Knights in Tarnished Armor
Knights lived and breathed the code of chivalry which essentially meant to loyally serve their king and his god. Born into rich families, the knights were usually not the firstborn son so did not receive an inheritance. By this inferiority they were destined to become warriors to fulfill their need for power. To honor the code, however, they were to be humble, not braggarts. They were to defend the weak, (especially all women). The dichotomy of this code is that the knights were trained as men of war. The weak did not include the vast majority of the population which were serfs or peasants. Weak, by feudal definitions, was limited to women and children of nobility.
The preparation for knighthood began when the boy was eight. He trained as a page at a neighboring castle learning to ride horses and fight with spears and swords. He had to pass the test of riding a horse and fighting wearing 40-50 pounds of armor. Social skills were also part of his training. He was schooled in French and Latin and learned the proper etiquette of the king’s court. At fifteen, the page was promoted to squire status where he entered servitude to a knight. He helped dress the knight, served his meals and cared for the knights weapons and horse. The squire accompanied the knight to tournaments as well as into the battlefield. If he survived four or five years of servitude he was eligible to be knighted.
To become a knight, the lord of the fief would hold a ‘dubbing’ ceremony if he felt the young squire was worthy. The night before the dubbing, the squire dressed in white and red robes and fasted to purify his soul for his future vocation. The bishop, priest or vicar blessed the young man’s sword that lay upon the altar. Before dawn, the squire bathed as a purity ritual and dressed in fine clothes. At dawn, he confessed to the bishop, priest or vicar and ate. The ceremony was held outdoors with his family, his friends and nobility of the land as witnesses. He knelt before the lord of the land who tapped the squire on each shoulder and proclaimed him a knight. In earlier times the lord would hit the squire hard enough to knock him over. This act conveyed the message of a knights submissiveness to the power and will of the lord.
So, at the will of the king or the lords of the fiefs, the knights captured villages and cities plundering and killing as they went. They destroyed what had taken decades to build with one brutal sweep of their axes and torches. Their brutality to the commoners was ignored because they were part of the upper class by birthright. If a lord felt threatened by a rival lord, he sent his knights and foot soldiers to trounce any possible conquest of his fief. By the same token, the knights and soldiers were sent to thwart any form of a peasant revolt. There were no boundaries to the evil deeds the lords allowed their mercenaries to real and imagined threats. All in the name of greed. That was the law of the land.