when did knights exist

The Age of Chivalry: The Timeline of Knights

The era of knights is one that is shrouded in legend and mystery. However, it is a period in history that has had a significant impact on society and still holds a fascination today. Knights first came into existence during the medieval era, a time of feudalism and armored warfare, and became synonymous with the concept of chivalry. In this section, we will explore the timeline of knights, delving into their history and significance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Knights came into existence during the medieval era.
  • Their rise was closely linked to the concept of chivalry.
  • Knights played a significant role in medieval society, particularly in military service.
  • The decline of knighthood was linked to changing warfare and societal shifts.
  • The legacy of knights and chivalry still holds relevance in modern-day society.

The Rise of Medieval Knights

The medieval era saw the emergence of a new social class, the knights. These mounted warriors played a significant role in medieval society, serving as protectors of the lord and his lands. Their rise to prominence was closely tied to the feudal system, a hierarchical political and social structure that dominated Europe during this era.

Feudalism gave rise to a new form of warfare, one that placed a premium on armored knights. The equipment of knights was expensive and required extensive training to use effectively. This created a new class of professional soldiers, who were able to dominate the battlefield with their superior armor and weapons.

The rise of armored warfare also led to the development of new tactics. Knights were often used as shock troops, charging into the enemy lines to break up formations and create chaos. This was particularly effective against unarmored infantry, who were no match for the knights’ heavy weaponry and armor.

As knights grew in importance, they became more entrenched in medieval society. They formed a distinct social class, with their own codes of conduct and rules for behavior. The knightly code of honor, known as chivalry, emphasized values such as bravery, loyalty, and honor.

Knighthood was also closely tied to the concept of heraldry, a system of identifying knights through unique symbols and designs. This allowed knights to distinguish themselves on the battlefield and to assert their social status.

Despite their importance, the rise of knights was not without its challenges. The cost of equipping and maintaining a knight was high, and not all lords were able to afford to do so. This led to a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, as knights and their lords became increasingly powerful. Additionally, the rise of gunpowder in the later medieval period would ultimately lead to the end of the era of knights.

However, the legacy of medieval knights endures to this day. The armor and weaponry of knights have become iconic symbols of the medieval era, while their code of honor and chivalric values continue to inspire and captivate people around the world.

The Knightly Code of Honor

At the heart of the knightly culture lay the code of chivalry, a set of values and principles that governed the behavior of knights both on and off the battlefield. These medieval values were based on virtues such as loyalty, courage, honor, and respect for women and the Church.

The knightly code of honor required knights to serve a lord, to defend the weak and vulnerable, and to uphold justice and truth. Knights were also expected to be courteous and generous, and to show mercy to defeated foes. Chivalry was not just a set of rules, but a way of life that embodied the ideals of medieval society.

The chivalric virtues were often expressed in literature, art, and music. Chivalric romance, for example, depicted knights as heroes who undertook quests and adventures in the name of love and honor. The tales of King Arthur and his knights, as well as the stories of medieval troubadours, contributed to the idealization of chivalry and the image of the noble knight.

The knightly code of honor had a profound impact on medieval society, shaping the behavior of knights, nobles, and even commoners. The virtues of chivalry were seen as a model for ethical behavior, and the idea of the honorable knight became a symbol of medieval culture and values.

Despite the idealization of chivalry, however, the reality of knightly behavior varied widely. Knights were not always paragons of virtue, and many were accused of violence, cruelty, and abuse. The knightly code of honor was often compromised by the harsh realities of medieval warfare and politics.

Nevertheless, chivalry remains an enduring symbol of medieval society and continues to inspire people today. The knightly virtues of courage, loyalty, and honor are still admired as timeless values, and the legacy of the medieval knight lives on in literature, film, and popular culture.

The Training and Education of Knights

To become a knight, one had to go through an extensive period of training and education. The process usually began at a young age, around seven years old, when a boy would become a squire and enter into service with a knight. The squire’s duties included serving his knight, caring for his horse and equipment, and accompanying him into battle as a page.

The squire would spend several years learning the skills necessary to become a knight, including horsemanship, melee combat, swordsmanship, and archery. During this time, he would also receive an education in reading, writing, and courtly manners. The goal was to mold the squire into a well-rounded and cultured knight.

Once the squire had completed his training, he would begin his apprenticeship as a knight. This period could last anywhere from several months to several years, during which time the squire would serve his knight in battle and learn the intricacies of courtly life. The apprentice knight would also receive his own suit of armor and a sword, marking his transition into knighthood.

The training and education of knights were essential in preparing them for the responsibilities and challenges of knighthood. Without the skills and knowledge acquired during this time, a knight’s effectiveness on the battlefield and his standing in society would be greatly diminished.

The Role of the Squire

The role of the squire was crucial in the training and education of knights. A squire was responsible for assisting his knight in all matters, from caring for his horse to arming him for battle. The squire also received mentorship and guidance from his knight, who was not only a master of warfare but also a model of courtly behavior and chivalric values.

The squire’s education was not limited to practical skills and battlefield tactics. He was also expected to learn courtly manners and etiquette, including music, dancing, and poetry. It was essential for a squire to be well-versed in the art of conversation and be able to hold his own in discussions on a range of topics.

The role of the squire was a critical stepping stone in the journey toward knighthood. It was a time for a young boy to learn the skills and values necessary to become a successful knight and a respected member of society.

The Role of Knights in Medieval Society

Knights played a crucial role in medieval society, occupying a position of power and privilege within the feudal hierarchy. They were members of the nobility, often serving as vassals to a lord or king, and were responsible for maintaining law and order.

Their primary duty, however, was military service. Knights were skilled fighters, trained in the use of weapons such as the lance, sword, and shield. They were often employed as armored cavalry, charging into battle on horseback.

Knighthood was not open to just anyone, and becoming a knight required a significant investment in time and resources. Young men aspiring to knighthood would begin as squires, serving and training under an established knight. They would learn the skills necessary for combat, as well as the codes of chivalry and honor that governed the behavior of knights.

The role of knights in society extended beyond their military and legal duties. They were also expected to behave in a manner befitting their noble status, upholding the values of chivalry and leading by example. This included being generous to the poor, protecting women and children, and exhibiting bravery and honor at all times.

In a time when social mobility was limited, knighthood offered a route to upward mobility. A commoner who distinguished himself on the battlefield or gained the favor of a lord could be granted knighthood, thus gaining access to the privileges and responsibilities of the nobility.

The importance of knights in medieval society cannot be overstated. They were the protectors of the realm, upholding the law and enforcing the will of their lords. Their military prowess, bravery, and adherence to the code of chivalry made them admired and respected members of society.

Knights in Warfare

During the medieval era, knights played a significant role in warfare. As armored cavalry, they were highly effective in charging into battle, breaking enemy lines and creating chaos on the battlefield.

One of the most iconic images of knights in warfare is that of jousting. This martial sport was a popular form of entertainment and a way for knights to showcase their skills. It also helped prepare them for battle, as it required similar skills and tactics.

Battlefield tactics evolved with the use of knights. They were often used in conjunction with infantry and archers to create a balanced army. The knights would charge ahead, followed by infantry and supported by archers in the rear.

Knights were also known for their chivalry in battle. They were expected to uphold the code of honor and show mercy to their enemies when they surrendered. However, this was not always the case, and there were instances where knights committed atrocities in battle.

The use of knights in warfare declined with the introduction of gunpowder and changes in military tactics. Armor became less effective against firearms, and the cost of maintaining a knight was high. The rise of national armies also signaled the end of the feudal system that supported the existence of knights.

Despite the decline of knighthood in warfare, their legacy lives on in popular culture and modern-day reenactments. The image of a knight charging into battle on horseback remains a symbol of bravery and courage.

Knights in Literature and Legend

Knights have captured our imaginations for centuries, and their depictions in literature and legend have only added to their allure. Stories of chivalrous knights and noble quests have been told and retold for generations, shaping our understanding of what it means to be a hero.

One of the most iconic figures in knightly lore is King Arthur. Arthur and his knights of the Round Table have been featured in countless tales of adventure and romance, from medieval literature to modern-day films. The legend of Arthur has inspired writers and artists for centuries, with new interpretations adding to the mythos with each passing generation.

Medieval romances, in particular, played a significant role in shaping our perception of knights. These epic poems and stories were filled with knights on noble quests, battling legendary beasts and winning the hearts of fair maidens. The stories were often steeped in symbolism, reflecting the values of medieval society and the concept of chivalry.

“For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” – William Shakespeare, ‘Henry V’

Even Shakespeare, one of the greatest playwrights of all time, found inspiration in the world of knights and chivalry. His play ‘Henry V’ features the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech, in which the king rallies his troops with a stirring call to arms. Shakespeare’s portrayal of the king as a noble and virtuous leader embodies the ideals of chivalry and has helped to solidify the enduring fascination with knights and their values.

The legacy of knights in literature and legend continues to this day, with countless retellings and adaptations of classic stories. From reimagining Arthurian legends in modern settings to creating entirely new stories inspired by knightly tales, writers and artists are finding new ways to explore the world of chivalry and heroism.

The Decline of Knighthood

The decline of knighthood can be attributed to various factors that emerged in the late medieval period. One of the primary reasons was changing warfare. The use of gunpowder and new weapons technology made it difficult for knights to maintain their dominance in battle.

The rise of firearms and artillery made it impossible for knights to engage in combat in their traditional armor, which was designed for close-quarters combat. The battlefield became increasingly decentralized, and heavy, armored cavalry was no longer the most effective military force.

Social changes also played a significant role in the decline of knighthood. As society became more centralized, the landed aristocracy lost power to the centralized monarchies. The feudal system that supported the knightly class began to crumble, and knights were no longer the dominant force in society.

The decline of the knightly class was also influenced by changing values. The ideals of chivalry, which emphasized honor, bravery, and loyalty, were being replaced by new values that emphasized commerce and individualism.

Despite these challenges, knights continued to exist in various forms well into the modern era. However, the decline of knighthood marked the end of an era and a significant shift in society and warfare.

The Legacy of Knights

The impact of knights and their code of honor still resonate today, centuries after the era of chivalry. The knightly ideals of bravery, loyalty, and honor continue to inspire individuals in modern-day society. Through literature, art, and film, the legacy of knights has endured.

Chivalry, the concept that guided knights, has evolved over time and has taken on different meanings. Today, it is often associated with courteous behavior and respect towards others. The knightly virtues of selflessness and generosity remain relevant in our values and actions.

The modern-day influence of knights can also be seen in the military. The tradition of knighthood has been passed down through military orders, such as the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Saint John. The ideals of chivalry and honor continue to inspire soldiers and officers in their service.

Furthermore, the fascination with knights has led to the creation of numerous knightly tournaments and medieval reenactments. These events provide an opportunity for people to experience and learn about the culture of knights and chivalry.

The legacy of knights has left a lasting impact on society, inspiring individuals to uphold the values of bravery, loyalty, and honor. The continued interest and fascination with knights and chivalry serve as a reminder of the enduring appeal of these iconic figures and their way of life.

The Enduring Fascination with Knights

Medieval knights continue to fascinate people today, as evidenced by the popularity of medieval reenactment events and knightly tournaments. The opportunity to witness knights in full armor engaging in combat provides an exciting glimpse into the past and a chance to experience history firsthand.

While the origins of medieval reenactments can be traced back to the 19th century, the popularity of these events has grown significantly in recent years. Participants immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of the medieval era, seeking to recreate the experience of being a knight or noble. These events can range from small-scale local gatherings to large international festivals, and typically include demonstrations of armored combat, archery, and crafts such as blacksmithing and weaving.

Knightly tournaments, also known as jousting events, have a long history dating back to the Middle Ages. In these tournaments, knights would compete against each other in mock battles and jousting matches, demonstrating their skill and prowess in front of a crowd. Today, tournaments are still held in many countries around the world, with participants wearing authentic armor and using wooden lances to recreate the excitement of medieval jousting.

The enduring popularity of knights and chivalry can be attributed to their representation of ideals such as bravery, honor, and loyalty, which continue to inspire people today. Whether through reenactments, tournaments, or popular media such as movies and books, the fascination with knights shows no signs of slowing down.


The timeline of knights and the era of chivalry have left an indelible mark on history. From their rise during the medieval era and the development of their code of honor, to their role in society and decline, knights have left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and captivate people today.

The concept of chivalry, with its emphasis on honor, courage, and selflessness, has influenced modern-day society and remains relevant today. The enduring fascination with knights is evident in the popularity of medieval reenactments and knightly tournaments.

Despite the decline of knighthood, the values and ideals upheld by knights have continued to inspire people. The legacy of knights lives on, and their impact on history and culture cannot be underestimated.

In conclusion, the timeline of knights and the era of chivalry is a significant chapter in history that continues to intrigue and inspire people. Their enduring legacy serves as a testament to the enduring human values of bravery, honor, and selflessness.


Q: When did knights exist?

A: Knights existed during the medieval era, which spanned from the 5th to the 15th century.

Q: What is chivalry?

A: Chivalry was a code of conduct followed by knights, emphasizing virtues such as courage, honor, and loyalty.

Q: How did knights rise to prominence?

A: Knights rose to prominence during the medieval era due to the development of feudalism and the increasing importance of armored warfare.

Q: What was the knightly code of honor?

A: The knightly code of honor, known as chivalry, encompassed values such as bravery, courtesy, and the protection of the weak.

Q: How did knights train and educate?

A: Knights received training through squireships, where they served as apprentices to experienced knights. Their education included combat skills, etiquette, and moral teachings.

Q: What was the role of knights in medieval society?

A: Knights held a prominent position in medieval society, serving as elite warriors and fulfilling military duties for their feudal lords.

Q: How did knights participate in warfare?

A: Knights played a crucial role in warfare as heavily armored cavalry, using their skill in jousting and employing specific battlefield tactics.

Q: How are knights depicted in literature and legend?

A: Knights are often depicted as noble and heroic figures in literature and legend, with famous examples including King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.

Q: What led to the decline of knighthood?

A: The decline of knighthood was influenced by changing warfare tactics, the introduction of gunpowder, and shifts in societal dynamics.

Q: What is the legacy of knights?

A: The legacy of knights includes their influence on modern-day notions of chivalry, knightly ideals, and their continued fascination in popular culture.

Q: Why are knights still popular today?

A: The enduring fascination with knights can be attributed to their portrayal in literature, the popularity of medieval reenactments, and the timeless appeal of chivalry.