The Age of Chivalry

The Age of Chivalry

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The Age of Chivalry


A chivalrous knight was a very different sort of man from the proud, unruly, land-grabbing, brutal warriors who seemed to have been only too common in the Middle Ages. Warriors could or could not turn into chivalrous knights. Chivalry was a game of make-believe, a fashionable game that the ruling classes played when they were not busy quarrelling and scheming for more land, following their lords to war, or trying to squeeze more out of the peasants and merchants who lived on their land. These people were either "bold bad barons" or they were "very perfect gentle knights." They were probably a mixture of both. In this essay it will prove that chivalry did exist and played a part in a knight's training.

The age of the knights were often called the age of chivalry. Chivalry came from the old French word chevalerie, which meant, "Horse soldiering." Over time, the term came to mean a code of behavior or sets of rules in which a knight was expected to follow and live by. To understand the code of chivalry, the steps a person must take in preparation in becoming a knight have to be look upon. A young boy training for knighthood usually left home around the age of seven. He was sent to a castle of an overload or relative since it was the only logical place for a boy to learn all the required knight skills. There he went through more than one stage of training. The first stage to knighthood was becoming a page where code of chivalry was taught.

A page usually trained in the home of a knight or nobleman as mentioned before. There he went through a bloody battle, testing his strength and power through daily exercise. His exercises would be consisted of running, wrestling, learning how to wield lance, spear and sword. He was taught by follow knights or nobleman how to slash and parry strokes using a blunted sword. He also learns to ride and how to vault onto a bareback horse. During this stage of training the most difficult and tedious part was courtesy. A page was an errand boy too, and he had to learn to serve other knights and nobles. There was a belief that this was one of the key elements in becoming a good knight.

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During this period of time he would also learn the code if courtesy (polite behavior). "A page should not sit until bidden; when spoke to should not fidget, wriggle, scratch or lean against a post; and should speak only when spoken to."1 It is very obvious why this was the most difficult part in being a page. Proper behavior was hard to follow. The process in becoming a knight was not over as yet. After successfully been trained as a page the next step to knighthood was becoming a squire.

Around the age of fifteen or sixteen a page then became a squire. Being a squire was not as bad as a page. There was more excitement. A squire was a servant to a knight, and he would accompany him wherever he went. This meant that a squire could go to tournaments, and they even got the day before where all the squires were allowed to show off their skills by taking part in a mock tournament.
In the tournaments of the knights, a squire would stand by his knight ready to aid him, handing him new lances when needed, or if he was wounded, help him from the field. Another exciting duty was squires get the opportunity to guard prisoners. They took and entertained the captives until a ransom had been agreed. Many squires took pride in these occasions to show how chivalrously they could behave. However, a squire did not have only excitement, but he had his normal duties and services to perform also.

"They squire's whole life was governed by the notion of personal service to the knight. He woke him up in the morning and helped him dress. He would welcome visitors on his behalf. He carved meat at the table according to special custom: a duck had to be broken, a hen despoiled and a peacock disfigured. His last duty of the day, he helped his knight prepares for bed. He, then, slept on the floor by his knight's bed in case his master should want him during the night."2 Like the belied that if a boy (page) was to become a good knight he has to learn to serve, it was believe that for a squire experiencing such training at first had he would then appreciated the honor and responsibilities of knighthood.
To graduate to the status of a knight, a squire usually performed a heroic deed in battle. The squire was welcomed into the order of knights by being dubbed with a sword or slapped in the face by his lord. Afterwards the new knight would receive his gift of land. As the cult of chivalry developed in the 12th and 13th century, knighting if a man might be preceded by a religious vigil in which the knight vowed to uphold Christian and chivalric principles.

The code o chivalry is bow understood since an in depth view of the process and training in becoming a knight in explained, but there were other things that influence chivalry. Courtly love was, one of the major influences on chivalry, the system that came to define relationships between knights and ladies in the feudal court. A knight devoted himself completely to a married or engages to marry a woman at court. He tried to win her favor by waged war or went into combat with another knight on horseback fighting with lances, usually in a tournament. On a less dangerous side, a knight in hoping to entertain and win his lady, wrote poetry, sang love songs, and played musical instruments. If the knight was lucky and proven himself to his lady, the two might consummate their love secretly, then after a period of courtship marriage could result. Indeed the role of courtly love among the feudal nobility was undeniably influential even through that its ideals ran counter to the Christian ideals of chivalry.

So far, the true meaning of chivalry detailed was all true. The question is whether knights always show courtesy or not. A knight could use his strength and wealth in doing good for those who were weaker and poorer or abuse their power. In reality, a knight did not always live up to these high ideals. Code of honor was applied only to members of his own high rank (sometimes). Knight often acted brutally toward people of lower rank or those whose lands they conquered and plundered. Chivalry in the later Medieval period did become a game for the ruling class.

In the beginning, chivalry had been a code of behavior, which a knight had to live by. Knights were men on horses who had spent much of their time fighting. However, the increasing uses of hired soldiers and the introduction of gunpowder made knight less and less important in society. The role this played on chivalry was strong. It showed how chivalry evolved into a less valuable position and cause the decline also. Knights who fought on horseback with lance became a game. The nobility tried to display their fighting skills by staging elaborate tournaments. In the beginning, tournaments have served as war games that had keep knights at their peak of fighting efficiency. In the later medieval period however, there were often little differences between the games and reality of war.

There were large bands of knights that engaged in bloody mock battles destroying many acres of good farmlands. Many knights were left wounded and dead. Later tournaments became less of a preparation for war than an elaborate pageant. In these elaborate tournaments, nobles worked desperately to impress one another. They amused by the decline of Western Europe. After, the European economy had begun to decline, an in 1247 the bubonic plague, which had appeared frequently in the 14th and 15th century, recurred. The plague had killed a large population. This helped to bring about disintegration of the feudal order.

In the end it can be agree that chivalry did exist. There was a process that a person passed through in order to become a knight. The life of a page and a squire was both difficult and grueling, although the life of a squire was not that bad. Courtly of love was one of the major influences of chivalry and even up to today existed in the role of men and women, when it comes to relationship. In the end chivalry was no longer a code of behavior but rather a game that ruling class played. However id did exist, we were able to look back upon it and learn, ponder, be objective and say that the life of a knight was all about the man in the shining armor.
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