Eisenbach (was permanently landed and recorded in tournament participation such as the Manesse Codex.) The first of the recognized great "founder of ministeriales" was actually a king. I will have to dig around to get his name...if anyone cares.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:WolframEschenbachj.JPG


When one looks at the participants in 14th and 15th century tournaments, and families that basically became a permanent lower aristocratic class, they were descended of ministeriales.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Mon 06 Nov, 2006 3:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!

I guess I should have said "knightly minnesingers". Again, nothing in history is completely black-and-white, there are a lot of shades of grey. The one source I was looking at while I typed my previous post stated that Walther von der Vogelwide, the greatest of the early minnesingers, was descended from ministeriales. He was a knight, at least he's shown as one (with heraldic shield, helm with crest, and knightly belt with sword) in a German manuscript (the Manessa Codex, I believe). I was trying to imply that talented persons could be tied to a great lord in a beneficial relationship, not necessarily saying that the minnesingers were all knights.

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Mon 06 Nov, 2006 8:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes...

The Manesse Codex is pretty cool. I wish there were a better complete English version of it showing all of the texts and captions below the pictures translated.

According to some of the English commentaries, it was originally ordered such that illustrations were in order of social rank. I.e. kings, barons/ counts, were shown first, then knightly ranks (including a many of the ministeriales and minnesingers who were shown with obvious equipment of knights), and later illustrations showing various courtly figures. The earlier mention of Wolfram Eisenbach (spelling is probably butchered there...sorry) coincides with a position roughly in the first half of the codex and shows him in jousting attire. There are others depicted only in the context of performing with non combat but courtly clothing.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
Reading list: 256 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 782

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov, 2006 11:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
Jared Smith wrote:

The Manesse Codex is pretty cool. I wish there were a better complete English version of it showing all of the texts and captions below the pictures translated.

Agreed! The Manessa Codex is a great source for early 14th century knightly attire and arms and armour. The heraldry aspect of it is great as well. I've collected bits and pieces of it over the years, in various books and web sources.

Sometimes, though, books don't state where the images were sourced from, and then its a guessing game, based on matching the style. At least the Manessa Codex has a fairly unique style!

Walther von der Vogelwide is in one of those courtly-type scenes, sitting on a rock (?) with page in hand, contemplating. His sheathed sword sits next to him with the white sword belt draped across the scabbard. It's a very peaceful scene, and you can imagine that Walther is pondering what to compose next!

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
View user's profile
Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 3
Posts: 1,532

PostPosted: Tue 07 Nov, 2006 2:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not meaning to hijack this into a Manesse Codex thread, but...

it actually shows some famous individuals from the later half of the 13th century as well. As I said, it is sort of a ranking of social status and fame. The order of figures does not fit a perfect chronological date of birth-death. Instead, it reflects relative fame and importance. The artwork is split into beginning 14th century (painted stick style with details of chainmail not very defined, and mid 14th century art sometimes redoing earlier art with brushwork, improving on details of armour.)

My personal impression is that is more of a snapshot of historical fame and importance of late 13th to mid 14th century German kingdom. I also like the fact that it seems to show a variety of armour (maybe transitional... maybe just my imagination and some differences between artists) which by color and level of definition may be interpreted as cuir bullis, mail, and relatively little plate. Considering the time that it is believed to have been compiled (around 1460?) it is very unusual in that it seems to depict historical figures in older artwork depicting equipment they would have had during their career.... as opposed to state of the art equipment at the time the collection was formed into a book. This makes it very nice for assessing adoption of heavier lances, date of use of barrel helms, etc. as these details seem to match period of the subjects depicted with better accuracy than in most medieval art.

I could have some of this all wrong (depending on a lot of web browser translations and less than 100 hours trying to read what various sources say about it.) Regardless, it seems to be one of the more underutilized good sources of pictorial information about that era, its equipment, and knightly classes.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Medieval Knight
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum