During the middle ages, in order to become a knight one had to go through many years of training. A knight-to-be spent at least fourteen years of his life learning the proper conduct and etiquette of knighthood. Once the years of training were completed, often an elaborate ceremony took place when the gentleman was knighted. Once knighted, the man had to live by the code of chivalry. This code had the basic guidelines of a knight’s behavior. This code was so respected that abiding by it brought honor and respect from others.
The education of a knight began at the age of seven. This was when a boy was taken from his home and sent to the castle of a famous noble, perhaps his fathers lord. Here he served the lord and the lady as a page until he was fourteen years old. One of the many duties of a page was to accompany the lord and lady at all times.
He also waited on them during meals, and went with them on various affairs doing whatever was asked of him. As a page, he received religious instruction from the chaplain. The squires taught the page fighting skills, and gave him training in arms. The mistress and her ladies taught the page to honor and protect all women. He also learned to sing and to play the lute, in order to hunt and hawk.
The most important thing that he learned during the seven years as a page was how to care for and ride a horse. This was a skill that was essential when becoming a knight, because a horse was his primary mode of transportation. At the age of fourteen, the page became a squire, and at the same time, was formally assigned to a knight. He now learned to handle a sword, lance, and to bear the weight of heavy armor. Along with his continued duties from when he was a page, he now had to carve at the dinner table, and accompany his knight to war.
He was constantly receiving instructions from the knight, and attended to the knights personal needs. He assisted the knight with putting on his armor, and had to make sure the sword and other arms of the knight were polished. He also had to care for the knight’s horse, which entailed grooming, feeding, and constant attention. The squire stood by in battles to give aid in a conflict should the knight be overmatched, and to lend his horse should his master lose his own. It was the squire who picked up the knight when he fell, and took his body away if he was injured or killed. This all lasted for the next seven years of the squire’s life.
At the end of th! is period, when he was twenty-one, a squire who had demonstrated his competence and worth, either by successful completion of his training or on the actual field of battle, was knighted. The ceremony of the squire becoming knighted was often very elaborate. The squire had to first take a purification bath that symbolized the purity of his new life. After the bath, he knelt or stood all night in prayer before the altar on which the armor he would wear later lay. In the morning they had a religious ritual, with perhaps a sermon on the knights duty to protect the weak, make wrongs right, and honor women. After this, in the courtyard in the presence of the assembled knights and fair ladies, the knight’s armor was buckled on.
He was presented with a pair of golden spurs, which only a knight could wear, a shining new suit of armor, a sword, a shield, a lance, and a charger. After putting on the armor piece by piece, he knelt to receive the accolade. This was a blow upon the neck or shoulder, given by the officiating lord, or knight with his fist, or with the flat of a sword. As the blows were given, the lord said, In the name of God and St. Michael and S! t.
George, I dub thee knight; be brave and loyal. He was now a full-fledged bachelor knight entitled to all the honors and privileges of his rank. Still at other times the ceremonies were not quite as elaborate. Sometimes they were forced to make it short and simple because of war.
It was not uncommon for a page to become knighted in the field of battle. This shows how dedicated the knight was to his duties. He was willing to sacrifice the most important moment of his life in order to fight for, and defend his land. At times during the ceremony of a knighting, the lord whose castle the ceremony took place gave a tournament for the knights.
This was considered one of the high points of the knights chivalric life. Knights from miles around were invited to come and take part, while other distinguished people also came to see the event. In the morning, after mass, the knights would go to the tourney, field, or arena for combat. This was where the jousting between the knights took place. The jousting was often so rough that many good knights were injured, crippled, or even killed. Sometimes the tournament lasted for several days.
Time was passed feasting, dancing, and hawking, filling the hours not given to fighting. The ultimate goal of the knight was to attain the higher rank of banneret. To attain this rank, the knights had to display outstanding accomplishments, and be true to the chivalric code of honor. If the knight could attain this rank, the tail would be cut from his pennon or banner bearing his arms, making it a square banner. A banneret was a knight who fought under his own banner, while a bachelor knight served and fought under the banner of another knight.
Wealth was very important in medieval days. A knight had to have a castle, farm lands and forests, and peasant vassals to feed, clothe, and arm him, his squires and men. The knight was expected to fulfill his knightly obligations, which included giving banquets to his peers and their ladies, offering hospitality to any passing traveler, attending tournaments and sometimes giving them. The obligations of knighthood were so heavy that sometimes squires with poor estates refused knighthood and remained squires their entire lives.
Some knights without a taste for fighting, were later excused from going to war with their liege lord by paying for a substitute. This custom was called scutage.