Becoming a knight requires a certain set of circumstances. It is often something that runs in families for the most part. There are rituals and rites of passage that a man must undergo to receive the title. The process begins when he is very young. In most countries knighthood was reserved for nobility. It was an expensive occupation and the man would need to be able to live a life where he did not have to work for the money to pay the equipment that was required. (Prestwich, 2010).
The son of a nobleman or a knight, a boy would most often begin his path to knighthood by being sent to live in a lord’s castle. There he would serve as a page and learn to handle a horse, use a sword and practice archery, as well as perform other duties around the castle. At the age of 10 he would be eligible to begin training as a squire, but this would depend on his physical size. For some boys, it may not have been until they were 14 years of age. For squires, training focused on strength, fitness and horsemanship, because a knight had to be strong, and skilled in the art of fighting while riding a horse. Squires were also responsible for taking care of the knight’s horses. Their duties consisted of cleaning stables and polishing the knight’s armor. He would also have lessons in chivalry because it is a very important part of being a knight (Training a Night, 2000).
The age when the boy would be considered a man and eligible to become a knight was usually 21. It was known as the age of majority. There are some instances where nobles where given the status of majority as early as age 15. The reason for the age restriction was that a knight had to by physically strong and mature to be able to perform the duties of being a knight (James, 1960).
Observing and living the code a chivalry was as important as being trained to perform military duties. They were asked to “Protect the weak, defenseless, and helpless and fight for the general welfare of all.” The image of a knight included owning expensive weaponry and being an impeccable horseman (Knights, 2012).
When a perspective knight had fulfilled all the requirements he would go through the ceremony of knighthood. He would be bathed, which would serve as a symbol of going into the water a man and coming out of the water a knight. He would then be given certain items of clothing which were also symbolic. For instance, a red tunic symbolized willingness to shed blood, black stockings symbolized mortality, a white belt symbolized chastity. After he was dressed, he would then proceed to the ceremony which was usually in a church (Prestwich, 2010).
Each knight had a unique code of arms which was used to identify him and used to cover his amour. It design was unique to the individual and his family. The Dering Roll which is displayed below was used as a document to list the knights who owed the lord a debt of feudal service. It was created between 1270-1280 and contains the coat of arms of 324 knights (Dering Roll of Arms, 2012).
Training a Night. (2000). Retrieved from Medivial Life.net: http://www.medieval-life.net/knight_training.htm
Dering Roll of Arms. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DeringRoll.jpg
Knights. (2012, April 3). Retrieved from Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights
James, E. (1960, Jan). The Age of Majority. The American Journal of Legal History, 4(1), 22-33. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/844549
Prestwich, M. (2010). Knight. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.