What Was It Actually Like to Be a Knight in Medieval Times?

What Was It Actually Like to Be a Knight in Medieval Times?

In popular culture, the image of the medieval knight often evokes scenes of gallant heroes embarking on epic quests or perhaps charging into battle on horseback, adorned in gleaming armor. While these elements are undoubtedly woven into the tapestry of knighthood, the lived reality of these figures was considerably more complex and nuanced. In order to gain a true understanding, it’s essential to delve into the daily lives of these knights, their roles and responsibilities, and the long, rigorous journey one had to undertake to achieve this esteemed status.

What Are 10 Facts about Knights?

  1. Early Education: The path to becoming a knight began at a very young age, often around seven, when boys were sent to serve as pages in a lord’s household.
  2. Squires: Around the age of 14, a page would progress to become a squire, serving directly under a knight and learning combat skills, horse riding, and the code of chivalry.
  3. Knighthood: The title of a knight was bestowed through a dubbing ceremony, usually around the age of 21, after proving skills in combat and adhering to the code of chivalry.
  4. Feudal Obligations: Knights were expected to provide military service to their liege lord for a certain number of days each year, which was usually 40 days.
  5. Landowners: Most knights were given lands, or fiefs, in return for their service. These lands were worked by serfs and peasants, providing the knight an income.
  6. Code of Chivalry: Knights were expected to follow the Code of Chivalry, which involved ideals of bravery, courtesy, honor, and protecting the weak and the innocent.
  7. Tournaments: Tournaments were not just a source of entertainment but also a way for knights to showcase their skills and earn fame and fortune.
  8. Knights Templar: The Knights Templar, founded in 1119, was one of the most famous orders of knights. They initially protected Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land during the Crusades but later gained significant wealth and power.
  9. Armor: A knight’s armor evolved from chain mail in the early medieval period to full plate armor in the later medieval period, providing better protection and requiring greater strength to carry.
  10. Influence of the Church: The Church had considerable influence over knights, as seen in the Crusades, where the Pope called upon knights to fight in the Holy Land. Knights were also expected to attend Mass daily and were often involved in religious rituals.

Which Statement Best Describes Knights in the Middle Ages?

When asking the question, “Which statement best describes knights in the middle ages?” we must recognize the multifaceted nature of the knight’s role in society. Knights were not only trained combatants pledged to serve their liege in war but also figures of socio-political importance. In many ways, they acted as the middle link in the feudal system, owing allegiance to their lord while often possessing land and authority over serfs and peasants. They held responsibilities beyond combat, managing lands, settling disputes, and playing key roles in regional politics.

Hence, the statement that best describes knights in the Middle Ages might be, “Knights were a martial, political, and social class that provided military service in exchange for landed estates and formed an integral part of the hierarchical feudal system.

Who Did Knights Serve in the Middle Ages?

In the Middle Ages, the structure of society was hierarchical and deeply rooted in the system of feudalism. Knights, a pivotal part of this system, held allegiance to and served several key entities.

First and foremost, knights served their direct liege lord. This was usually a noble of higher status, such as a baron, an earl, or even a duke. In return for the knight’s loyalty and military service, the lord would grant them a fief, a plot of land that provided the knight income. This relationship was based on mutual benefit; the knight received sustenance and protection from their lord, while the lord gained a military force that would protect their lands, serve in their armies, and uphold their interests.

Knights also served their king. Even though their primary loyalty was to their liege lord, in times of conflict or during a call to arms, the ultimate allegiance of a knight was to his king. This service included military duty and participation in royal councils, courtly ceremonies, and, occasionally, diplomatic missions.

In addition to secular leaders, knights served the Church. During the Middle Ages, the Church had considerable influence, often equating to political power. Knights were called upon to protect Church property and interests and to serve as military forces in religious conflicts such as the Crusades.

Lastly, and in a more abstract sense, knights served the ideals of chivalry. This code of conduct dictated a knight’s duties and actions. Knights were expected to uphold virtues such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and justice and to protect the weak and vulnerable. This often translated into serving their local communities by maintaining order and providing protection.

In the end, knights in the Middle Ages served their liege lord, their king, the Church, and the chivalric code. Their service was multifaceted, encompassing military, political, social, and moral dimensions.

Why Were Knights Important in Medieval Times? 

Knights were pivotal figures in medieval society, providing essential services and holding a key position in the societal hierarchy. Their importance derives from a number of factors.

Firstly, knights were crucial for maintaining the military strength of the realm. As heavily armed and trained warriors, they constituted the core of any medieval army. Their role was not only to fight in battles and wars but also to protect the lands and people of their liege lord from threats. This defense extended to the local community, ensuring security and maintaining order.

Knights also played a vital role in upholding the feudal system. Their relationship with lords, involving the exchange of military service for land, was an integral part of this hierarchical system of governance. This role extended to administrative responsibilities, as knights often managed and supervised their estates, settling local disputes and ensuring the productivity of the lands.

In addition, knights served as symbols of the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct encompassing virtues such as bravery, honor, courtesy, and loyalty. They embodied these values in their actions and behavior, setting a moral standard for others in society. This symbolic role was vital in the context of the Church, where knights were seen as defenders of the Christian faith, particularly during the Crusades.

Finally, knights contributed to the cultural life of the Middle Ages. They participated in tournaments and jousts, which were significant social events that reinforced the status hierarchy and offered entertainment.

In essence, knights were integral to medieval society’s military, administrative, moral, and cultural fabric, making them significant figures.

Knights in the Middle Ages: Daily Life

The daily life of a knight in the middle ages was defined by a blend of martial training, administration of their lands, participation in courtly activities, and upholding a code of conduct called chivalry.

Each day would typically begin with Mass at dawn, for the Church held significant sway over the societal fabric of medieval times. This was followed by breakfast. Knights would then devote much of their morning to training and combat practice. This might involve honing their swordsmanship, improving their horsemanship, or participating in mock combats known as jousts.

Afternoons were often spent administering their lands. This could involve settling disputes among peasants, dealing with any issues related to land productivity, or planning for improvements. Knights would sometimes be called upon to advise or support their lords.

Evenings were dedicated to social activities. These could range from shared meals in the great hall to attending courtly events or tournaments.

What Was a Knight’s Job in Medieval Times?

In medieval times, a knight’s job was primarily of a military nature. In return for their allegiance and service, knights were granted a fief (land) by their lord. Knights were expected to provide military service for a specified number of days per year. They were also responsible for protecting their lord and his interests and those of the Church.

However, beyond the battlefield, knights also had administrative responsibilities. They were expected to manage their estates, including overseeing the serfs and peasants, ensuring land productivity, collecting rents, and maintaining law and order. At times, they were also involved in regional politics, acting as advisors to their lords.

The Path to Knighthood: What Was the First Step in Becoming a Knight?

The journey to knighthood was long and arduous, beginning in early childhood. The first step in becoming a knight was to be sent off to a castle of another lord as a page at the tender age of seven. Here, the young boy would begin his education under the lady of the castle, learning basic social skills, manners, and religious education.

At around the age of 14, the page would then become a squire. This role was akin to being an apprentice, where the squire was under the direct tutelage of a knight. They would learn combat skills and horse riding and participate in the knight’s daily routine. The squire would also serve his knight in various capacities, such as assisting in battle and attending to his armor and weapons.

After years of training and once the squire had proven his skill and chivalry, usually around the age of 21, he could be knighted by his lord, a bishop, or even the king himself. This ceremony culminated in the young man’s training and formal admission into the knightly class.

Famous Knights in Medieval Europe

Throughout the Middle Ages, numerous knights left a lasting impact on history due to their exploits in battle, feats of chivalry, and their roles in pivotal historical events. Here, we examine a few of these remarkable individuals.

Sir William Marshal: Often referred to as the “greatest knight that ever lived,” William Marshal served four English kings — Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, John, and Henry III. Known for his loyalty and military prowess, Marshal’s notable exploits included capturing a knight in single combat during the Battle of Lincoln in 1217. This event helped turn the tide in favor of the English.

Richard the Lionheart: Although better known as a king, Richard I of England was also a formidable knight. He spent much of his reign abroad, especially in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, where he earned a reputation for his military strategies and personal bravery. His nickname, ‘Lionheart,’ is a testament to his courage and knightly prowess.

Sir William Wallace: While there is debate over whether Wallace was technically a knight, his impact on medieval history is undeniable. A key figure in the Wars of Scottish Independence, Wallace led a resistance against the English occupation of Scotland, and his victories in battles like Stirling Bridge made him a national hero.

Edward the Black Prince: The eldest son of Edward III of England, the Black Prince was one of the most accomplished knights of the 14th century. His victories at the Battles of Crécy and Poitiers during the Hundred Years’ War cemented his place in history.

El Cid: Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, known as El Cid, was a Castilian knight whose exploits during the Reconquista in Spain became the stuff of legend. Serving both Christian and Muslim lords, El Cid became a symbol of chivalry and virtue in the face of religious and political conflict.

Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc): While not a knight in the traditional sense, Joan of Arc’s contributions to the military history of the Middle Ages are profound. She led the French army in key victories during the Hundred Years’ War, claiming to have been guided by divine visions. Joan was posthumously declared a martyr and canonized as a saint.

Each figure demonstrated the virtues of knighthood – bravery, martial prowess, loyalty, and a sense of duty – leaving an indelible mark on the medieval period.


Knighthood in medieval times was a complex blend of martial prowess, social standing, and administrative duty. Despite the romanticized portrayal of knights in modern media, their lives were filled with arduous training, rigorous tasks, and immense responsibilities. In essence, knights formed an integral part of the societal, political, and military framework of the Middle Ages, their roles and experiences are deeply interwoven with the broader fabric of feudal society.