In addition to castles and palaces, knights are among the best-known features of the Middle Ages in Europe.
The meaning knight refers basically to the mounted, heavily armored riders, who were used in the Middle Ages as elite units.
These knights were usually already respected persons of the noble family, alone to be able to afford the equipment, a certain financial position was necessary.
For their loyalty and dedication to their king in return knights were rewarded with land and peasants.
Armored riders existed long before the Middle Ages. Already the Parthians and Sarmatians used such units. These were so successful in battles that the Romans also used units of kataphrakten (iron-wrapped) in late antiquity.
Further, they were used by the Ostrogoths, Alans, Franks and Alemanni, some independently, but sometimes only in support of the foot soldiers.
The origins of the Knights of the Middle Ages can be traced back to the invasion of the Moors on the Spanish peninsula, which could be repelled by the armored infantry in the defensive battle of the Pyrenees, but it turned out that the mounted Arab invaders were much faster and more agile. So Franconian caretaker Karl Martell decided to set up a new branch of service: the Frankish armored riders. Out of these, later, the medieval knights known to us were born.
A not insignificant technical development was also not uninvolved in the construction of the Panzerreiter. Through the invention of the stirrup, a certain stability of the rider could be made, which was vital for the attack with the lance or the sword.
The first test for the Knights came with the raids of the Vikings in the 9th century. These landed on the coastal sections throughout Europe, where they set up their base and attacked the surrounding villages. The speed of the knights, these small invasions could be fought quickly and effectively, especially as the surprise effect was often on the side of the Knights.
At the end of the 9th century Hungarian cavalry warriors, who launched attacks on Central and Western Europe, put another test for the new branch of Knights. The people's army deployed in the East Franconian empire did not have much oppose to the horsemen equipped with bows, so that in addition to the construction of large country castles for defense, also armored riders were set up. In 955 it came then at Werra, Unstrut and on the Lechfeld to battles from which the East Frankish troops emerged victorious and the Hungarian riders could be expelled.
The armored riders also played an important, if not decisive, role in the reconquest of the Spanish peninsula.
Training as a knight:
The education to the knight could be done mainly only among aristocratic families or those who had enough reputation and financial means.
Thus, the candidate was given at the age of 7 in the care of another noble family to go there as Page in the apprenticeship.
At 14, the candidate was then assigned as Knappe a knight. So the candidate was not only a master of discipline in the areas:
- sword and lance fight
- hunting, horse riding, swimming, swapping
- Fencing, crossbow shoot
trained, the squire also supported his knight in the maintenance of materials and when putting on and taking off the armor.
At 21, the squire was then appointed Knight himself, this was officially announced by the "Knighthood".
Equipment and Armament:
The main armament of a knight was the lance. This weapon was designed to unleash an immense power when hitting a target at full gallop and cause so much damage. This force could be increased many times with the introduction of the stirrup, as the lance could be clamped under the arm of the rider to let the horse's power flow better into the impact of the lance. Likewise, the lances could now be made longer and heavier.
The second main weapon of the knights was his sword. If Spatha swords were still used at the beginning, they later went over Carolingian to the sword of the sword.
Other weapons used were, among other things, the morning star, the battle ax, the warhammer or the mace.
The shields of the knights adapted over time more and more to the body armor of the rider. So round shields were used at the beginning, when it became apparent that the rider's legs were thus quite unprotected, they went over to the rather large and heavy Norman shields. As the leg armor was increased by leg splints, the weight loss shields became smaller again and more and more triangular shields were used. These were very similar to the Norman plates, only smaller and lighter, since the rider already carried enough weight with him due to the multi-armor. In order to be able to distinguish themselves on the battlefield, with the triangular shields also the coats of arms were introduced, which were painted on the shields. Thus, the triangular shields also had the nickname "escutcheons".
With the increase of the full armor of the riders almost exclusively round bucklers (fist shields) were used at the end of the knights.
The armor of the body also changed with time. For the head, pot helmets were still widely used at the beginning. These were gradually replaced by spangenhelme, then Carolingian comb helmets, band helmets and finally by nasal helmets.
Like the head, the upper body was protected from attack by various armor that changed over time. Were the riders at the beginning Carolingian scale armor, this was replaced by the later chainmail. With the advent of ranged weapons with a significant impact force such as the crossbow or the longbow, the armor had to be adapted to the conditions. As a result, over the chainmail breastplate, arm and leg splints were worn until the introduction of the plate armor, the body was almost completely armored. These heavy armor was used until the 17th century.
The end of the knights as a military genre:
For the downfall of the knights as a military branch of force led mainly two interconnected developments of the foot troops / infantry.
These were able to counteract the armored riders much more effectively by developing new weapons, including weapons with gunpowder, spears and halberds. In addition, the infantry over time were always better organized and disciplined, which was a decisive advantage in addition to the cheaper cost factor. The development of the Knights, however, could bring the new weapons and tactics nothing more, so that the losses were so serious in battles in the early and mid-14th century that the armored riders were more and more replaced. Although the armor was reinforced again and the horse now got an armor, but apart from being mercenary, the knights could not avert their demise until the 16th century.
You can find the right literature here:
The Illustrated History of Knights & Crusades
850 vibrant fine-art paintings illustrate the flamboyant, colorful world of a knight in battle, at the tournament, and on campaign.
Knight: The Medieval Warrior's (Unofficial) Manual
The knight is the supreme warrior of the Middle Ages. Fully armored and mounted on a magnificent charger, he seems invincible. Honor and glory await him as, guided by the chivalric code, he fights with lance and sword.
This carefully researched yet entertaining book provides all the essential information you need to become a successful knight in the later Middle Ages, during the period of the Hundred Years’ War. Should you go on a Crusade? Which order of chivalry might you consider joining? What is required when you go through the ceremony of knighthood?
Here are the answers to these and many more questions plus practical advice on topics such as equipment, fighting methods, and the conventions of warfare. But the knightly life is not all battles and sieges: there are also tournaments and jousts to enjoy and the world of courtly love.
Based on contemporary lives and descriptions, this book―written by a leading medieval historian―paints a vivid picture of what it was like to be a medieval knight. 90 illustrations, 30 in color
Rules for a Knight
From Ethan Hawke, four-time Academy Award nominee—twice for writing and twice for acting—an unforgettable fable about a father's journey and a timeless guide to life's many questions.
A knight, fearing he may not return from battle, writes a letter to his children in an attempt to leave a record of all he knows. In a series of ruminations on solitude, humility, forgiveness, honesty, courage, grace, pride, and patience, he draws on the ancient teachings of Eastern and Western philosophy, and on the great spiritual and political writings of our time. His intent: to give his children a compass for a journey they will have to make alone, a short guide to what gives life meaning and beauty.
The Teutonic Knights were powerful and ferocious advocates of holy war. Their history is suffused with crusading, campaigning and struggle. Feared by their enemies but respected by medieval Christendom, the knights and their Order maintained a firm hold over the Baltic and northern Germany and established a formidable regime which flourished across Central Europe for 300 years.
This major new book surveys the gripping history of the knights and their Order and relates their rise to power; their struggles against Prussian pagans; the series of wars against Poland and Lithuania; the clash with Alexander Nevsky’s Russia; and the gradual stagnation of the order in the fourteenth century. The book is replete with dramatic episodes - such as the battle on frozen Lake Peipus in 1242, or the disaster of Tannenberg - but focuses primarily on the knights’ struggle to maintain power, fend off incursions and raiding bands and to launch crusades against unbelieving foes. And it was the crusade which chiefly characterized and breathed life into this Holy Order.
William Urban’s narrative charts the rise and fall of the Order and, in an accessible and engaging style, throws light on a band of knights whose deeds and motives have long been misunderstood.
Medieval Warrior: Weapons, Technology, And Fighting Techniques, Ad 1000-1500
The essential visual guide to the warriors of the Middle Ages, this richly illustrated guide provides an overview of the medieval world and a guide to the typical battlefield and the armies that populated it.