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Knight

        Culture | Middle Ages

Training For Knighthood

When a boy selected to be trained as a knight was seven or eight his father sent him to live in a castle of a lord, usually a noble to whom the father owned fealty, or allegiance. For seven or eight years he served in a castle as a page. He learned to ride and hunt, and was taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. The ladies in the castle instructed him in music and dancing. From the chaplain he took lessons in religion. To learn humility and obedience, he ran errands for the ladies and served at meals.

A pageA page recieves his education.

At the age of 15 or 16 the boy became a squire (from Old French escuier, shield bearer). For five or six years he acted as valet to his lord or knight, whom he called master. The squire would wait on and serve his master and fight alongside him in battle. The master would train the squire in the arts of warfare. A squire might also learn to train falcons for falconry, a favorite medieval sport, and on winter days might learn the popular court games of chess, checkers, and backgammon.

A squireA squire serves his master before becoming a knight.

If a squire was deemed qualified by his master, at the age of 20 or 21 he became a knight in a ceremony of investiture. The ceremony was preceded by a series of solemn rituals, beginning with the bath of purification, symbolic of bathing away sin and worldly pleasures. The squire then fasted for 24 hours, followed by an all-night vigil in which he prayed before an altar. In the morning he dressed in his armor and, in the ceremony, received a symbolic blow from his master, who would strike him lightly on the neck or shoulder with the flat of a sword. At the stroke, the master would declare, In the name of God I dub thee knight.

A worthy squireA worthy squire becomes a knight.

Knighthood could be conferred also on the battlefield. When a squire showed unusual valor on the field his lord could hit him lightly with his sword or the palm of his hand and dub him knight.


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