Great knights of medieval times were reared and trained from a young age. A young boy’s early life was dictated by this ambition. Years of training and careful upbringing contributed to the prestigious accomplishment of becoming a knight, and potential candidates for knighthood were expected to display certain qualities (Prestwich, 13). Initially, the qualities of knighthood would manifest and then be fostered through play and activities. As the boy grows, he will subsequently become a page and then a squire if he displays and develops the right skills and qualities (“Knights, Squires and Pages”).
Similar to modern day children, activities and entertainment during medieval times was primarily a small scale replication of adult life. Model toys imitating common objects used by adults have been traced back as early as the 1300’s (“The Culture of Children in Medieval England”; Orme, 53). Similar to toy soldiers of today, fragments have been discovered “portraying knights in armour on horseback” (“Culture…”; Orme, 53).
[Museum of London: replica of a mounted knight; alloy of tin and lead]
(“Childhood in Medieval England”; Orme)
Play also became a form of military training in itself. “The liking of children to imitate adults in their play is very ancient, if not natural to humanity” (“Culture…”; Orme 63). Children during medieval times modeled their play after kings and knights, but this had the potential to turn into a “mimicry of their wars and battles” and children were often hurt, or even killed in these mock military engagements (“Culture…”; Orme 63-64). Often young noble children were given small scale weapons to practice with. Young Henry V is said to have had a sword at the age of nine (Prestwich, 20). Research also indicates that a royal statute in 1512 required that “every man with boys in his house, aged from seven to seventeen, was to provide them with a bow and two arrows and bring them up to shoot. Play became formally merged with military training” (“Culture…”; Orme, 63). This merger of military training and childhood activities played a significant role in a young boy’s potential for knighthood later in his life.
Although a boy began his journey toward knighthood in his own home, but he could not be expected to acquire all the necessary skills and experience without specific guidance (Alchin). Around the age of seven many boys were sent to become pages where they were able to gain an education at the hands of a nobleman and his wife (Prestwich, 14). This education included: caring for and using military equipment, learning proper manners at court, learning to read and write, riding and handling horses, practice wielding lance and sword, and gaining the necessary physical strength and stamina to endure difficult training and future battles (Prestwich, 14-19).
After years of being trained as a page—around the age of fifteen—a young prospective knight could become a squire (“Knights, Squires and Pages”). Each squire would continue his training in the service of a knight, and hopefully after acquiring and proving that he possessed all the necessary skills, the young squire would “receive the accolade of knighthood” (Prestwich, 21).
Alchin, Linda. “Steps to Knighthood.” Middle Ages. 2 April 2012. www.middle-ages.org.uk
Orme, Nicolas. “The Culture of Children in Medieval England.” Past & Present, 148. (1995): 48-88. JSTOR. PDF file. 2 April 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/651048.
Orme, Nicolas. “Childhood in Medieval England, c. 500-1500.” Historical Essays, University of Pittsburgh. (2005). 2 April 2012. http://www.representingchildhood.pitt.edu/medieval_child.htm
Prestwich, Michael. “Upbringing & Training.” Knight: The Medieval Warrior’s Unofficial Manual. London: Thames & Hudson, 2010. Print.
“Knights, Squires & Pages.” The Middle Ages for Kids. 2 April 2012. http://medievaleurope.mrdonn.org/knights.html