Chivalry, the order of knighthood, and especially, the code of knightly behavior, comes from many origins. In Middle English, the word “chevalrie” meant “mounted horseman”. In Old French, the word “chevalrie” meant knightliness or “chevalier” meaning knight. (Microsoft, Encarta) Almost all origins of the word meant horseman. Warfare was not an option in the medieval period and the knight was the most critical part. The knight’s ability and the military strength of the lord or king were necessary for their survival. A knight was loyal to his king even though he was not always a member of his personal court. He was also loyal to his lord or landowner.
Most of all, he was loyal to God, as all Christian knights were. A Christian knight had virtues of fidelity, piety, loyalty and devotion to God. However, some knights did not live this ideal lifestyle. (Duby) A young boy in training to be a knight spent the first few years of his life in care of the women in his family. At the age of 7 years old, a child of noble birth would be placed in the castle of a lord or governor. This is where the training for knighthood began. As a page, the boy would be tutored in Latin and French, but he devoted most of his time to physical exercise, and duties. A page was educated in wrestling, tilting with spears, and military exercises that were done on horseback. He was also taught dancing and playing of musical instruments in their leisure time. As a page, a boy was taught how to carve and serve food as a waiter, and other services around the castle. It was his duty to help the master of the castle in anyway needed. These tasks were not hard labor, but simply prepared him for what was yet to come. (Microsoft Bookshelf)
By the time a page was 14, he was expected to qualify as a competent squire. Now with the more laborious course, his real training began. He must vault on his horse in armor, run and scale walls, and spring over ditches in armor. He must be able to maneuver a battle-ax without raising the visor of his helmet or taking a breathe. He must have mastered horsemanship. A squire must have acquired courtesy and have chosen a mistress of his heart. A lady of the court whose service to her was the glory and occupation of a knight. Her smiles of gratitude were his repayment for his work. A squire, having received serious training as a mounted soldier, rode into battle and helped his master in many ways. In battle a squire wore silver spurs to distinguish him from a knight. In this way, he was a lesser target than a knight. He also helped his assigned knight dress in armor and care for his arms.
He would clean and polish his knight armor after every use. This period usually lasted about five or six years, then a squire was ready for knighthood, around age twenty. The earliest knighting ceremonies were very simple. A knight just buckled the armor on the squire to be knighted. However, it became a more complex ceremony as time went on. One man would buckle the sword while another fastened the spurs. The squire knelt before the man knighting him. The knight gave the squire a tap on the back of the neck with his hand. Another knight, or King would confirm these actions in the ceremony. This tap, called the “accolade” from the French word “col”, meaning neck, was followed by the words, “I dub you knight.” (Gies) When Christianity became more closely linked with knighthood, religious ceremonies became part of the knighting process. Before a squire was knighted he confessed with many nights of prayer. The night before knighting, a squire underwent a strict fast and received the sacrament.
The next day he washed and put on pure white clothing for the ceremony with a sword suspended from his neck. At dawn, the chaplain came to hear confession and celebrate mass. Then gifts such as a coat of mail, a sword or spurs were girdled on. Then came the accolade. It consisted of three strokes with the flat of the sword on the shoulder and neck followed by, “in the name of God, of St. Michael, of St. George, I make thee knight; be valiant, courteous, and loyal”. When this exercise was complete, he received his helmet, spear, and shield. After the knighting was accomplished, the newly made knight placed his gifts on the altar and took part in the festivities. He now would be accepted as a member of the order of knighthood and chivalry.
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