In the modern view, the knight is an independent warrior. These members of the society were quite privileged, making up also the foundation of the medieval army. Knights could easily be allowed into adventurous adventures and travel, they formed a romantic halo. Theoretically, such status could be achieved by the lowest classes, if they obediently and for a long time serve. For them, chivalry became the most real reward for their courage and valor. Knighthood has become an integral part of medieval European history.
This phenomenon originated in the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century and lasted until the 16th century, when the revolution in military affairs took place. National armies began to grow, and the number of independent soldiers began to decline, as well as their importance of the moral and physical core of military associations. In our list there are not only genuine historical figures.
Even the fictional knights played an important role in the theory and practice of this phenomenon. Representatives of such a medieval current can be assessed on the following parameters: fame, a trace in history, the reflection of virtues. In general, the following chivalrous main features are traditionally known: justice, courage, generosity, mercy, faith, nobility and hope.
Knighthood began as a military structure. A man with a weapon assumed the obligation to serve as his sword to his master. And the latter in return provided protection, land and benefits. The element of service is of paramount importance. After all, in those days there was no centralized power and the rule of law. And the community of soldiers, bound by vows of loyalty, was the most effective means of social cohesion.
It was believed that the knight had to have a certain skill in order to be ready to go to feats. He also had to prove his loyalty to the master. The great knight had to create a reputation for his invulnerability, and also leave behind the myths of greatness and glorious deeds. Knights were also considered rulers. But their main function was still government control, not battles. We will tell below about the greatest knights that have entered the history of the Middle Ages.
Ulrich von Liechtenstein (1200-1278).
The most famous feature of this German knight is his narcissism. The name of Ulrich was used in a historical romantic comedy, he was played by Heath Ledger. In fact, it was an exemplary knight in the classical Western tradition. He began as a poor nobleman in one of the numerous feudal principalities in a fragmented Germany. But in time he had his squire, and eventually his own estate. Due to his persistence and skillful possession of the sword, von Lichtestein earned a lot of money in tournaments. This allowed him to make social progress and improve his status. Ulrich became a famous and great knight, he was honored to host many tournaments. Thanks to the loud name and prize money, he became rich. Surprisingly, in real battles, he did not glorify himself, as in marriage. The other side of the glory of Ulrich – his skill as a poet of the late minnezanga. He performed lyrical songs. Similar poets were similar to bards or troubadours in France and England. They sang about their great love deeds and valiant victories. Ulrich on the basis of his travels created a fairly well-known cycle, “Serving the ladies.” This makes it possible to assume that the knight was very well read and creatively gifted. But as is usually the case with knights, he haughtily claimed that all the great stories told of him were true. Including novels with numerous women and 307 wins in tournaments. At one time, Ulrich was a real living legend, but ultimately he died quietly in his estate, and had no noticeable influence in the political arena. Von Liechtenstein is an exemplary example of a noble and romantic knight.Don Quixote (circa 1600).
This Spanish knight has become famous for such features as persistence and self-deception. In fact, Don Quixote and the knight can not be considered in the full meaning of this word. Nevertheless, our list without it will be clearly incomplete. After all, he had a noticeable literary influence through cruel sarcasm to the whole institution of chivalry. Don Quixote was a knight more in his dreams or fantasies, such was his literature. The hero of the novel became so obsessed with the idea of chivalry that he began looking for adventure everywhere. The opostylevshy house was exchanged for future exploits and romance novels. The history of Don Quixote in many ways resembles the story of El-Sid, the great real Spanish knight. The plot is similar – a horse, a beloved woman in trouble, conflict resolution and crazy adventures. Jokes follow one another. Don Quixote calls the knight of the innkeeper, saves the peasant’s son, and takes the milkmaid by mistake for a noble lady. His squire is very two-faced. As a result, the quest brings only misery to the knight. Like other knights, money is not the main thing for Don Quixote, he dreams of battles, and on his way there are a lot of different people. In the end, Don Quixote again becomes prudent. He renounces his former life, as soon as it becomes clear that chivalry is dead, and the world no longer respects such romantics. In the finale, Don Quixote dies, never giving up his ideals that have become premature. The very form of the novel departs from the medieval romantic traditions, they, on the contrary, are ridiculed here. Edward the Black Prince (1330-1376).
The best that this English character had was a series of his great victories. Edward, by the status of his birth, was already at the height of knightly culture, so that his status as a great one was given him relatively uncomplicated. This man was the eldest son of King Edward III. It was he who founded the Order of the Garter, a noble knightly order. The Black Prince wore the title of Prince of Wales, records speak of him as a strong warrior. He was determined and brave, he showed himself well in the battles with the French. But they were richer, better trained and armed than the British. Despite this, Edward led his father’s troops against them. He was able to win the classic battle of the Middle Ages – at Cressi and at Poitiers. For this father especially noted him, making the first chevalier of the new Order of the Garter. And the knight’s personal life was quite famous. He loved his cousin for love, Joanna of Kent. This pair has become one of the brightest in Europe. Spectacular wife even more glorified the knight, making his image richer and versatile. Edward is marked by many chivalrous virtues, including generosity and piety. This was manifested in relation to the king of France captured at Poitiers and to ordinary prisoners. But in relation to the common people, Edward was more arrogant, showing concern for his position and for the situation in his native England. Edward was constantly studying at war. This manifested itself in his pragmatism and innovative tactics. This was the main difference between the Black Knight and the French, who adhered to the traditional strategy. An innovative approach and made the knight a great military leader. And as a true knight Edward soon felt that France and England were too small for him. He decided to seek glory elsewhere, particularly in Spain, although in the long run he did not succeed. The negative side of the knight was that, unlike other exemplary colleagues, he did not fight infidels, did not write poetry, and did not spend much time in romance novels. And the word “black” in his name can mean the color of his armor, the heavy character or the origin of his mother. Jacques de Molay (1244-1314).
This famous French knight became famous for leading the largest Crusade. De Molay was the last great Master of the Order of the Knights Templar. This is not enough to reckon it to the great knights.But the recent novel The Da Vinci Code drew attention to him, and the image of the master himself became much more interesting in the eyes of contemporaries. What did he actually do? He was elected head of the most powerful crusade in the Christian world. That is why many knightly features should be displayed in it, because they were a rather important basis of life in his native order of the Knights Templar. Knight Jacques got up at the age of 21 after participating in the battle. To consolidate his status, the young man took part in the Crusade against the Holy Land. Soon the Crusades were extinguished, everything that de Molay could do at that time was to relocate the Templar headquarters to Cyprus after the fall of Aqra in 1291. As a result, the Order left the earth, for which it was actually created from the Muslims. But these events were a happy occasion for Jacques himself. A respected and pious knight became the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar. De Molay showed himself not as a military leader or a heartthrob, but as a skilled administrator and European politician. He created across Europe a whole network of branches of his organization. They began to do less chivalry, but more trade and usury. The Master began to convene the monarchs of Europe for a new crusade. The culmination of efforts was even an attack on the Mamluks in Egypt in 1300, but soon the conquered bridgehead was again lost without the support of the Allies. Tired of military losses, the Mole with the Templars began to gain victories in banking. Such his influence on the economy of the restored France began to frighten King Philip IV. In the course of the struggle for power, Mole also supported the applicant for the throne, which was the reason for his arrest in Paris in 1307. The formal motivation was the treachery of the Templars, and in fact in this way the king covered his debts, taking all the funds of the Order. Jacques defended his independence to the end, as a true knight, remaining faithful to the oath of the Church until the very end. In 1308, Mole was actually released by Pope Clement V. After all, the Master’s fault was based more on rumors and speculation than on facts. But long hearings led to the fact that Mole was burned alive, as if he had fallen into heresy again. He stated that all his previous testimony against the Order was untrue. Chaucer’s Knight (circa 1400).
The main features of this English knight are quite stereotyped, but they are built on the basis of real people. In the late Middle Ages, the image of a knight was formed as a modern man. This is also the fault of the creation of Jeffrey Chaucer. This English writer of the late fourteenth century wrote several fabulous creations about the knights of his time. These people showed themselves to be brave, possessing traditional virtues, good behavior, refined love and piety. Such a walking stereotype included at once all possible virtues. The basis for the character was a mercenary John Hawkwood from Essex, whom the author personally knew and ennobled in his creations. The most famous story is “The Knight’s Story” from “Canterbury Tales”. There, the classic narrative mixes with lessons of gallantry, talking about the dangers of fraternal disagreement or unhappy love. The character of the knight, though pleasant, but rather faceless. It is believed that his role in English society is becoming less significant, and he is more of an ideal character than the real one. A knight from Chaucer’s stories traveled a lot and became famous for his use of weapons. But at the end of his career, this warrior became pious, that’s why he goes with his fellow travelers in Canterbury, so that they can worship the relics of one of the saints. Although this knight was not a real character, he still gave a lot of ideas about this class of people. Gottfried Bouillon (1060-1100).
This French knight was famous for being the head of the very first and best crusade. The origin of Gottfried did not presuppose his future glory.He was only the second son of a minor French count. But it was such a low social status that pushed him to the career of the great and illustrious knight, and the crusade only multiplied his fame. His family was able to give Gottfried the title of Duke of Lower Lorraine, but instead of defending this rich and strategic important land, he abandoned his lands. In exchange, he bowed before the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and agreed to change his possessions to a smaller territory. Humility and devotion are truly chivalrous virtues, but Gottfried, like many other colleagues, chose an independent course. In 1095, the knight, along with many others, responded to the call of Pope Urban II to liberate Palestine from the Muslims. Thus, in spite of all his relatives and what the emperor did for him, Gottfried sold all his lands in order to supply the army preparing for the campaign with arms. The knight was so charismatic that two of his brothers also marched with him. This did not make my mother happy. According to ancient chronicles Gottfried was able to assemble an army of 40 thousand people. All of them crusade marched from Lorraine through Hungary to Constantinople. The glory of Gottfried was that he was one of the first Frankish knights to reach the Holy Land. It was the image of the duke who showed how dedicated a crusader should be. His strength, as a knight, was also that he possessed not only courage and piety, but also perseverance. While the other participants of the campaign complained of hunger, thirst or homesickness, Gottfried himself was adamant in his desire to achieve the goal. The crown of the knight’s career was the assault of Jerusalem under his leadership in 1099. Gottfried was elected the first ruler of the kingdom by a crusader on this earth. However, he himself renounced the title of king, taking the title of Baron and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher. Although the actions of the knight were based on the massacres of the same defenders of the city, this did not affect his reputation as a glorious warrior of that time. By 1100, Gottfried, along with other warriors, had conquered much of Palestine. He even ordered the crowning of his brother Baldwin by the King of Jerusalem in the event of his death. Thus, a whole dynasty was founded. So the rejection of Lorraine served him well. Outwardly, Gottfried had classical knightly attributes and an ideal form. He was tall, strong, slim and bearded. A glorious knight died at the siege of Aqra.
Sir Galahad (5th century).
This Welsh knight, who belonged to the legendary Round Table of King Arthur, is called the holy knight and anointed of God. Galahad was literally born for greatness, after all, his father is himself Lancelot. It is said that his fate has developed successfully largely thanks to Merlin. Although we are talking about fictional people, but the heroic cycle about King Arthur has become so rich in a cultural phenomenon that it dominates all other knightly ballads not only in England, but also in France. The legendary knights along with their king became the basis for the early archetypes of the ideal knight or even several different knights. Galahad himself appeared at the very end of the cycle, but still was one of the great knights of the round table and seekers of the Holy Grail. Sir Galahad possessed some of the most valuable chivalrous virtues. He grew up very religious, gallant and with pure thoughts. The young warrior became famous for having sat down in the Wicked Seat, and this place was meant only for the most worthy, to whom the Lord protects. As a result, King Arthur proclaimed him as the greatest knight. To become the best Galahad is hampered by the fact that he was still a mythological figure. However, its cultural significance was very high, it embodied many of the virtues of the classical medieval knight. Galahad did mostly tasks that were not entirely knightly, such as the rescue of women in distress or their comrades.This knight, though called pious and merciful, but in the absence of a character to reproach him was impossible. He was in the right places at the right time, which made him the most significant character of the whole Round Table. It seemed that in the hands of Galahad is the fate of England. Together with the other knight he had visions of the Holy Grail, in which Joseph of Arimathea collected the blood of Christ. The search for this relic became the goal of that group of knights. Eventually, Galahad was able to protect and save Arthur himself at the battle of Tintagel Castle, which was an important event. After all, Arthur himself was the greatest of all English kings. According to legend, it was Galahad who was able to find and pick up the Holy Grail, after which he ascended to heaven.
Jean le Mengr Busico (1366-1421).
This French and Breton knight was able to make a dizzying career, famous for his military abilities. From the earliest age, this nobleman began to take part in a variety of military campaigns. At the age of 18 he traveled to Prussia to help the Teutonic Order, then he participated in battles against the Moors in Spain, and eventually became one of the prominent participants in the Hundred Years War with England. During the truce in 1390, Busico chose the most effective and impressive way to become a famous knight. He spoke at the tournament and won everyone there. Le Mengr not only earned a large prize, but also made a name for himself, which became a good step for a further career. Then in a truly chivalrous style, Busico left everything that he had and began to travel. He even began to write poems about his exploits, which was natural for a noble warrior of those times. The glory of the pious knight was so great that when he returned to his homeland, King Philip VI made him marshal of France. This was the maximum peak in the career for the knight, not counting the direct capture of the throne. Le Mengre became famous for his skill, experience and courage in battle. He was considered a great leader. To his post, Busico was anointed in the main cathedral of the country, which implied a special sacred aura of this warrior. This knight was always in the middle of the battles. In the battle of Nikopol in 1396, he was captured by the Turks, but escaped execution and was ransomed. After this, Busiko founded a special knightly order, inspired by the ideals of courtly love. In the famous battle of Agincourt, Le Mengre was again captured and died in England six years later. This knight left a significant mark in the history. He was at the very top of power, the king’s anointed king fought infidels, contributed to the court culture and became famous for his good deeds.
Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199).
The English king-knight was known as the zealous defender of the faith. Although the list does not necessarily have to be king, if you choose a real knight from all of them, then it’s Richard I of English that is the best suited for this role. He best showed all the virtues of the medieval knight. In addition, Richard spent more time in this role, rather than managing the state. King respected friends and enemies, he fought for his ideals, and not just for the usual gains of money and land. From his earliest youth, Richard was already in the saddle, defeating the warriors of various countries and nations, instilling love and devotion in his subjects. This king is one of the few who received a loud nickname – Lionheart. It reflects his skill and passion as a knight, not justice or greatness, like a king. But Richard speaks to some extent of his origin. Unlike some other knights, he received his high and great status simply by the right of his birth. After all, Richard was the son of a famous couple – Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Nevertheless, the young prince rebelled against his father, performing in addition in the form of a wandering knight. But this was quite a bad act from the point of view of morality.Subsequently, Richard consciously accepted and practiced most of the values of chivalry. He wrote poetry and gallantly led himself. In addition, the prince was attractive and physically well built. It is said that Richard’s height was 193 centimeters, he was blue-eyed and fair-haired. Most of his life the future king spent in France, in the heart of medieval chivalry. It was from there that he rebelled against his father, asked for forgiveness and took the chivalry of the French King Louis VII, which only irritated his English relatives. The glory of the skilful commander Richard acquired during the dispersal of the mutiny of the French barons. But such activities and constant fear of the father were not to the liking of the prince. He left all his titles and privileges and decided to take part in the Third Crusade. Richard spent a lot of money, collecting an army of crusaders. This was a clear expression of the knightly defense of faith. Together with the knights, Richard occupied the kingdom of Sicily in order to restore his sister’s rights to the local throne. The chronicles of that time make it clear that Richard was chasing after victories, rather than for conquest and in general was a bad king. He conquered Cyprus in 1191 to protect his own army from this side, but then gave the island to the Knights Templar. This proved his knightly, and not at all royal, spirit, but made him famous. Richard defeated Muslims in Accra, but then quarreled with his allies – King Philip of France and Duke of Austria Leopold. Then the knight defeated the best Muslim leader Saladin, but in 1192 he did not dare to storm Jerusalem. But because of his arrogance and recklessness, Richard on his way back home was captured by Leopold, whom he had previously offended. Only a rich ransom allowed the knight king to finally return home. But the restless warrior did not know rest and during the next battle was mortally wounded. Richard’s military exploits made him one of the most famous characters in medieval history. A lot of legends have been written about him, his poems have remained.
El Sid, Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (1043-1099).
This Spanish knight became famous for his country’s independence. The nickname “El Cid” in literal translation means “my lord”. This man was a true knight for both Muslims and Christians. Which is not surprising, considering that he fought against both Christian and Mauritanian tyrants. Although El Cid and was not a virtuous knight, but more than paid back with excellent fighting skills. As a result, even his own king forgave him a constant change of parties. One of the nicknames was “Champion”, he was the main field commander of the most powerful of the numerous Christian Spanish kingdoms. Modern history extols El Cid, as the embodiment of Spanish chivalry. The minstrels piled up ballads about him, telling about his exploits in the battles in defense of the Church. El Sid became a real national hero, which was quite unusual for a nobleman. After all, in those days noble people mercilessly exploited the peasants, forcing them to perform all the work in the estate. Early life Rodrigo met, being of humble origins. His family had to do with the trial in Castile, but mostly it was about working with documents. But the young man himself was able to make a good impression – he defeated the Aragonese knight in a one-on-one fight in front of his peers. Starting to serve, El Cid participated in several battles with the Moors who ruled in southern Spain. There he showed excellent military skills, which, moreover, constantly improved. In the best traditions of chivalry, El Sid began to show arrogance, fighting with anyone and by his own will. For this King Alfonso stripped him of all titles and sent him into exile. But does the “gentleman” have to ask for forgiveness and pray for mercy? Rodrigo became a knight for hire! Although his name was synonymous with victory over the Moors, it was El Sid who offered his services, leading the army in Zaragoza.After several years of successful struggle against Christians, Berbers and other Moors, Rodrigo needed a Castilian king. After all, he was an excellent military leader. It would seem that the very request of the king to return to the exile should be for that great mercy. But El Sid actually replied that he does not need this, since he can create his kingdom. And respect and mercy in exchange for loyalty is not needed. In 1094, El Cid, along with other hired knights, captured Valencia, became its de facto ruler. The Moors asked to return the city and besieged it. According to the legend, Rodrigo was wounded by a poisoned arrow, and his intelligent wife realized that even after death the legendary El Cid is able to inspire his army and command it. She dressed her husband’s body in armor and set her on a horse, setting up on the fortress walls. El Cid also had other necessary attributes of the knight: a horse and a sword. The battle horse, nicknamed Babietka itself, is covered with legends, and the steel cord of Tyson’s sword is famous for its strength. The knight himself was far from stupid. He read quite a lot about the war, including works by Roman and Greek authors. His wife was a beautiful and elegant woman, and her daughters became members of the Spanish royal family.
William Marshall (1146-1219).
Glory to this English knight brought his victories at numerous tournaments. Many contemporaries consider him the greatest knight of the Middle Ages. Despite the difficult environment around, William was able to retain all the virtues of chivalry. He skillfully possessed all kinds of weapons, was faithful to his master, defended his faith, deserved the location of a great woman. Marshal was respected for his diplomacy and mercy. Then the tournaments were not one-on-one fights, but wars in miniatures between knight associations. For as long as sixteen years Marshall spent in tournaments, sometimes participating in real wars. William developed his own tactics in these competitions. He grabbed the enemy’s horse by the bridle and dragged him along to his friends. There he forced the enemy to surrender and pay ransom. If the victim jumped off and ran away, then the horse remained a reward, which was also a valuable reward. Marshall was able to improve his skills over many years, and to acquire lands and better weapons for his conquest. According to the customs of the time, the young Marshal was sent to study in France. There he quickly mastered the military skills that were necessary for the knight of the Middle Ages. His reputation improved, in the end he gained favor with Eleanor of Aquitaine. After that, Marshal began to serve the English king Henry II as a companion of his son, Henry Jr.. After that there were numerous tournaments, wars with the insurgent vassals of the king, the crusade … As a result, Marshall was rewarded for his service by large estates in England. All this aroused chivalrous pride, he created his own army, the envy of the king himself. But even in spite of this bold and reckless move, William was able to maintain his position. Marshal was even able to marry successfully, at the age of 43, at the 17-year-old daughter of Count Pembroke. Marshal gloriously served King Richard the Lionheart as marshal and regent during his long absence in the country. He not only increased his possessions, but also improved them. The only drawback in the biography of the Marshal is related to King John, to whom he served and confronted the famous Robin Hood. However, the monarch hated the popular servant, as a result, William was forced to flee to Ireland. But then, as a true knight, the Marshal returned to England and, with the uprising of the barons, remained faithful to the king, only by consolidating his power and wealth. The Archbishop of Canterbury called Marshal the greatest knight of all time, which was the basis. After the death of King John, Marshall became the regent of the young King Henry III. Even at the age of 70, this noble knight had the moral and physical strength to lead the royal army in the war against France, and then dictate the terms of peace.The signature of the knight stands on the Magna Carta as a guarantor of its observance. After the suppression of the barony, Marshall was able to organize a successful regency and transfer his estates to his sons. The knight supported the prestige of the king and his right to the throne. It was one of the few knights whose biography was published immediately after his death. In 1219, a poem entitled The History of William Marshall was published.