Knights of the Middle Ages

10 Fascinating Facts About Knights of the Middle Ages

Knights of the Middle Ages have always captured our imagination with their chivalry, armor, and bravery. The knights, who were skilled fighters on horseback, served as a symbol of honor and courage. They were entrusted with the responsibility of protecting their lords and their lands. In this article, we will unearth some interesting facts about medieval knights that you may not have known before.

Key Takeaways:

  • Knights were prominent figures during the Middle Ages, known for their chivalry and bravery.
  • Knighthood’s origins can be traced back to the medieval period when feudalism was prevalent.
  • The code of chivalry was the cornerstone of knightly culture, emphasizing values such as honor, bravery, and loyalty.
  • Becoming a knight was a rigorous process that involved education, physical training, and a knighting ceremony.
  • Knightly armor, made from metal plates, was essential for protection in battle.

The Origins of Knights

The origins of knights can be traced back to the medieval period in Europe. Knights emerged during a time when feudalism was the dominant system of government, with the lord-vassal relationship at the core of society.

Initially, knights were simply cavalry soldiers who fought for their lord. However, over time, they evolved into an elite warrior class with a distinct code of conduct.

The Evolution of Knighthood

Knighthood evolved from the tradition of mounted warriors in the Roman and Germanic armies. During the 8th and 9th centuries, the Frankish Empire was known for its use of heavily-armored cavalry, which served as the inspiration for the medieval knight.

By the 11th century, knights were recognized as a distinct class in Europe, with their own chivalric code and a set of rules governing their behavior.

The Role of Feudalism

Feudalism played a crucial role in the emergence of knighthood. Knights were often the vassals of lords, and their military service was a key part of their obligation to their lord. This system allowed lords to maintain an army of loyal warriors without having to pay them a salary.

As knights became more important in medieval society, they began to take on a broader range of duties, including administering justice and protecting their lord’s lands.

Knight Origins in Different Regions

Region Origins of Knights
England Knighthood in England was closely tied to the feudal system, with knights serving as vassals to their lords.
France The French knightly tradition was heavily influenced by chivalry, with knights expected to uphold a strict code of conduct.
Germany Knighthood in Germany was closely tied to military service, with knights serving in the armies of their lords.

Overall, the origins of knights are closely tied to the medieval period and the feudal system that dominated European society at the time. Their evolution into an elite warrior class with a code of chivalry was a significant development in medieval history.

The Code of Chivalry

The code of chivalry was a set of rules and values that knights followed throughout their lives. It emphasized the importance of honor, bravery, and loyalty, and was deeply ingrained in knightly culture. The code of chivalry was not a written document, but rather a set of unwritten rules that knights were expected to follow. It was passed down through generations of knights, and evolved over time to reflect the changing values of medieval society.

“He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of…” Sorry, got off topic there. Back to the code of chivalry.

The knight’s code required knights to be truthful, courteous, and show mercy to those weaker than themselves. They were expected to protect women, children, and the poor, and to always keep their word. In essence, the code of chivalry was a moral code that governed every aspect of a knight’s life.

“All knights should be gentle in manner, and never forget what they owe to chivalry. They should be liberal of their possessions, sparing of their bodies, and never raise their hand except in defense of their lord, their lady, their faith, or their country”. – The Book of Chivalry by Geoffrey de Charny

The code of chivalry was not without its flaws, and was often ignored by knights who were more interested in personal gain. Nevertheless, it remained an important part of knightly culture throughout the Middle Ages, and is still admired and studied today.

Training and Becoming a Knight

Training to become a knight was a long and arduous process that required a great deal of dedication and skill. It typically began at a young age, with noble boys being sent away to the households of knights or lords to begin their education.

They would spend several years as pages, learning reading, writing, and arithmetic, along with skills such as hunting, hawking, and falconry. As they grew older, they would become squires, tasked with serving their knightly masters and learning the art of combat.

Knightly training focused heavily on physical conditioning, with an emphasis on weapons proficiency and equestrian skills. Squires were trained in the use of swords, lances, and bows, as well as the art of jousting. They also learned how to care for their armor and weapons, and how to ride and care for horses, which were crucial in battle.

The Knighthood Ceremony

Once a squire had demonstrated proficiency in combat and met other requirements, he would be eligible for knighthood. The actual ceremony varied depending on time and place, but it typically involved the squire taking a bath, donning his armor and other accoutrements, and being dubbed a knight by a lord or other worthy figure.

By medieval standards, becoming a knight was a significant achievement, and often marked a young man’s transition to adulthood. Knights were expected to embody the code of chivalry, which demanded that they be brave, honorable, and loyal. They were also expected to defend the weak and vulnerable, particularly women and children.

Despite the intense training and high standards for knighthood, not all knights were created equal. Some were more skilled or respected than others, and there were many instances of knights being accused of dishonorable behavior or breaking the code of chivalry. Nonetheless, knights played a significant role in medieval society and warfare, and their legacy endures to this day.

The Armor of Knights

The armor of knights during the Middle Ages was an essential component of their identity and protection in battle. It was a symbol of their status, wealth, and power, as well as their commitment to the chivalric code.

Knights’ armor consisted of a variety of pieces, each with a specific purpose. The most important parts of the armor were the helmet, breastplate, greaves, gauntlets, and sabatons. The helmet protected the head, face, and neck, while the breastplate covered the chest and abdomen. The greaves covered the shins and the gauntlets protected the hands. The sabatons, or armored boots, protected the feet.

The materials used to make knightly armor were typically iron or steel, although some pieces were made of bronze or brass. The armor was created by skilled blacksmiths, and the crafting process was often a lengthy and expensive one. Knights often had custom-made armor that was tailored to their specific measurements.

Despite their weight and limited maneuverability, knightly armor was highly effective in battle. It protected the wearer from swords, arrows, and other medieval weapons. However, the armor was not impenetrable and could be penetrated by heavier weapons such as maces or poleaxes. Some knights wore chain mail beneath their armor for additional protection.

The Evolution of Knightly Armor

During the early Middle Ages, knightly armor was relatively simple and consisted of chain mail and a helmet. However, as metallurgy and blacksmithing technology improved, armor became more complex and ornate. By the 14th century, full plate armor had become standard among knights.

The design of knightly armor evolved over time to reflect changes in warfare and technology. For example, during the Hundred Years’ War, knights began to wear additional plate protection on the upper arms and shoulders to protect against the longbows used by English archers. The armor also became more heavily decorated with symbols and designs, such as family crests and religious iconography.

The Legacy of Knightly Armor

Today, knightly armor is a cultural artifact that is celebrated for its historical significance and aesthetic beauty. Many museums and galleries around the world display suits of medieval armor, and there are even reenactment groups that recreate medieval battles and tournaments while wearing armor.

While the use of knightly armor declined towards the end of the Middle Ages, it remains an enduring symbol of the medieval period and the chivalric code. It is a testament to the bravery and skill of knights who wore the armor into battle, and a reminder of the technological advancements and artistic achievements of medieval society.

The Role of Knights in Warfare

Knights played a significant role in medieval warfare, and their contributions were crucial in securing victories for their armies. The knightly class was trained for combat from a young age, and their primary duty was to fight in wars, protect their lords and kingdoms, and uphold the chivalric code.

During battles, knights were either mounted or on foot, and their primary weapon was a lance. However, they also carried swords, maces, and battle-axes depending on their preference. Knights on horseback were a fearsome sight to behold, charging into enemy lines and breaking through their defenses with sheer force.

The knight’s armor was specially designed to protect them from the enemy’s weapons. They wore chain mail, plate armor, and different components to protect every part of their body. Helmets were crucial for the protection of their heads, and they often had visors to cover their faces during battle.

Battle Tactics

Knights were experts in battle tactics and employed different strategies depending on the situation. In a siege, they would use siege engines to break through enemy walls, and in open-field battles, they would use the “charge and counter-charge” tactic to outmaneuver their opponents. A well-executed charge by a group of knights could shatter enemy defenses and lead to a swift victory.

Knights were also known for their participation in tournaments, which were mock battles that allowed knights to practice their skills without risking their lives. These events provided entertainment for the nobility, and the winning knight was often awarded prizes or titles.

Impact on Medieval Society

The actions of knights in warfare had a significant impact on medieval society. They helped to expand kingdoms, protect territories, and secure peace. Their services were highly sought after, and they were often rewarded with land, titles, or other honors for their valor in battle.

However, the cost of maintaining a knightly class was high, and it often led to the oppression of the lower classes. Knights were expected to conduct themselves according to the chivalric code, but this was not always the case. Some knights were known for their brutality and disregard for the lives of common people.

Overall, the role of knights in warfare during the Middle Ages cannot be underestimated. They were the backbone of medieval armies and played a crucial role in shaping the course of history.

Knights and the Crusades

The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought between Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East. These wars, which spanned from the 11th to the 13th centuries, were also notable for the participation of knights. Knights played an integral role in the Crusades, as their military expertise and religious zeal made them well-suited for the task at hand.

Knights were motivated to participate in the Crusades for various reasons. Some were driven by religious fervor and a desire to reclaim the holy land from Muslim control. Others saw it as an opportunity to acquire wealth and land. Regardless of their motivations, knights played a key role in numerous Crusades, including the First Crusade (1096-1099), the Second Crusade (1147-1149), and the Third Crusade (1189-1192).

The Role of Knights in the Crusades

Knights were instrumental in the Crusades, providing the bulk of the European cavalry forces. They were heavily armored and well-trained, and their presence on the battlefield often proved decisive. Knights were also responsible for protecting caravans and supply trains, ensuring that the Crusaders had a steady flow of resources.

Knights utilized a variety of tactics in the Crusades, including charging into enemy lines, besieging cities, and defending strategic positions. They also served as leaders and commanders, with many knights holding prominent positions in the Crusader armies.

Knights and Muslim Warriors

The Crusades saw numerous battles between European knights and Muslim warriors. While the knights were often heavily armored and mounted on horseback, the Muslim warriors were more agile and utilized hit-and-run tactics to disrupt their enemies. Despite these differences, the battles between knights and Muslim warriors were often brutal and fierce.

The Crusades also saw the emergence of new types of warriors, such as the Assassins. These Muslim warriors were notorious for their skill in assassination and sabotage, and they often targeted Crusader leaders and commanders.

The Legacy of Knights in the Crusades

While the Crusades ultimately ended in failure for the European knights, their legacy lived on. The Crusades helped to shape the identity of knighthood, emphasizing the importance of religious zeal, courage, and honor. The Crusades also brought knights into contact with other cultures, exposing them to new ideas and technologies.

Today, the Crusades are often viewed as a dark chapter in the history of Christianity and the Middle East. However, the role of knights in the Crusades is a testament to their enduring legacy and their impact on medieval society.

Heraldry and Coat of Arms

Heraldry and coat of arms were integral parts of knightly culture during the Middle Ages. These symbols were used to identify knights and their families, showcasing their lineage and accomplishments. The use of heraldry dates back to ancient times but gained popularity during the medieval period.

The coat of arms typically included a shield, crest, helmet, mantling, and supporters. The shield displayed symbols and colors that represented the knight’s family or achievements. The crest was often an animal or another symbol that represented the knight’s personal characteristics or values. The helmet and mantling served as decorative elements, and the supporters were usually animals or figures that added to the overall design.

Here is an example of a coat of arms:

Element Description
Shield Quarterly, gules and argent
Crest A lion rampant or
Helmet Profile of a knight’s helmet with visor closed
Mantling Gules and argent
Supporters Two lions rampant or

Heraldry and coat of arms were more than just symbols of status; they were also used in battle to identify knights and their allies. In addition, they were used in tournaments and other events where knights showcased their skills and prowess.

The use of heraldry and coat of arms declined after the Middle Ages, but they still hold significance today. Many families and organizations still use coat of arms, and they are also used in academic settings to represent universities and colleges.

Famous Knights of the Middle Ages

Knightly culture produced some of the most legendary figures in history. From their valorous deeds on the battlefield to their chivalrous behavior at court, these famous knights left an indelible mark on the medieval era. Here are just a few of the most notable knights:

William Marshal

Considered by many as the greatest knight of all time, William Marshal served under four English kings and earned a reputation as a skilled warrior, courtier, and diplomat. He was a key figure in the signing of Magna Carta and is said to have inspired the character of Lancelot in Arthurian legends.

Richard the Lionheart

Known for his military prowess and leadership during the Third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart also earned a reputation for his chivalrous conduct on and off the battlefield. Despite his legendary status, his reign as king of England was short-lived and marked by political unrest and conflict.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was a peasant girl who rose to prominence during the Hundred Years’ War, claiming she had visions from God to deliver France from English domination. She led French troops into battle, earning the admiration of her countrymen. Captured by the English, she was tried for heresy and burned at the stake.

Edward, the Black Prince

Born Died
June 15, 1330 June 8, 1376

Edward, the Black Prince, was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and earned his nickname from the black armor he wore in battle. He was a skilled commander and fought in many of the most significant battles of the Hundred Years’ War, including the Battle of Crecy and the Battle of Poitiers.


Gawain is a legendary Arthurian knight, known for his courage, honor, and loyalty. He is perhaps best known for his encounter with the Green Knight, in which he accepts a challenge to strike the Green Knight with an axe and then allows the Green Knight to return the blow a year later. The story of Gawain has inspired countless works of literature and art over the centuries.

These famous knights represent just a small fraction of the many remarkable figures who graced the medieval period. Their legacy lives on, inspiring us to strive for excellence and uphold the noble ideals of chivalry.


In conclusion, the fascinating world of knights during the Middle Ages is one that still captures our imagination today. From their origins as feudal lords to their role in battles and warfare, knights were a pivotal part of medieval society.

Their adherence to the code of chivalry, which emphasized honor, bravery, and loyalty, was a hallmark of knightly culture. Becoming a knight required years of rigorous training and education, culminating in a prestigious ceremony.

The armor worn by knights was an impressive sight, consisting of various components made from materials such as steel and leather. Knights’ involvement in the Crusades played a significant role in shaping European society, and their heraldry and coat of arms provided a means of identification.

Finally, the Middle Ages produced many notable knights, such as William Marshal and El Cid, whose contributions to history continue to be celebrated. The legacy of knights lives on in popular culture, as seen in movies like Braveheart and TV shows like Game of Thrones.

Overall, the world of knights during the Middle Ages was one of excitement, valor, and tradition. Today, we can still marvel at their feats and honor their legacy.


What were knights?

Knights were warriors who emerged during the Middle Ages in Europe. They were skilled in combat and held a high social status.

How did knights become knights?

To become a knight, one had to go through a process that included education, physical training, and a knighting ceremony performed by a senior knight or noble.

What was the code of chivalry?

The code of chivalry was a set of moral and social rules that knights were expected to follow. It emphasized virtues like honor, bravery, and loyalty.

What kind of armor did knights wear?

Knights wore armor made of various materials, such as steel, iron, and leather. It consisted of multiple components, including helmets, breastplates, gauntlets, and greaves.

What role did knights play in warfare?

Knights played a crucial role in medieval warfare. They were heavily armored and skilled in combat, often leading charges and engaging in hand-to-hand combat.

Were knights involved in the Crusades?

Yes, knights were actively involved in the Crusades. They fought in the Holy Land, motivated by religious zeal and the promise of wealth and land.

What is heraldry?

Heraldry is the system of symbols, colors, and designs used to identify knights, nobles, and families. Coat of arms were an important part of heraldry.

Who were some famous knights of the Middle Ages?

Some famous knights of the Middle Ages include Richard the Lionheart, William Marshal, El Cid, and Joan of Arc.