Knights became important in the Middle Ages as warriors recruited by their lords for military service. They were equipped with defensive garment, armor and weapons, and they were trained to fight on horseback since they were children. They also took part in jousts and tournaments in order to exercise their fighting skills and to show their battle skills.
Knights were part of the nobility of the Middle Ages. Nobles lived much more comfortably than peasants, but their lives were not glamorous. Some knights inherited or were given castles which had been built for security but not for comfort.
It is supposed that some medieval stories are based on the lives of the courageous warriors who lived in those times no matter whether they died during a battle or whether they won. Authors took them as an ideal exemplar and they added several elements to make the knight superior. However, the perfect knight is just a character of medieval stories, a product of the author?s imagination or inspiration, perhaps taking a real knight of those times as a model.
This work aims to describe the most important characteristics of the life of the medieval knight and his role in the society of the Middle Ages. Afterwards, a comparison between these characteristics and the description of the figure of the knight found in medieval literature as an ideal and model man will be established, highlighting their beliefs and values.
The word Knight is the modern form of several old terms. Among these, the primary equivalent comes from Old English cniht, which means boy or youth, secondly, from German, two terms are closely related, the first one being knecht, translated as servant, and the second one, ritter, which means rider. Lastly, the word chivalry in French, whose root is cheval, meaning horse. Another name for knights were the ?heavy cavalry?, which made knights seem more respected than they really were.
Knights arose to replace the old citizens? armies of Antiquity and they existed between the years A.D. 800 and A.D.1450, when guns and cannons started to substitute for them. In the early Middle Ages, anyone who fought on horseback might be called a knight, however, by the 12th century, no one who was not a nobleman could become one. In some countries, namely France, knighthood became a hereditary class, whereas in England it did not.
Knights were professional mounted warriors who served a king or a lord, who in return for service always offered protection, both legally and militarily, and usually granted them land. The lord had considerable control over the knight?s life, career, and future, for instance, he had the final say in whom the knight could marry and the disposition of his estate after his death.
Most knights travelled looking for the possibility of participating in social activities or in battles. When not engaged in combat the knight would participate in tournaments to win favours,...